Does the hustle and bustle of the holiday season make you want to crawl into bed and stay there until after the new year, affecting your mental health? Do you get heart palpitations at the thought of spending extra time with certain family members at the annual holiday gatherings? Does wondering how you’ll pay off the additional expenses that this time of year tends to bring keep you awake at night? You’re not alone.

The holiday season is one of the business and most stressful times of the year, and it can sneak up on you and overwhelm you before you know it.

Good stress versus bad stress

Although the holiday season is stressful, it’s important to remember that there is a big difference between good and bad stress. Good stress is short-term, and it’s motivating. It enables you to focus and often enhances performance. There are a lot of people who thrive under pressure. During the holidays, good stress may look like planning a dinner party for family and close friends. It’s a lot of work and preparation, but the result is enjoyable, and the stress is short-lived; after the party is over, you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

Bad stress is the type that wears you out emotionally, causes anxiety and even physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach issues. Two examples would be someone in a dire financial situation wondering how they will provide gifts for their family or being around family with whom you don’t have a great relationship.

No one is immune from holiday-related stress

Holiday stress can affect anyone, even kids. People associate the holidays with get-togethers, traditional events, and happy memories, but many expectations can lead to stress.

Expectations from other people can be stressful, but also, the pressure we put on ourselves can quickly make the holidays overwhelming. Many people want to make the holidays picture perfect and feel like a failure when everything doesn’t go according to plan. Other stress factors include finances, travel plans, and for some, it means juggling which side of the family to spend part of the holidays with. In addition, many people feel alone this time of year because they live far away from loved ones or family conflict is keeping them apart.

The holidays can be especially difficult for people who have lost friends and family members. Grief adds a whole new layer of stress.

Stress affects the body in several ways. Symptoms of stress may include:

  • Sadness

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Fatigue

  • Insomnia

Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

Plan ahead

Make a list of the things you need to do so you can prioritize the most important. You are also less likely to forget something if you have it written down.

Practice self-care

There is a lot of focus on giving around the holiday season, but it’s also essential to give back to yourself. Self-care isn’t selfish- it’s a necessary part of mental health and wellbeing.

Create a budget

Make a financial plan and stick to it. It’s easy to overspend around the holiday season, and setting a budget can help keep you on track.

Honor lost loved ones

If you have recently lost someone close to you, use this time to reflect on special memories and create new traditions in their honor. Some great ways to do this are donating money or time to their favorite cause.

If holiday stress is affecting you to the point where it’s affecting your ability to function day to day, consider talking to a mental health professional. At Serene Health, we offer flexible appointments seven days a week on our telehealth platform so you can speak to a therapist from the comfort of your own home. Call Serene Health at 844-737-3638 or visit us at to schedule an appointment.