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5 Tips for Calming Holiday Stress

Feeling more stressed and sad this holiday season? You aren’t alone. The holiday season for most is a time of joy and celebration but doesn’t come without its share of stress provoking demands and interactions. COVID-19 is heightening feelings of stress and sadness this year, too, as we all try to figure out new ways of preparing for and celebrating the holidays while maintaining safety and managing financial stress.

Here are 5 tips to help you manage holiday overwhelm and uncomfortable emotions:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings: Feeling anxious and/or sad during the holidays can sometimes seem counterintuitive. Our culture doesn’t regularly leave much space for these feelings, and many of the messages we receive through advertising or from others include an expectation to feel happiness and joy this time of year. But, happiness isn’t the only valid feeling out there. Try taking a few moments to be still, breathe deeply, and check in with your feelings. Label them and describe them without avoiding them. Remind yourself that it is ok to feel your feelings and think of a healthy or compassionate way to respond to them.

  2. Set new (realistic) expectations: Ask yourself what your goal for this holiday is. Is it reasonable to expect that you will have the same holiday plans as usual? Is making everyone or yourself persistently holiday happy actually within your power? Reframing your goal into something more attainable may help you to focus on celebrating the holidays in a healthier way. Offer yourself room to think flexibly and make changes to your usual routine. Instead of saying “I want everyone to be happy”, perhaps you reframe to “I want to practice being more present in the moment” or “I want to keep things as simple as possible”. What would it look like to enact those statements?

  3. Make self-care a priority: It’s easy to stay up later and skip the things you normally do to take care of yourself. However, these are the exact things that will help you manage stress and stay regulated. Keep up with that sleep routine, build in time for the things that help you relax, and give yourself some time to decompress. Remind yourself that burning the candle at both ends will likely lead to more stress and sadness.

  4. Practice gratitude: In my last post, I talked about how focusing on gratitude can bolster us through hard times. The challenges we’ve faced in 2020 provide us with another heaping layer of stress during this holiday season. Practicing daily gratitude may be a way to keep focus on the points of light in our lives and keep overwhelming feelings in check. If you can, try to think of small ways to give back to others, whether in your family or in your community. After all, supporting each other through difficult times helps us all to cope.

  5. Ask for help from a professional: If you find that you have made your best effort to manage anxiety and depression with little to no improvement, I encourage you to reach out to a professional. Even short-term therapy can make a difference in reducing the impact of anxiety and depression on your life.

In the scheme of things, this is one, albeit difficult, year. The current conditions we are living in are likely to pass and may just offer us some insight into how we’d like to celebrate holidays more manageably in the future. May you find some bright spots and ease this holiday season.

Stay safe and take care,


*The contents of this blog post are not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or mental disorder. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room immediately.

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