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Many of us already had the first taste of the holiday season, but the frenzy of the festivities is far from over. Soon we will be in the hustle of preparations — gift ideas, decorations, shopping, spending, cooking, cleaning. This pressing list of demands can open the door to a few unwelcome guests: holiday stress and anxiety.

There are a lot of expectations around the holidays. For some, it means going home after many months to be with family and friends. For others, it can be welcoming their loved ones into their home. And as much as we might feel excited and cheerful, that level of expectation can easily turn into stress.

If you have been feeling stressed or worried in anticipation of the holidays, it is quite common. In fact, more than 80% of people consider the holiday season to be ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ stressful. But, what is it that gets us so jittery?

What causes holiday stress?

Many factors can contribute to holiday stress, starting with the money we spend on gifts, decorations, parties, and sometimes even trips to our hometowns. That combined with having all our family members in the same place at the same time, plus the pressure to have a great time might put us a bit on edge.

Also, this time of the year can be especially difficult for those dealing with grief and loss. The absence of the ones we love can make us dread these family gatherings even more.

The silver lining about holiday stress is that it is predictable, thus we can take steps to better cope with it. Learn how to prevent stress and anxiety from taking over and enjoy yourself during the holidays this year.

5 tips to help you reduce holiday stress

1. Simplify and share

Photo of a woman writing a to-do list with all the things that need to be done for the holidays. This represents how it is important to plan and prioritize to better manage your holiday stress.For many, this is one of the few times in the year we get all the family together. So, it’s quite easy to get carried away with cooking everyone’s favorites or finding the perfect gifts.

Make a to-do list with all the chores you have in mind. Then take a look at it and choose your priorities. Maybe you don’t need three different types of potatoes (Friends reference). You might not get everything done, but you will save up some energy to enjoy yourself and the ones you love.

You can also share the to-do list with everyone. Maybe you will find that some of your family members are just waiting for their opportunity to shine. Or maybe some recipes will end up burning. Either way, you will get new stories to tell for the next years.

2. Stick to a budget

Are you worried about how much money you are going to spend? Money can be a big source of stress and anxiety. In fact, in a small 2021 survey, shopping for gifts was listed as the biggest stressor during the holiday season. And we all know that holiday spending doesn’t end with gifts. There are many more expenses to cover.

So, before you go on the annual shopping spree, decide how much you can afford to spend. Think about your budget — one that won’t put you under financial stress for the following months — and stick to it.

If it turns out that you can’t spend anything, that’s okay. Sometimes the best gifts aren’t the ones you buy, but rather the time you put into doing something that the person will really appreciate.

3. Make your own traditions

Photo of a family - father, mother, and two kids - baking Christmas cookies. This represents how creating your own traditions can make you feel happier and calmer for the holidays.You probably have a clear image of what the holidays are supposed to be. By this time of the year, we see it everywhere: tv commercials, movies, shows, social media. And on top of that, we all have the ghosts of Christmases past as comparisons.

But, what if that perfect image is not what you really want or what makes sense for your holidays? Maybe you would enjoy it more by spending it with friends, going on a solo vacation, or just staying in with your closest family.

The perfect holiday is the one you and your loved ones will enjoy the most. Think about what makes you happier and calmer. Sure, you can’t please everyone, but you can try new traditions each year.

4. Take a breather

As much as we love our families, the high doses of togetherness and sociability we are exposed to during the holidays might be a bit over.

We all have different needs when it comes to our social vs alone time balance. So, it is important to respect yours. It’s okay to set boundaries and step out for a moment if it will help you manage your holiday stress.

Plan some time for yourself. Go for a walk, read a book, listen to music, or do other activity that helps you relax and recharge your batteries. A few minutes alone can do the trick to be ready for some more bonding.

5. Reach out

Photo of a black man doing a video call on his phone. This represents how you can reach out to friends and family during the holidays and find new ways to stay connected.If nothing seems to lower your holiday stress and anxiety, it could be time to talk with a professional. Starting therapy can help you prepare to face your worries. It can be this year’s early present for yourself. It is also a good way to start the new year — putting yourself and your mental health first.

Are you spending the holidays alone and not by choice? Try to schedule a video call with your loved ones or volunteer your time to bring joy to those that need it the most. You might discover new ways to feel connected during the holidays.

Stress and Anxiety Treatment in Baltimore, MD

Are you worried about the holiday season? Have you been feeling a rise in stress and anxiety?

At New Connections, our therapists can help you explore your worries and fears and find new and more successful ways to cope. We also specialize in therapy for depression, EMDR, trauma therapy, couples counseling, and other life challenges. Talk to us to know more!

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About the Author:

Cathy Sullivan-Windt

Psychologist (Ph.D.) & Owner

Cathy is a licensed counseling psychologist with almost 20 years of experience. She specializes in women’s counseling, anxiety treatment, sexual assault recovery, life transitions, and relationship issues.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time in nature, traveling, reading, and being with her family and friends.