How to Handle Stress During the Holidays

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How to Handle Stress During the Holidays

Skye Kalil

Written by Skye Kalil

Skye Kalil

Skye Kalil

Skye likes writing about mental health, nutrition, and wellness. She is passionate about sharing information that will educate, and positively affect people's lives.

November 22, 2021 / Read Time 5 minutes

Updated November 15, 2022

What Is Holiday Stress?

The holidays can bring happiness and cheer, but they can also bring unwanted stress. Holiday stress is a particular kind of pressure that we feel around the holiday season that is brought on by the overwhelming amount of things we are trying to balance. Between cooking meals, shopping, cleaning, hosting family, and meeting everyone’s demands, in addition to keeping yourself and your family safe from COVID-19, you may feel additional stress. 

Stress can be unhealthy, but you can minimize some of it with these practical holiday stress tips. 

  1. 1

    Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  2. 2

    Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  3. 3

    Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

Why Do Holidays Cause Stress?

Increased stress is the primary way how holidays affect mental health. 

  • According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 38 percent of people said their stress level increases during the holidays. 

  • Another survey by the investment firm Principal Financial Group revealed that 53 percent of people feel financially stressed by holiday spending.

This stress increases so much around the holidays because we are trying to be perfect, be jolly, and meet all the high expectations around us. The overall cause of holiday stress may be from other people putting this pressure on you, or perhaps you putting the pressure on yourself. When we try too hard to make everything perfect, or be happy, we may end up making ourselves miserable. 

A study conducted by the American Psychological Association showed that the top holiday season stressors include:

  • Lack of time

  • Money worries

  • Overcommercialization

  • Gift-giving pressure

  • Family get-togethers

  • Hassles of travel

  • Concerns about taking time off from work

The stress can feel even more difficult to overcome due to the compounding effect of many of these stressors happening at the same time. This combination of many stressors during this time of year can make everything that much more difficult.

How to Relieve Stress During the Holidays

Here are our holiday stress tips on preventing stress and depression from occurring or decreasing those feelings. Here are our tips on how to make the holidays less stressful.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the best things you can do can minimize holiday stress are: 

  • Acknowledge your feelings: You don’t have to put on a brave face around loved ones, just because it is the holiday season. You can’t force happiness, so accept your feelings as they arise.

  • Reach out for support: If you are feeling lonely, you can find community in friends, family, other social events, or religious gatherings. During the holiday season people can be more distracted than usual, so reaching out with a text or call can let people know you need extra support. 

  • Be realistic: There is no such thing as perfect, so striving for perfection will only lead to more holiday stress, so set realistic expectations. 

  • Stick to a budget: Create a spending plan for all your gift shopping and holiday activities, and stick to it. Some money saving alternatives are donating to a charity in someone’s name, making homemade gifts, or starting a family gift exchange.

  • Plan ahead: Make sure you have time for spending time with friends and family, as well as some down time to rest and recharge. 

  • Learn to say no: Overcommitting and saying yes to everything is guaranteed to make you more stressed, and will lead to feeling burnt out. 

  • Don’t abandon healthy habits: Try to stick to your regular lifestyle, as it can add more stress to overindulge. This doesn’t mean don’t partake, you should enjoy fun holiday treats and relax without feeling shame or guilt. 

  • Take a breather: Make sure you have alone time, and do things that you enjoy. Even spending 15 minutes alone going for a walk, drive, listening to music, or reading a book can help you reduce stress. 

  • Seek professional help if you need it: If you are feeling persistently sad or anxious, you could benefit from professional help. If you feel this way for months on end, consider  talking to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Read More: How to Relieve Stress

How Can I Relax During the Holidays?

You can relax during the holidays by not putting so much pressure on yourself, and doing activities that you really enjoy and that bring you peace. Prioritizing your mental health around the holidays is essential and can make a big difference.

Here are our tips for taking steps to relax and decrease holiday stress levels, even if you have to work. 

  • Create an out-of-office message: Even if you are looking at your email, setting up an out of office message will create an expectation that you don’t need to immediately respond, and you won’t feel as obligated to reply or be near your phone or computer. 

  • Share holiday “work” with friends and family: Ask friends and family to help with cooking, or holiday planning to make things easier for you. 

  • Don’t set your alarm: Take this time to actually rest, and let your body sleep in for as long as you need. Having good sleep hygiene can help benefit your quality of sleep.

  • Don’t look at your phone first thing in the morning: Keep your phone turned off and enjoy not being obligated to immediately look at your phone in the morning. Looking at emails, news, and other information will stimulate your brain and can lead to stress. 

  • Get outside and move: Instead of taking the holidays off from healthy routines, make time to get outside and go for a run, walk, or whatever you enjoy doing to get some fresh air. 

  • Commit to some family time: If you are spending time with loved ones over the holidays, create designated time to spend with them. Have a meal together, watch a game, show, or movie, and make an effort to spend intentional time with those you love.

  1. 1

    Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  2. 2

    Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  3. 3

    Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

Holiday Stress and Mental Health

PlushCare offers online therapy services. Our virtual therapy sessions are perfect for the holidays. Most therapists take time off for themselves, but our online therapy is available every day, even on holidays. Online therapy is also perfect because it can be done from anywhere that you have a stable internet connection. You always have access to your therapist, wherever you are, even if you are traveling around the holidays. 

PlushCare therapists are all board-certified, licensed, and specifically trained in online therapy. They specialize in different areas, so that you can find the perfect match for you. PlushCare helps connect you with caring, open, and professional therapists, who are ready to help you in concrete ways by providing coping mechanisms and tools for everyday life, including holiday stress.


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Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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