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  • Writer's pictureAlayna Dorfman

How to Manage Stress During The Holidays - Guide For Reducing Symptoms of Anxiety and Stress

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

a family standing around a well lit christmas tree while the dad holds the little girl up to put the star on top of the tree, managing holiday stress, how to handle stress

The holiday season, while often associated with joy, warmth, and festivities, can also bring about a considerable amount of stress for many individuals. While some features of the season can create eustress (good stress), such as shopping for presents, planning a festive gathering, and traveling, there are other features that can create distress among individuals. In this context, it’s essential to recognize the potential stressors and proactively seek strategies to navigate these challenges.

Ways that the Holidays May be Contributing to your Stress

Here are some common reasons for why the holiday season can be stressful:

  • Financial Strain. The pressure to buy gifts, host elaborate celebrations, and participate in holiday activities can strain budgets, leading to financial stress and anxiety.

  • Social Obligations. The expectation to attend numerous social gatherings, parties, and family events can be overwhelming, particularly for those who may find socializing challenging or exhausting.

  • Family Dynamics. Family gatherings during the holidays may bring together individuals with differing personalities and unresolved issues, potentially leading to tension and conflict.

  • Time Constraints. Balancing work, social obligations, and holiday preparations can create a time crunch, leaving individuals feeling rushed and stressed as they try to meet various demands.

  • Loneliness. For those who are isolated or away from loved ones during the holidays, feelings of loneliness and a sense of missing out on shared festivities can contribute to emotional stress.

  • Expectation Pressure. The societal emphasis on creating picture-perfect holidays can lead to unrealistic expectations, causing stress as individuals strive to meet perceived standards.

  • Travel Stress. Whether it's dealing with crowded airports, traffic jams, or the logistics of planning and executing travel plans, the process of getting to holiday destinations can be stressful.

  • Health Concerns. The holiday season often involves indulging in rich foods and sweets, which, combined with disruptions in routines, can impact physical well-being and contribute to stress. One specific health concern being gastrointestinal upset, which can cause individuals to experience symptoms such as nausea, indigestion, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, and flatulence (gas).

  • Grief and Loss. For those who have experienced loss or are coping with grief, the holidays can intensify feelings of sadness and mourning, as festivities may serve as reminders of loved ones who are no longer present.

  • Overcommitment. The desire to please others or fulfill societal expectations may lead to overcommitting to various activities, leaving individuals feeling stretched thin and fatigued.

Understanding and acknowledging these potential stressors can be the first step toward finding effective coping strategies and making deliberate choices to prioritize mental and emotional well-being during the holiday season.

How to Navigate Stress During the Holiday Season

Navigating holiday stress involves a combination of self-awareness, effective planning, and implementing coping strategies to ensure a more enjoyable and fulfilling festive season.

a dad with a santa hat with his arm wrapped around his young daughter while they stare at the chrristmas tree, managing holiday stress, how to handle stress

Here's a comprehensive list of ways to navigate holiday stress:

  • Plan Ahead. Start planning for the holidays well in advance to avoid last-minute stress. Create a schedule for tasks like gift shopping, decorating, and meal preparation.

  • Set Realistic Expectations. Acknowledge that perfection is not attainable. Set realistic expectations for yourself and others, focusing on creating meaningful experiences rather than flawless events.

  • Budget Wisely. Create a realistic budget for holiday expenses, including gifts, decorations, and travel. Stick to your budget to avoid financial stress in the aftermath of the holiday season.

  • Make a To-Do List. Organize tasks by creating a to-do list. Prioritize activities and tackle them one at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

  • Practice Mindfulness. Incorporate mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, to stay present and manage stress. Mindfulness can help you enjoy the moment and reduce anxiety.

  • Learn to Say No. It's okay to decline invitations or additional responsibilities. Set boundaries to prevent overcommitting and protect your time and energy.

  • Delegate Tasks. Don't hesitate to ask for help. Delegate responsibilities like cooking, decorating, or organizing to share the workload and reduce stress.

  • Focus on Quality, Not Quantity. When it comes to gifts, focus on thoughtful and meaningful presents rather than the quantity or cost. Consider experiences or handmade gifts as alternatives.

  • Connect with Loved Ones. Spend quality time with loved ones. Foster connections and meaningful conversations to strengthen relationships and create positive memories.

  • Take Breaks. Schedule breaks for yourself. Whether it's a short walk, a quiet moment with a book, or a nap, taking breaks helps recharge your energy and reduce stress.

  • Maintain Healthy Habits. Stick to a regular sleep schedule, eat balanced meals, and incorporate physical activity into your routine. A healthy body contributes to better stress management.

  • Limit Alcohol and Caffeine. Excessive alcohol and caffeine intake can contribute to stress and anxiety. Consume these substances in moderation to support overall well-being.

  • Create Traditions. Establish meaningful traditions that bring joy and connection. These can be simple activities that create a sense of continuity and anticipation.

  • Embrace Imperfections. Accept that not everything will go as planned. Embrace imperfections and be flexible in adapting to unforeseen changes.

  • Reach Out for Support. If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't hesitate to talk to friends, family, or a mental health professional. Sharing your feelings can provide emotional support and perspective.

  • Volunteer. Giving back to others can be a fulfilling way to shift the focus from stressors to gratitude. Volunteer at a local charity or community event.

  • Celebrate Simplicity. Simplify holiday traditions and decorations. A minimalist approach can reduce clutter and create a more serene environment.

  • Limit Screen Time. Set boundaries on screen time, especially on social media. Comparing your holiday experience to others' can contribute to unnecessary stress.

  • Create Personal Time. Dedicate time for self-care activities you enjoy, whether it's reading, listening to music, or practicing a hobby.

  • Plan Fun Activities. Incorporate enjoyable activities into your schedule. Engaging in activities you love can elevate your mood and reduce stress.

  • Practice Gratitude. Reflect on the positive aspects of your life and the holiday season. Keeping a gratitude journal can help shift your focus to the good things around you.

  • Escape if Necessary. If holiday stress becomes overwhelming, it's okay to take a break. Whether it's a short getaway or a quiet day at home, prioritize your mental health.

  • Reflect and Set Intentions. Take time to reflect on the meaning of the holidays for you. Set intentions for a more purposeful and fulfilling celebration.

Remember, everyone's experience of holiday stress is unique. Experiment with different strategies, and tailor them to fit your individual needs and circumstances. The goal is to create a holiday season that aligns with your values and promotes overall well-being.

If stress persists or intensifies, consider seeking support from a mental health professional.

Pursuing therapy at BYBS can provide you coping strategies and a safe space to explore and manage the events that cause you stress. That being said, read about three of our clinicians, who can help you feel mentally prepared and relaxed for the holiday season.

Therapists For Managing Holiday Stress in St. Petersburg, Fl

headshot of rochelle young an anxiety therapist in st petersburg fl at be your best self and thrive counseling, managing holiday stress, how to handle stress

Areas of Expertise: stress management, anxiety, depression, trauma, grief/loss, family issues, life transitions, communication, women’s issues, family issues.

“As a natural strategist and information gatherer, I focus on learning about you! This includes your past, present, and future. Therefore, my approach to therapy is person-centered and holistic. I have found that many of the things that hinder us from moving forward are our own coping mechanisms, something that may have once served us well in the past but is no longer working for us now. I will teach you techniques to manage ruminating thoughts or other anxieties you may be struggling with by exploring the root of these thoughts and practicing strategies together in a safe and comfortable space. My experience in teaching taught me that we are curious creatures, and that education can hold a lot of power in healing! Understanding what is happening in your brain and body can help you increase self-resilience and patience. I can help you develop a deeper understanding of your own thoughts and behaviors as well as how to use meditative techniques such as grounding, guided imagery, and deep breathing to release your stress and overwhelm and feel more grounded and calmer.”

a headshot of nicole malene a holistic trauma therapist in st petersburg fl at be your best self and thrive counseling, managing holiday stress, how to handle stress

Areas of Expertise: anxiety, depression, stress reduction/burnout, life transitions, chronic pain, spiritual health and wellness, and relationship issues.

“My approach to therapy is holistic, highly somatic and draws on eastern philosophies centered around awareness practices, breathing techniques, and acceptance and compassion training to help regulate both the body and mind and guide one’s energy towards a fuller and healthier expression of who they are. I believe that when one dedicates themselves to self-study and a more compassionate way of living, they can discover unhelpful habits and patterns of thought that perpetuate stress, trauma and discontent in daily life. When we learn how to be more mindful, we can find what it means to stay grounded, move energy that is stuck in the body, and ride the waves of this crazy thing called life.

headshot of hall birdson a trauma therapist and male therapist in st petersburg fl at be your best self and thrive counseling, managing holiday stress, how to handle stress

Areas of expertise: trauma, mindfulness/meditation, anxiety, depression, codependency, life transitions, young adults, LGBTQIA, existential issues, men’s issues, stress managements, and work-life balance.

“I’m most passionate about helping people heal from traumatic experiences, such as early childhood trauma, physical/emotional/sexual abuse, and other adverse events. It’s not uncommon for trauma to create lasting patterns, like depression, dissociation, codependency, low self-esteem, panic attacks, or relationship issues. My goal is to help you feel empowered to release these patterns, decrease your traumatic stress symptoms, and feel safe in your life again. Every person is unique, so especially during the early stages of treatment, I’ll focus on getting to know who you are and what approach feels best for you. Then we can work together so that you can walk away from therapy having successfully reached your goals!”

Schedule a free consultation with one of our St. Pete Therapists to ensur they are a good fit.

Hi everyone, Alayna here. As we prepare ourselves for the holiday season, it’s important to keep our mental health and wellbeing in check. Whether that’s from taking an outdoor breather from social gatherings or having a self-care activity lined up after a stressful event, there’s many stress-relieving options available! That being said, I hope you all have a well-rounded holiday season.

Alayna Dorfman.

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