5 Mental Health Tips to Handle Holiday Stress

By: Tayler Glenn


The holiday season is a busy time with so much to do, attend and plan. Despite this being the season of joy, it can feel significantly less than joyful if you’re also juggling feelings of being overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, or stressed. To help get you through, we’ve got 5 tips for mental wellbeing over the holidays.


What Causes Holiday Stress?

Many factors can trigger negative feelings or cause the “holiday blues”: stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints, and tension are all included.  The social, time, and financial demands of shopping, parties, + reunions place such a strain on our bodies and emotions that we rarely have the time to address in the moment! Of course, there are also a large number of those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or chronic mental health such as depression or anxiety.

It’s always helpful to have a few ways to help yourself out so you can actually enjoy the holidays! We’ve got some of the most common holiday triggers and tips for you below.


5 Mental Health Tips for Holiday Stress


There are so many expenses during the holidays, and gifts can add up quickly! Add in travel, food, and any emergencies that might pop up along the way, and you could be staring down a mountain of debt that you never intended to accrue.  If finances are causing you anxiety or unneeded stress, having a set budget for gifts, food, and travel is a helpful way to stay on track!  Once you have a budget, you can further cut down on costs with one of these alternatives to one-to-one gift giving:

  • Offer to swap gift exchanging for low-cost activities with loved ones
  • Offer to have someone over for a home-cooked meal, or plan a coffee date
  • Set spending limits
  • Make homemade gifts
  • Organize a Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchange

Travel costs can also be a large problem, but you have a few options here as well! You can ask family members to skip gifts in favor of holiday travel money, use video chats when you can’t be somewhere in person, or offer to visit another time of year when travel is less expensive. Remember that you don’t have to feel guilty when looking at what others are spending! After all, the season is about togetherness – not who can rack up the highest credit card debt.


Set Realistic Expectations

If you’ve ever seen a Christmas movie, you know just how far from perfect things can get when perfection is what you’re striving for!  We expect ourselves to be the perfect host, have the perfect gifts, and show up with stories about your perfect life with your perfect family. Is all of that really possible? Nope.

The commercialization of the holiday season often adds a lot of unnecessary stress to an already hectic time. Things don’t often go just as planned them to, and there are two things to do when this happens:

  1. Go in with realistic expectations (read: it’s okay to be human! Everyone else is, too.)
  2. Have a backup plan in place

Stock your pantry with a few extra essentials (chicken stock, butter, eggs) just in case a dish goes away, have a few gifts on-hand in case one gets broken or lost, and expect a few arguments or spills along the way! You can’t control everything, so just do what you can within your means and focus on the good company.


Remember, You Can Say “No”

There are only so many functions you can attend or host! Trying to be too many places or needing your house to look like the cover of Better Homes + Gardens for 6 weeks straight is going to turn those get-togethers from enjoyable to overwhelming!

Don’t be afraid to back out of a few invites or even drop your annual party. Be patient with yourself, especially this time of year; it’s normal to feel like skipping events or breaking from tradition. Explain to others that you’re unwell or simply overwhelmed – we promise you won’t be alone.

If you’re someone who struggles with crowds, don’t push yourself too hard and risk ruining your memory of the season. If stores with too many shoppers are too much, simply shop online and enjoy all of the perks of the holiday deals without the long lines + stress!

Make Time for Self-Care

Schedule some time for yourself on your calendar over the busy holiday season, and treat it like a doctor’s appointment! The idea of self-care is often mistaken for selfishness or neglecting others, but that’s not true! Self-care is actually an act of love and an essential part of stress management. After all, how are you going to be the life of the holiday festivities if you’re feeling run-down + frazzled? Here are a few ideas that only take a few minutes, but could be just what you need to get back to 100%:

  • Take a nap
  • Listen to music
  • Soak in the tub
  • Enjoy some light exercise
  • Make a cup of tea or a healthy snack 
  • Read a book
  • Incorporate mindfulness
  • Focus on gratitude
  • Meditate
  • Take your vitamins or grab some Bliss®


Don’t Drink Your Feelings

Mulled wine, spiked eggnog, cocktails, and ciders can seem like the perfect addition to your holiday, but it’s important to proceed with caution. The stress of the season can easily build up, causing some to use alcohol to help cope with the negative feelings! There is no doubt that the holidays are an excellent time to unwind with your favorite groups of people, but you should remember that alcohol can lead to an even lower mood and leave you in a position to overindulge or just feel awful at the end of what should be an enjoyable night.

You don’t have to abstain entirely, especially if you know you (not your emotions) are in control, but it’s helpful to set some effective guidelines to make certain that you don’t go overboard

  • Avoid Feeling Pressured
    Just because those around you are drinking doesn’t mean you have to! If you feel that it could make your mood worse or you plan on driving later, politely decline or ask for a non-alcoholic drink, such as water or tea!
  • Stick to Your Health Goals
    If you’ve been working hard all year to stick to that TLS® Weight Loss Plan, then focus on that when the drinks come around! Chances are, you’ve already indulged in desserts or snacks so ask whether it’s worth deviating any further from your health + fitness goals for a drink. With a plan in place, stick to your goals and you’ll be rewarded when the New Year comes around!
  • Follow the “1-2 Rule”
    This tip is helpful when you only want one drink but feel strange not having anything in your hand. Plus, it helps keep you hydrated! The rule is simple: for every alcoholic drink you have, follow it with two alcohol-free options like soda water, tea, or even coffee.


If you’re worried about how you or a loved one is going to handle the holiday stress, consider reaching out to a professional who can provide the support you or them needs to have a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season!