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7 Tips for Coping with Holiday Stress

The holiday season is fast approaching, and while it is widely billed to be a time of peace, harmony, and ‘good cheer’, it can be a period of many pressures and lots of stress.

The Most Stressful Time of the Year

For many people, the holiday season can actually be the most stressful time of the year. There are many reasons for this. It may be that you are a long way from your family and will be spending the holidays alone. For others, the stress may arise from being in close contact with the extended family. Some may have been through a divorce and are facing the difficulties of organizing and dividing up the time with their children. Others may have lost a loved one and are dealing with their first holiday season without them. At this time when everyone around appears to be happy and having fun, it can be extra stressful and difficult to cope.

Beating the Holiday Blues

While some people do have to face more serious preoccupations during this period, for most of us, the holiday blues can be avoided by getting organized and being firm, and tolerant.

Here are our seven tips for coping with holiday stress.

1. Start Planning Early

Planning is the key to avoiding stress at any time. Discuss calmly with your partner, and your immediate and extended family, what everyone would like to do during the holiday season. Then, draw up a plan that works for you and your immediate family.

If you are going to be traveling to visit relatives or friends over the holiday season you will get much better prices by booking early. If you are going to be the host, encourage your guests to do the same, so that you know well in advance who is going to be arriving when to avoid holiday stress.

Make lists for everything. Writing things down can help you to think more clearly and allows you to revise and improve on your ideas before embarking on an action. For example, make a list of who you need to buy presents for, and ideas as to what these could be. While going out shopping to see what you can find may seem like fun, in reality, it can be stressful, time-consuming, and costly. You can greatly reduce your holiday stress levels by planning what you are going to buy and setting a budget. Remember, presents don’t have to cost a lot. Something carefully selected by you, or even made by you, has a lot more value to the recipient than something expensive which is going to put you into debt and stressed out.

2. Schedule Time with Friends and Family

Sometimes it can be difficult to organize yourself to be able to spend time with both friends and family over the holiday period. Again, communication and planning are the keys. Decide which events are the most important to you and arrange your time accordingly. Let people know well in advance, if you will or will not, be attending something to which you have been invited. That allows both you and them to organize yourselves and decrease holiday stress.

3. Make Time for Yourself, Too

The holiday season usually involves an increased work-load in the home. The kids are on vacation, there’s extra guest laundry, additional mouths to feed, presents to be purchased, the tree, the decorations, it can seem endless.  Stick to your plan. By thinking ahead of time all the things that need to be done, and allocating certain times for doing them, you will find that you can complete everything and still have time for yourself. Make the most of these moments to enjoy relaxing in a bubble bath, to have a massage, to head for the gym, or to take a walk in the woods, whatever makes you feel good.  These times will revive and strengthen you to strike on with the plan and get everything completed.

Holiday Stress

4. Spread the Work Around

Nobody expects you to do everything, except you. So, learn to delegate and to accept help when offered. Some of the best times spent with the family or friends can be in the kitchen preparing a traditional feast. Working together can make for easy communication and a sense of unity and purpose.

5.  Make Time for Rest and Recovery

As alcohol frequently flows liberally at this time of year it can be easy to drink too much. This will only serve to make you more stressed out and unable to cope and may even cause you to act in an unaccustomed way. Keep as close as possible to your regular exercise, diet, and sleep patterns, to keep functioning at your best and to maintain the holiday stress levels low. Don’t try and do too much. Leave yourself time between activities to rest and recuperate. Sometimes doing less allows you to enjoy better quality time with the people you care about.

6. Simplify Commitments and Traditions if You Need To

The traditional holiday season rituals can seem oppressive. Remember that you are not obliged to do more than you want to or something you do not want to do. Be respectful of the beliefs of others, but be firm, stick to your plan, and excuse yourself gracefully if necessary. If you will be meeting with new family members just relax and be yourself. If you will be reuniting with family members with whom you have previously experienced disagreements, put this in the past and commit yourself to a more respectful relationship. Try to diffuse problems rather than add fire to them. It’s worth the effort.

7. Seriously, Take Some Time for Yourself

Think about what this holiday season means to you. About what is most important. Don’t bow to peer or family pressure. Express yourself with tact and diplomacy and arrange a schedule which makes you feel good. Everyone will enjoy your company more if you are there because you really want to be there. Go to the events you want to and simply excuse yourself from the others. Whether these are office parties, family traditions, or reunions of friends, being honest with yourself and with others is the best way to deal with them.

The holiday season has no hard and fast rules. By being honest, and open, and communicating clearly, both you, and those around you, can all enjoy less holiday stress.


  1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4388-stress-managing-holiday-stress
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544
  3. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/holiday-stress.aspx
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