Stress and the Holidays

2 min read

For some, the holidays are welcomed with great joy, for others, they come with an abundance of stress and anxiety that is not so welcome. It can seem like the holidays come suddenly and you are thrust into an abundance of activities, gatherings, family, spending, and decorating. 

There are, however, ways that you can help make your holidays less stressful:

  • Take time to reflect on the importance of the holidays and what they mean to you personally. Is family time what is most important? Do you look forward to entertaining or baking? Perhaps you enjoy faith-based activities. Whatever it is, let that be your main focus so you do not become so overwhelmed. You don’t have to do it all.

  • Keep a holiday budget and stick to it. The holidays can easily cause a lot of financial stress, whether you are entertaining, buying gifts, or traveling. Many people forget their budgets at this time of year and make increase debt. This, however, is one of the main reasons that so many people get post-holiday stress. The bills start coming in and people feel overwhelmed because they have overextended themselves.

  • Don’t be afraid to say “no”. The holidays are filled with invitations to attend various holiday functions. You do not have to attend everything or anything at all. Do what you feel like doing and what’s comfortable for you. Be intentional when saying yes or no to events and try not to sacrifice regular, healthy self-care activities like sleep, healthy meal preparation and exercise. 

  • Don’t let family drama cause you undue anxiety. During the holidays, families spend more time together. Family members who do not see each other often or even get along often find themselves spending the holidays together. Try not to get entrenched in family drama. Learn when to walk away or just say good-bye. Chances are your family members are feeling the stress of the holidays too.

  • If the holidays are difficult for you because you have suffered a loss, there is no requirement for you to do any more than you feel like doing. Take the time to grieve your loved one. You cannot force yourself to feel happy just because it is the holidays. Don’t feel like you have to pretend to everyone you are happy if you are struggling. If you are ready, so something that helps you celebrate the life of your loved one.

  • If you are alone, many times it helps to volunteer to help someone else. This is a great way to ease your loneliness and be in the moment with another human being in need of connection. It feels good to help others and their joy is contagious.

  • Take time for yourself. Even if you only take 15 minutes a day to have a cup of tea or read a book, this will help you stay focused.

  • Take time to eat healthy and exercise. The holidays are filled with lots of food and treats that are not always so healthy. This makes it even more important to remember to eat healthy and exercise regularly. Don’t skip weeks at a time of healthy meal planning and preparation because you indulged a few times. 

For some, the holidays can be a lonely time, especially if you are away from loved ones or have recently lost a loved one. Feel what you are feeling. There is no time limit or road map for grief. Your journey is as unique as you are and you may feel many mixed emotions. Ask for support and seek out connection with others to ease your loneliness. Do what is reasonable for you during this time. If you start to feel overwhelmed with stress or anxiety, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional counselor. A counselor can help you process your feelings and find ways to cope with intense emotions.

Counseling is a safe place to experience all that you are facing, and you do not have to do that alone. Please reach out to one of our counselors, we’d love to help you manage stress during the holiday season and every season of your life!

About Elizabeth Grady

Liz has been counseling adolescents, adults, and families for eighteen years in the Triangle region of North Carolina. Liz earned her master’s degree in Counseling from North Carolina State University (NCSU) in 2002 and has been a practicing counselor since that time. Recently Liz earned her Doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in Counselor Education from NCSU and now teaches masters-level counseling students at Northwestern University.

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