Tips for Coping with Holiday Stress


The impending Holiday season is often met with joy, excitement and anticipation. After all it’s been hallmarked the “most wonderful time of the year.” Yet for many the Holiday season and dark winter months can trigger feelings of depression, grief, loneliness and stress. Likewise, this time of year can be particularly difficult for those already experiencing situational stressors related to recent loss of a loved one, illness, economic concerns and relationship difficulties. The demands of the Holiday season, including time spent with family, shopping, baking, cleaning, and entertaining to name a few, can also quickly add up, creating additional stress that make it increasingly difficult to cope with this time of year.  

Self-care is a key component to emotional, physical, and spiritual wellness, yet it’s often the first area of our lives that we neglect. To take care of yourself is to be the best version of you for yourself and others in your life.  In the spirit of gift giving, it is in fact the greatest gift you can give yourself and those you love. Self-care becomes increasingly important around the Holiday season and winter months.

The following tips and suggestions can in fact assist you in coping effectively with the stress and demands of the Holiday season and winter months: 

  • Acknowledge your feelings.

     Honor whatever emotions you might be experiencing, which can be difficult when others around you may be experiencing different emotions about the Holidays.  Remember that it is normal and natural to have feelings of sadness, loneliness, and grief, triggered by any holiday.
  • Reach out.

    People have the tendency to isolate from others, which can prove to be both helpful and unhelpful in effectively coping. A healthy balance of time to oneself for reflection, as well as time with others to support you is important. Likewise, seek out ways to be with others such as volunteering or getting involved in community groups of your interest.  
  • Have realistic expectations.

    Many times we have expectations of ourselves and others that simply aren’t realistic. Perhaps it’s the expectation of the “perfect” family gathering, or that you complete a task by a certain date and time. When these expectations aren’t met we are left with feelings of hurt, sadness and disappointment. Learn to say no to others to avoid feeling overwhelmed and run down. 
  • Stick to a budget.

    The Holiday’s is often a time for giving, but can add to an already stressful financial situation. Instead of trying to buy happiness with gifts, identify ways that you can give to others such as homemade gifts. 
  • Maintain healthy habits.

    The stress of the Holiday’s and winter months can result in overeating, poor sleep habits, lack of exercise, overscheduling, and more. Time take for yourself to ensure these habits are maintained year round, and especially during times of increased stress. You may have to be creative about how to maintain these healthy habits. 
  • Seek professional help.

    Despite our best efforts to cope with the demands of the Holiday season, the winter months and life in general, there are times where engaging professional help is needed. Depression, anxiety, prolonged sadness, isolation, irritability, changes in appetite and sleep, and suicidal thoughts are all signs that professional help may be needed. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign that you want something better for yourself.

Article by:
Kesha Marson, MSW, LCSW
Clinical Therapist
Behavioral Health Center, Amery Hospital & Clinic 

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