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November 18, 2014
by Marti Wormuth, MA

Coping with Holiday Stress

November 18, 2014 04:55 by Marti Wormuth, MA  [About the Author]

The holidays can be an incredibly stressful time of year, and because of that, it's important for us to get a grip on what is going on and figure out how we can take care of it in an effective and safe manner. Holidays are supposed to be enjoyed, but more often than not, they cause us to feel incredibly frazzled. Why are the holidays such a stressful time of year? What can we do in order to reduce the amount of stress we are feeling and enjoy the holidays in a healthy way once again? And what do we need to do to try and prevent it? That's what we are going to look at today in this article. 

Why Are the Holidays Stressful?

There are, of course, a number of different reasons that the holidays are stressful, and they are as varied as anything that you can imagine. Here are some of the most prominent reasons that the holidays are stressful for people. 

The need to "impress" and other social pressures. This is one of those things that absolutely stinks about the holidays. We feel like we have to have the best house for celebrating, throw the best party, or give the best gifts. That's not how it should be, but sometimes the pressures of society can just get to be too much and we don't know what to do with them. That being said, sometimes society isn't putting the pressure on us, but instead we're putting the pressure onto ourselves without meaning to. Be conscious of who is doing it to you and how you can stop it. 

Financial burden. Finances are an issue every holiday season. if you're throwing parties or trying to make it so that you are giving everyone that you love the best gift ever, it can really put a strain on your wallet. You also may feel frustrated if you aren't able to do those things in an effective manner. Finances also feel burdensome at the end of the year because other bills are still due or you have to make payments that only come up one time a year. Finances can just weigh you down a lot when it comes to the end of the year. 

Loss of a loved one. We are going to talk about this in length in another article, because it deserves its own article. It's one of the hardest parts of any holiday that you will ever walk through, and there is a lot to unpack. But here, I'm just going to say that the loss of a loved one, the empty seat at the table, can make the holidays that much more stressful because you want to try and "make things normal" for everyone else, even though you know they won't be. Losing a loved one and then having the holidays is really difficult, no matter what the circumstances are. 

Taking on too many responsibilities. Sometimes, we overload ourselves because we feel like we have to do so in order for other people to enjoy the holidays. While offering to help out can be a good thing for you, if you put too much on your plate, you're going to get really stressed out and you won't actually be able to enjoy the holidays ourselves. Balance is key, and helping out is good, but overloading yourself can cause you undue, unhealthy stress that just isn't very good for anyone that is involved in the situation or that will be with you during this time of the year. 

Negative memories. Some people have negative memories associated with the holidays. If they were in a home where a parent was abusive, where they abused substances or they just weren't there, the holidays can be a very painful time of the year. That being said, those memories can be replaced, and you can make new ones, but that doesn't make the holiday season any less stressful, and sometimes the memories stick around for a long time. Sometimes, it's just something that you have to work on and start anew with - but I totally understand, that's easier said than done. 

So, as you can see, there are a number of things that can add to holiday stress, and depending on your own family and circumstances, they can differ in any number of ways. That being said, the good news is that we can talk about them and get the help that we need. We can also ease some of the heartache related to it if we prepare ahead of time, which is what we will be looking at in the second half of this article. 

What Can We Do About Holiday Stress?

So, what can we do about it? Do we just have to suffer through the pain that the holidays bring every year, or are there ways that we can reduce the stress and heartache that comes with the holiday season? Absolutely. There is hope, and the advice that we're bringing you here can be used to help to reduce or even eliminate some of the stress the holiday season brings. 

Admit that you're stressed out and talk about your feelings. Don't hide yourself away because you're ashamed or afraid! Most people have one reason or another that they are stressed over the holiday season, and because of that, it's important that you share your frustrations with your loved ones. First, because it's good for you to talk about your feelings, no matter what they may be, but also because they may feel the same way and it opens the door for them to feel like they are able to talk about their struggles, too, which can help everyone work through the holiday season with just a little bit more peace. 

Don't take on too much, but don't hide either. Like we said above, taking on too much responsibility can be incredibly stressful, and if you take on too much, you're going to end up making the holidays a bit miserable for yourself. That being said, you shouldn't do the opposite either. Some people will take this advice and hide away for the whole holiday season, but that's not the way that you want to deal with it either. You want to make sure that you find some balance - help with some things, but don't overwhelm yourself. Isolation will just make you lonely and more stressed out during this time. 

Let other people take on some of the responsibility so that you aren't overburdened with it. If you're hosting an event, like the holiday celebration with your family or a party for the office, don't put all that responsibility on yourself. Ask people to bring some of the food so that you don't have to deal with cooking it all. Consider having a gift exchange instead of trying to buy gifts for everyone that is coming to your party. No matter what you do, push some of the responsibility onto other people; most times, people are glad to help you out, and many will likely be asking what they can do to help you anyway, so it's a win-win situation for everyone involved in the party or get together. 

Set yourself an appropriate budget as to not push the boundaries of your cash. Budgets are hard to keep, especially when we want to dump our love on everyone that we know during the holiday season. But what you need to do is to set a dollar limit for everyone that you are buying gifts for, or an overall limit that you won't exceed during the holiday season. That way, you aren't stressing your bank account, your family, and yourself because you went overboard with the whole generosity thing. Write things down, set it up, and you will be more likely to stick with it as well. 

Try and set aside time for yourself; you will need time to cool down and get away from everyone you're around during the holidays. Don't plan something for every single day on, before, and around the holidays. Give yourself a couple of days off in there to just enjoy yourself, your partner, or your immediate family in the process. Take time outs whenever you need them, because even if you're an extrovert, being around a lot of people all of the time can be exhausting and hard to cope with after awhile. Even if it's just a few hours away, take that time out to relax, do something lazy, and be laid back so that you aren't always on the go for the entire holiday season. You'll enjoy it more! 

Stay healthy and keep up with your healthy habits, including diet and exercise, even if you have to cheat a little. Some people totally drop their health during this time of year, and that's not good for your body or your mind, and it can actually work to make your stress a lot worse. So, if you have healthy routines that you're in with your diet and exercise, do everything you can to stay within those routines. It will help reduce your stress, you'll feel better, and on the days that you may have to cheat (cause you're traveling or because it's Thanksgiving and you're gorging on your favorite meal!), you won't regret it on the scale the next time that you step on it. Instead, you will still feel healthy and strong, even throughout the holidays. 

The holidays can be hard, but you don't have to go through it alone. Step up and find the help that you need in order to get through - even if there are only a few things that are going on, talking to a mental health professional or joining a support group can help you to get through in a healthy and intelligent manner. Find your resources here and get started on your journey to wellness and wholeness again. 


American Psychological Association. (2007). More Coping with Holiday Stress Tips - Psych Central. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from

Goldsmith, B. (2011, November 21). 10 Tools for Dealing with Holiday Stress and Depression. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from

Griffin, R. M. (n.d.). Holiday Gatherings With Family: Tips for Holiday Stress and Anxiety. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2011, November 4). Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from

United HealthCare Services, Inc. (n.d.). Coping With Holiday Stress. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from

About the Author

Marti Wormuth, MA Marti Wormuth, MA

Marti has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and a Master’s in Communication Studies. Her favorite activities include reading, playing games, and hanging out with the students at her church. Marti volunteers with the youth ministry at her church as a teacher and mentor. Because of this, she recently started another degree, her graduate certificate in student ministries. She considers her current graduate work to be a stepping stone to becoming a youth pastor or a published author.

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