How to Cope With the Holidays

The holiday season is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for many of us, it can be the most stressful time of the year. The stress of social gatherings, financial issues, family problems, and end-of-year work stress can all worsen or cause mental health problems like anxiety and depression. So let’s look at why the holidays stress us out and how we can develop some coping strategies to lessen the impact on our physical and mental health. 

What Causes Stress During the Holidays?

The holidays are supposed to be about family and love and togetherness. But all too often, people have unrealistic expectations for the holidays and need them to be absolutely perfect. But the planning, decorating, shopping, and socializing can all be completely exhausting for us – physically and mentally. Overloading yourself with activities that are supposed to be fun can be stressful on its own – and then you feel guilty for not enjoying them! This can lead to impatience, irritability, and depression as things inevitably fall apart or fall short of expectations. 

And all of that is on top of the financial stress. Presents, travel expenses, meal costs, alcohol, decorations – it all has to be paid for. And with money already being the number one stressor of personal relationships, it just adds to the emotional pressure cooker that is the holidays. 

What Causes Depression During the Holidays?

Along with the stress we discussed above, people often struggle with the “holiday blues” around this time of year as well. For some people, the holidays can be extremely depressing reminders that their lives are not what they want them to be – for whatever reason. Loneliness, loss, sadness, and even anger can all be amplified by the emotional expectations of joy and peace that surround the holiday season.


And there are many other reasons that people have a difficult time with the holidays:

  • Painful memories of the past
  • Loneliness and separation from loved ones
  • Unmet or unrealized expectations of your loved ones
  • Feeling guilty and “wrong” for not being as happy and cheerful as you think you should be
  • Reflecting on the “failures” of the past year
  • Dealing with death, divorce, or other major family life change
  • Increase in alcohol consumption and binge eating – both of which contribute to depression


Coping Strategies To Help You Get Through the Holidays

You should try to practice self-care year-round, but it is especially important during the holidays. Between the hustle and bustle, make time to engage in calming and restorative activities. Eat well, drink lots of water, get plenty of sleep. These are things that you hear all the time but really pause and think about whether or not you’re allowing your body and mind the space and nutrients they need to function properly. 

Other excellent coping strategies for the holiday season include managing your expectations, planning ahead, and sticking to a budget to cut back on stress significantly. Talk to your family and friends about it and see if anyone would like to join you in minimizing stress this year. It can still be Christmas without going into debt, and it can still be Thanksgiving without stuffing yourself until you’re sick.  


Seeking professional help or doubling down on your therapy sessions can also have a tremendously positive impact on your mental health during the holiday season. You’ll feel less stressed, more positive, and a little more in control with the emotional and mental tools that therapy provides. 

If you’re already dreading the holiday season, contact Chenal Family Therapy to discuss setting up an appointment with one of our compassionate and licensed therapists. We’re here to listen and help you develop a plan for coping with the holidays, no matter why you’re struggling.