The Ellie Blog

Mental health tips and insights

Stresses woman in santa hat wrapping presents.

Dealing With Holiday Stress? 5 Tips to Wind Down and Enjoy the Season

‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la… and perpetually stressed out about finding the perfect gift, hosting the ultimate family feast, and turning your home into a Pinterest-worthy winter wonderland. So, if you’re starting to feel more “bah, humbug” than “ho, ho, ho,” fear not!

At Ellie Mental Health, we know that the holiday season isn’t always like the perfect Hallmark Christmas card. That’s why we’re here to sprinkle a bit of humor and a dash of sanity into your holiday season, offering five tips that will help you navigate the Yuletide mayhem like a gingerbread ninja.

So, sit back and relax. It’s time to trade stress for festive cheer and embrace the most wonderful time of the year without feeling like you’re about to get run over by that runaway reindeer like grandma.

Holidays can be stressful! We’re here to help you navigate the madness. Find an Ellie location near you and get matched with a therapist today.

The Truth About Holiday Stress

It starts innocently enough with a simple wish: “All I want for Christmas is a stress-free holiday.” Fast forward to reality, and suddenly you’re in a mad dash to create the North Pole in your living room, all while hoping your Christmas tree doesn’t decide to pull a Griswold and burst into flames. The simple truth is, seasonal affective disorder can be a powerful force that takes us by surprise — and if you or a family member is dealing with grief, relationship problems, or a mental illness, this can make the holiday stress seem unending.

At the end of the day, it’s not the chestnuts roasting on an open fire that stresses us out; it’s the mental checklist of holiday tasks that threaten to roast our sanity. From gift shopping to decorating, we’ve all been there — wrapped up in a festive frenzy that makes us question if the North Pole has a return policy for overwhelmed adults.

But what exactly is it about the holidays that seems to have everyone decking the halls in frustration?

Let’s explore a few reasons:

  • Gift-Giving Pressure: Selecting the perfect gift for everyone on your list can be a daunting task. The pressure to find something thoughtful, meaningful, and within budget can contribute to holiday stress.
  • Financial Strain: The holiday season often involves spending money on gifts, decorations, travel, and entertainment. Financial strain, especially when coupled with the desire to create a memorable experience, can lead to stress.
  • Family Dynamics: While spending time with family is a cherished tradition, navigating complex family dynamics, a new relationship, dealing with unresolved issues, or managing differing expectations can be a significant source of stress during the holidays.
  • Social Obligations: The holiday season is filled with social events, from holiday parties at the office to gatherings with friends and family. A busy social calendar and the pressure to attend every event can contribute to feelings of overwhelm.
  • Decorating Dilemmas: Transforming your home into a winter wonderland might sound delightful in theory, but the reality of untangling lights, finding the perfect tree, and arranging decorations can be a time-consuming and stress-inducing task.
  • Travel Challenges: Whether it’s dealing with crowded airports, navigating traffic, or coordinating travel plans, the logistics of holiday travel can add an extra layer of stress, especially when trying to reach distant family or friends.
  • High Expectations: There’s often an idealized image of the “perfect” holiday season, fueled by movies, commercials, and social media. The pressure to meet these high expectations, both personally and socially, can create stress.
  • Time Constraints: The holiday season is often accompanied by a flurry of activities, from shopping to cooking to attending events. Balancing these demands with regular responsibilities can leave individuals feeling time-strapped and stressed.
  • Health Concerns: The winter season brings with it the risk of illness, and the fear of getting sick or managing health concerns during the holidays can contribute to stress.
  • Work Commitments: For many, the holiday season doesn’t mean a break from work responsibilities. Balancing year-end work commitments with personal festivities can create additional stress.
  • Loneliness and Grief: For those who may be facing holidays without loved ones or coping with the loss of someone close, feelings of loneliness and grief can intensify during this time, contributing to emotional stress.
  • Culinary Expectations: The pressure to prepare a perfect holiday feast can be overwhelming. From planning the menu to executing intricate recipes, the culinary expectations of the season can induce stress, especially for those less comfortable in the kitchen.

5 Tips to Help You Chill Out and Enjoy the Season

Let’s be real – between trying to untangle the Christmas lights, avoiding awkward conversations with your weird uncle, and wondering if your holiday cookies will survive the office potluck, the most wonderful time of the year can quickly turn into the most stressful. But don’t worry, we got you.

1. Set Realistic Expectations

One of the primary sources of holiday stress is often the pressure we place on ourselves to create the perfect celebration. But even in our most beloved Christmas movies, things tend to go wrong. Remember the end of A Christmas Story, or It’s a Wonderful Life? Keep in mind that perfection is subjective, and it’s okay not to have everything go according to plan. Set realistic expectations for yourself and your holiday activities. Focus on the joy of the moment rather than striving for an idealized version of the season.

2. Prioritize Self-Care

Healthy habits go a long way. Amidst the hustle of holiday preparations, it’s crucial to prioritize self-care. Managing stress involves taking breaks, getting enough sleep, and engaging in activities that bring you relaxation and joy. Whether it’s reading a book, taking a warm bath, writing in your gratitude journal, or practicing mindfulness, dedicating time to self-care can help recharge your energy and help you maintain a positive mindset.

3. Plan and Organize

It’s OK if a bulb goes out on the tree. And all of the red presents don’t really need matching green bows. The point is, feeling overwhelmed often stems from a sense of chaos and disorganization. Combat holiday stress by planning and organizing your time effectively. Create a holiday calendar, make to-do lists, and set aside specific times for tasks. Breaking down responsibilities into manageable steps can help you stay on top of things and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

4. Establish Boundaries

The holiday season often involves social gatherings and family events, which can be both enjoyable and demanding. It’s essential to establish healthy boundaries to protect your well-being. Learn to say “no” when necessary, communicate your needs, and prioritize activities that align with your values and bring you joy. Setting boundaries with friends and family members allows you to participate in the festivities without feeling overwhelmed.

5. Embrace Mindfulness and Gratitude

Amid holiday chaos, take moments to manage stress by practicing mindfulness and gratitude. Whether through meditation, deep breathing, or simply pausing to appreciate the present moment, mindfulness can help you stay centered. Additionally, cultivating gratitude by reflecting on the positive aspects of your life can shift your focus from stressors to the blessings that surround you.

‘Tis the Season to be Mentally Healthy and Enjoy the Holidays

So, as we wrap up this festive guide to mental sanity during the holiday season and dealing with holiday stress, let’s remember that the only snowflakes we should be dealing with are the ones falling gently from the sky, not the ones melting down in our minds. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, but also to be mentally healthy—because nothing says “Happy Holidays” like avoiding a nutcracker moment with that eccentric cousin who insists on singing off-key Christmas carols.

From all of us at Ellie Mental Health, we wish you all the joy, laughter, and mental stability that even Santa’s therapists would approve of. Cheers to a holly, jolly, and most importantly, a mentally healthy holiday season!

Could you use a bit of support this holiday season? Find an Ellie location near you and get matched with a mental health professional who can help.