top of page

10 Common Holiday Stresses and How To Cope With Them


The holidays can be demanding for many reasons, but if you're prone to anxiety they can be downright overwhelming. The gifts, the parties, the baking, the family—or perhaps the absence of these things—can make the season stressful, chaotic or just plain lonely.

But even in the midst of all this holiday hubbub, you can take control of your anxiety. With some practical strategies for managing the stress of this season, you may even end up enjoying this frenetic time of year. Look for these common holiday complaints in your life and use the tips below to find peace and joy in this year's holiday season:

1.) I can't get it all done! The entertaining, shopping, travel and myriad other tasks that accompany the holidays can just feel like too much on top of an already-packed schedule. If you are feeling pulled in too many different directions, take a moment to slow down. Take the opportunity to plan menus and consider gift ideas ahead of time. Make lists of the items you will need and then give yourself a few days to add anything you may have forgotten before heading out to brave the crowds. By organizing, prioritizing and grouping tasks together, you can minimize the stress of multiple trips to the grocery store or mall and avoid last minute scrambling.

2.) I can't afford this! Beginning in September (or maybe even August!) we are bombarded with television and magazine ads depicting holiday tables overflowing with food and gifts stockpiled under beautifully decorated fir trees. It is easy to overspend in an attempt to reach these holiday expectations. Set a budget and avoid the temptation to stray. When you are making your gift lists, determine how much you can spend on each person and stick with it! Consider pooling resources to buy group gifts for friends. Draw names from a hat and buy gifts for one family member rather than all of them. Think about handmade gifts like baked goods, ornaments or a recipe book or photo album. Or give the gift of time by babysitting for a friend or helping your grandmother clean her attic-it's free and often the most thoughtful present you can give.

3.) This isn't how I thought it would be! The holidays come packed with high expectations. Norman Rockwell and Martha Stewart have irreversibly colored our visions of what the holiday season "should" be, making it difficult to not be disappointed by reality. Lower your expectations. Try for a "good enough" holiday season. By keeping expectations realistic and focusing on what's really important to you, you may just find that your "good enough" holiday turns out to be "pretty great" after all.

4.) I can't stand my family! This is the time of year when families feel compelled to come together in peaceful, loving harmony—whether they like it or not! If your family is truly abusive, unpleasant or unhealthy for you, know that you have the choice to decline spending time with them. If like most families, however, they are just mildly irritating, boastful, opinionated or hypercritical, use this opportunity to practice your coping and communication skills. Pick your battles—do you really want to argue about politics or ancient slights over turkey and stuffing with the whole family witnessing? Let it go for one day. Walk away and take a break if that works best. If you need to sort through personal and ideologic differences, find another time when you can discuss these things privately. Set the tone by doing your best to not criticize others and to accept your family for who they are-likely imperfect and often times annoying-but family nonetheless.

5.) I'm lonely! On the flip side, this season can often be a time when the absence of family or social connections becomes highlighted. If you are far from family, try creative ways to connect with them like email, videos or Skype. If you find yourself feeling alone, look for local holiday con