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Navigating Holiday Stress: Understanding and Overcoming Seasonal Strain

holiday stress

Feeling the Holiday Pressure? You're Not Alone

As the festive season rolls in with its glittering lights and cheerful melodies, it's often accompanied by an uninvited guest: stress. Despite being a time of joy and celebration, the holiday period can be a source of significant strain for many adults. Let's unwrap the reasons behind this and explore ways to manage it, with a gentle reminder that seeking help from a therapist can be a beacon of support in this bustling season.

Why Do We Feel Stressed During the Holidays?

There are many reasons why you are feeling stressed during this time of year, here are just a few that I have seen come up:

  • High Expectations: The holiday season often carries with it the pressure of creating perfect experiences, from immaculate home decorations to hosting ideal gatherings. This pursuit of perfection can be overwhelming.  You may place expectations on yourself of portraying yourself around others in a certain way or even doing everything at once from being present at home to accomplishing everything at work.

  • Financial Worries: Gifts, travel, and festivities come with costs. Budget concerns can escalate during this time, leading to financial stress.

  • Family Dynamics: Holidays are synonymous with family gatherings. While this can be heartwarming, it can also reignite family tensions and old conflicts.  This can be stressful as you are not keen on seeing someone or navigating certain relationships.

  • Overcommitment: The urge to attend every event, meet every person, and fulfill every tradition can leave us stretched thin.  I feel this also fits into “high expectations”, you are expecting yourself (or others’ expectations are feeling that they are falling on you) to be everywhere at once.

  • Remembrance of Lost Loved Ones: Holidays can amplify the absence of loved ones who have passed away, evoking deep emotions and stress.  This might cause stress in how the holidays are celebrated or even where they take place this year.  

Recognizing Signs of Stress

Stress impacts our wellbeing and our wellbeing is made up of a few different things:

  • Emotional Symptoms: Feeling irritable, overwhelmed, or unusually sad.

  • Physical Responses: Experiencing headaches, difficulty with concentrating, overstimulation, fatigue, or changes in appetite and sleep.

  • Behavioral Changes: Withdrawal from social interactions, neglecting self-care, or relying excessively on substances like alcohol.

  • Mental Health: I mean this is a mental health blog after all… If you already experience symptoms of anxiety, OCD, and more, you may notice these symptoms increasing around this time of year.  Not only are we navigating the challenges of the holidays, but we just went through a change in our time and daylight has shortened significantly.  Oh, and not to mention if you have any children in school or college and they are coming home on break or experiencing all sorts of illness.  I totally understand how this will heighten things for you.

Managing Holiday Stress

Let’s “unwrap” some ways to manage this holiday stress:

  • Set Realistic Expectations: It's okay if everything isn't perfect. Embrace the joy of the moment, imperfections and all.  Break down what you have on your checklist to smaller tasks, delegate if possible, and focus on what you need to get done.

  • Plan Your Budget: Decide on what you can comfortably spend and stick to it. Meaningful moments don't always have a price tag.

  • Time Management: Prioritize your activities. It's alright to say no to events that don't fit into your schedule or mental bandwidth.  I feel this also falls into those expectations of wanting to accomplish everything at once.

  • Self-Care: Allocate time for relaxation and activities you enjoy. A simple walk or a quiet evening can be rejuvenating.  It is still important to take care of yourself.  If you become sick or so physically or mentally drained that you can’t do anything, it will be more stressful during this time of year.  I think of either of bodies or minds giving us this signal of saying “hey, we have pushed ourselves too far and now we HAVE to slow down”.  Sometimes, those things don’t give us a choice.

  • Stay Connected: Reach out to friends or communities that you know will help uplift you. Sharing your feelings can lighten your emotional load.

How Can Therapy Help?

A therapist can provide a safe space to untangle the emotions and pressures of the holiday season. They offer strategies tailored to your unique situation, helping you to:

  • Develop coping mechanisms for stress.

  • Navigate complicated family dynamics.

  • Process feelings of grief or loneliness.

  • Set boundaries to protect your mental well-being.

It's okay to seek help. Embracing therapy can be your stepping stone towards a more peaceful and enjoyable holiday season. So, as the holidays approach, let's prioritize our mental health just as much as we do the festive preparations. Here's to a season of warmth, understanding, and gentle self-care.

Are you looking for a therapist to help with holiday stress? Discover the convenience of online therapy with Better Minds Counseling & Services. We specialize in assisting adults with anxiety through our virtual mental health solutions. Brittany Webb, LPC CCATP, a certified clinical anxiety treatment expert and licensed professional counselor, is ready to help you tackle feeling stuck and get you back on your path! Schedule your free introductory session with her today!

Blog Disclaimer - These posts are not meant to treat, diagnose, or serve as a replacement for therapy.  If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, please contact your local crisis center or dial 911.  Here are more immediate resources as well.


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