Coping with holiday anxiety and stress

Why can the holidays be stressful?

We gather for the holidays with family and friends, seeking peace and joy. But for some of us, it’s the season of stress and depression. Visions of warmth and happiness run head-long into too many expectations. We face overwhelming demands, from the hustle and bustle of shopping to caring for our children and elderly parents.

No wonder stress and depression are common this time of year. Unfortunately, many of us don’t want to talk about our symptoms. We suffer in silence.

Plan for holiday stress

Understanding our stresses and worries can help us better prepare to cope and find new ways to enjoy the season. Planning ahead can make a difference. And when things still keep us down, we need to know when it’s time for help on a higher level.

Stress and depression during the holidays are commonly associated with:

  • Overspending on gifts, trying to keep everyone happy
  • Heightened tensions, especially when we gather in groups
  • Physical exhaustion from holiday-related errands and obligations

How to minimize holiday stress

What can we do to minimize the stress? It all starts with good choices. Hang on to your healthy habits. It’s OK to indulge a little but overdoing it only adds to feelings of stress and guilt. Include healthy fruits, vegetables, and vitamins in your diet; use them as a pre-party snack.


Scheduling a regular time helps.

Get enough rest 

Most adults need six to eight hours each night.

Find time to visit with friends and have some fun 

Know that others may get upset when things go wrong, so learn to be understanding. Holiday anxiety can affect us all.

Develop a holiday budget

Decide what you can afford and stick to it. Charitable giving may be a more rewarding alternative to buying gifts.

Use your calendar to plan specific days for shopping, baking, and visiting friends

Plan your menus in advance, and shop efficiently.

Get some fresh air

Studies have shown winter’s decreasing daylight can lead to seasonal affective disorder, so any time spent outdoors can be helpful.

Pay attention to your symptoms of stress

Despite your best efforts, you may still need help. Have your symptoms of stress and depression lasted for more than two weeks? Are they affecting your daily life, resulting in poor concentration, sleep or appetite disturbance, and thoughts of death or suicide?

Don’t let these feelings linger and see your doctor as soon as possible. It takes courage to talk about these things but we’re here to listen. Sometimes all that is needed is reassurance but in other cases, more assistance may be necessary.

Your doctor can help decide the best course of action. And you just might end up enjoying the holidays even more than you thought possible. 

Last reviewed: 
June 2017

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