7 Ways to Reduce Stress and Manage Anxiety During the Holidays

By Suzy Christopher, LCSW, Director at MySpectrum Counseling & Coaching | December 11th, 2019

Make your holidays happy this year, why don't you?


Woman stressed out because of holiday pressures Image

Are you looking forward to the holidays? The merriest time of the year can instead cause unwanted stress and anxiety among people of all ages. Blending high expectations, costly expenditures, busy schedules, social media comparisons, and social engagements leaves many feeling depressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, or a blend of all three. It is important to note that the holidays can be exceptionally hard on those who recently entered recovery from substance abuse. Or on those who are grieving, or experiencing strained family relationships. To manage these powerful – and at times debilitating – feelings, we’ve created a “de-stress checklist” to help make the holidays more enjoyable.

  1. Lower Your Expectations

This may seem like common sense, but many of us try to attain perfection or meet otherwise unrealistic expectations. Your house may not look like a magazine cover. Your dinner may not be a four-course spread. Instead of a sit-down dinner with your holiday China, consider the feasibility of a buffet on disposable plates. While scrolling through social media, always keep in mind you are looking at only the highlight reels of other families. It is more important that you are rested and able to enjoy your holiday than attain perfection at the expense of your mental or physical health.

  1. Accept Help and/or Shortcuts

If you have the means, there are often nonprofit groups that will giftwrap for a donation to their cause. Most stores and online retailers also offer giftwrapping. Purchase a gift card instead of spending hours searching for the “perfect gift.” Instead of baking a recipe from scratch, determine if you can take shortcuts such as boxed mix or refrigerated dough. Get premade appetizers, use your microwave liberally, or even purchase the entire meal from a local grocer or restaurant. The time and energy you save can be used for self-care, rest, or spending quality time with those you care about.

  1. Say No

The holidays are the prime “yes” time for parties, donations, gifts, and spending. Financial stress often comes in tandem with the holiday season. If you have a budget, stick to it by keeping your purchases and donations within those guidelines. If you are tired, under a work deadline, or need to finish up something of your own for the holidays, give yourself permission to decline a party invite. The holidays are a great time to practice boundaries with your time, energy, and money.

  1. Create Time for Self-Care

By allowing yourself even 15 minutes of your preferred means of self-care, you are still making yourself a priority and helping to prevent burnout. Set a daily timer on your phone if needed for a bath, exercise, massage, television or a phone call with a friend. Practice giving yourself permission to rest, even if your task list isn’t completed.

  1. Plan Your Time Out Ahead of the Holidays

Look ahead for the next three weeks and schedule days or times to shop, exercise, wrap, decorate, cook, bake, and go out with friends. The more you schedule and plan, the better prepared you will be for the unexpected. Whenever possible, make a few dishes ahead of entertaining so that you can spend more time with your friends and family. Most side dishes and desserts can be made a day or two in advance. While scheduling, carve out time for a few guilty pleasures for yourself, as well.

  1. Reach Out

If you are feeling sad, overwhelmed, or isolated, reach out to a trusted friend or family member. If these feelings persist or continue after the holidays are over, reach out to a professional.

  1. Remember: This Is Fleeting

It can be hard to recall in the moment, but the holiday season is only about six weeks out of our life annually. Retailers and companies seem to bring them to us earlier each year, but the busiest weeks are mid-November to late-December. If you find yourself wondering if the madness will ever end, start counting the days (literally).  Whenever possible, enjoy the best parts of the season knowing the traffic, bustle, and even the infamous elf will all end by January 2nd.


Suzy Christopher, LCSW, is the director at MySpectrum Counseling & Coaching. MySpectrum Counseling & Coaching is an outpatient therapy practice located in North Chesterfield serving all ages. www.myspectrumcc.com

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