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5 Tips to Manage Holiday Stress

While many people think of the holidays as a time for cheer, joy and connection, about 38% of people feel a sense of increased stress (APA, 2021). Often this is related to pressures of gift giving, finances, managing expectations, grief and sadness and overall normal daily stresses. For those individuals who already struggle with mental health symptoms, which is exacerbated by the holidays, and many report worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety (NAMI).

In most cases, stress is a normal part of life, but when it becomes overwhelming, feels too heavy to handle and comes on it once, we often lose perspective and struggle to find ways to manage all of it. The positive about holiday stress is that is predictable and manageable. We know it will come, so we can have a plan and it put it into action. So what are some of the ways we can manage the stress of the holidays?

Setting boundaries: Before committing to anything this holiday season, decide what your limits are, as you have the power to choose. If you need to travel this holiday season, decide what feels best for you. Do you fly or drive?  You can also set boundaries on how long and where you will stay. Other areas you can set limits can be on hosting guests, planning meals and food, spending etc. The list goes on, but what is important is to know what brings you joy and what does not; focusing on keep will help reduce your stress.

Sleep and movement: As mentioned above, holiday stress can often increase mental health symptoms, especially around anxiety. One of the most powerful tools in reducing anxiety is good sleeping habits. Sleep also helps your immune system stay healthy, which is something we can all use during cold/flu season. Though Iowa weather can often be quite cold during the holidays, finding ways to stay active is important. It could be a bundled up walk to see Christmas lights, go ice-skating, go sledding, and go for a hike or a nature walk. Keeping our bodies moving will help decrease stress significantly.

Take quite time yourself: With all the hustle and bustle of the season, we often forget to take time for ourselves. Holidays can be bright, loud and overload our sense. Making sure to find some quiet things, you enjoy, even for 5-10 minutes regularly will be beneficial for your mental health. Make sure to give yourself time between parties, travel, work and shopping. In addition, remember, the best thing you can do is try to keep your normal routines as much as possible. If you love a cup of coffee every morning, do not skip. Do not skip a work out if you enjoy doing that every day. Routines are ways to help us stay calm and focused.

Connection: Focus on the relationships around you that bring you joy. Whether that is a group in the community, close friends or family. This time of year, we often get to spend time with others we haven’t had the chance to see much, and this is a great time to have intentional conversation, beyond small talk. Maybe that is getting to know more about family history maybe that is connecting with a 5-year old on their favorite new toy. Being open, curious and attuned to each other, helps us build connections that can positively affect our mental health.

No matter what you decide to do this year, know you are not alone if you are feeling a little overwhelmed. Do you best, give yourself grace and embrace willingness to make yourself a priority this holiday season.

Written by: Cassie Kehoe, LISW RPT


American Psychological Association. (2021). Holiday Stress Resource Center.,%2Dgiving%2C%20and%20family%20gatherings.

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