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What causes holiday stress

What Causes Holiday Stress and How to Manage It

It doesn’t matter if your holiday jam is It’s a Wonderful Life, The Grinch. Miracle on 34th Street, or A Charlie Brown Christmas. Despite their sad parts, those movies all turned out all right in the end. Unfortunately, real life is more complicated. If you’re in the middle of a seasonal stress-fest, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 


The truth is, almost half of all adults would rather skip the holidays altogether. That’s too bad. No matter what you dislike about the time of year, there has to be at least one thing you enjoy –– even if it’s just drinking spiked eggnog. Plus, your anxiety is likely caused by the same stressors you deal with all year. Which means learning to manage it now will pay dividends later. So what causes holiday stress and how can you cope?



The root of most stress 365-days a year, it’s magnified during the season by constant pressure to shop until you drop. For some, the COVID-19 pandemic put enormous strain on their finances. Whether you’re one of the millions coping with job losses or you’re dealing with the costs of a new home or career, do yourself a favor. Limit spending. Give heartfelt, inexpensive presents to those you truly treasure. Don’t feel obligated to buy a pricey gift for your boss. Instead, appreciate that gift giving should flow from supervisors to staffers –– not the other way around. You shouldn’t feel obligated to  purchase a gift as a way to curry favor. Even if the entire staff is pitching in for a group present, if you can’t afford it then don’t participate. If your answer to what causes holiday stress is “finances,” then do yourself a huge favor. Avoid charging up your cards with purchases you can ill afford. Few things are worse than carrying seasonal debt and  anxiety into the New Year. 



Maybe it’s your job. Maybe it’s your fam. No matter the reason, stress gets super-sized during the holiday season. Chances are you feel pulled in multiple directions while dealing with the sense that whatever you do is insufficient. Take a deep breath and a step back. Then practice saying one simple, two-letter word –– and it’s not “OK.” It’s “no.” No is perhaps the most liberating word you can udder. No to overtime, no to Black Friday shopping, no to four-hour drives to see relatives you really don’t care to see. Maybe saying “No” to baking 400 gluten-free sugar cookies for your child’s first grade class means you won’t be elected PTA president. So be it. The only yes you should worry about saying is yes to yourself and yes to taking some serious me time. Meditation is a proven anxiety reliever, as is exercise. During the busy holiday season, both deserve some of your valuable minutes.

Isolation and Loss


Holiday movies and TV specials always seem to be about friends and families gathering together. For some, they are a poignant reminder that they have lost a loved one. For others, it reinforces the fact that making and keeping friends is far harder when you are older. If you know someone who is alone, take the time to visit. If it’s you, consider volunteering or reconnecting with your faith. Although restful solitude can really help your mental health, being alone throughout the season can worsen depression. If you are having trouble coping, speaking to a qualified therapist can help.


However, enjoying some silly alone time can be very healthy. Consider watching a comedy by yourself or with friends. I recommend National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It still holds up.  


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