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Couch Conversations: 5 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

The year is coming to an end and with that usually comes projects wrapping up at work, children taking time off from school, and extra planning for the holiday season. With all of these different tasks to navigate, it is also important to take the time to take care of yourself.

Holiday stress can come in many forms including worry, anxiousness, unhelpful thoughts, and difficulty keeping a productive perspective about the holidays in general. This could be debilitating in people’s ability to find some enjoyment in the season and express gratitude for what is working in their lives.

Most people can acknowledge that there is a certain level of good and bad stress that comes with the holiday season. However, there tends to be a focus on the negative and it could be challenging to see beyond those perils. Our therapists at Couch Conversations address holiday stress every season and would like to offer some tips, tools and strategies to reduce the burden of holiday stress and improve overall wellbeing and finding ways to enjoy the season.

5 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

Tip # 1: Reduce Worry with Planning

The holiday season could be very taxing and difficult to manage if there is not a plan in place. This is the time to pull out the to-do list and be specific with your goals. Write down immediate, short-term, to-do list items to keep track of the everyday tasks for the holidays. Also, keep a long-term list for the month or the season that keeps track of some of the future-oriented plans you may have to complete.

Staying organized and planning ahead could alleviate some of the holiday stress that comes with the season. Your future self will thank you for planning in advance and keeping track of the different things you need to complete before the end of the season.

Tip# 2: Improve Self Care by Scheduling It

In addition to planning for the holiday season, it is also important to schedule in time for self-care. Most people know the importance of self-care but have difficulty practicing it because it does require extra planning of those self-care behaviors ahead of time. If you are organizing your holiday shopping schedule, make sure you also plan for some self-care.

Self-care does not have to be a huge time commitment. Self-care is about taking some moments to re-energize, rejuvenate, and proactively take care of your emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. Examples of self-care could be as small as taking 5 minutes for a mental break away from screens, to something more elaborate such as committing a day to reading, writing in a journal, watching your favorite movie, or sitting outside and listening to the sounds of nature.

Tip # 3: Practice Mindfulness Skills

Ideally, mindfulness skills would already be a part of people’s daily routines and habits. However, it is never too late to start practicing mindfulness to better manage stress, especially during the holidays.

Mindfulness based skills include meditation, deep breathing, and grounding strategies. The main purpose of using mindfulness skills to manage holiday stress is to remind people to be in their present moment, instead of their past and/or future. The past cannot be changed, and people cannot necessarily control the outcome of the future, so staying in the present moment is the best way to manage the stress and worry that comes up when thinking about these two other points in time.

Tip #4: Try to Focus on the Good

Most people know there could be very difficult moments that come up during the holiday season. Perhaps stressful family situations come up every year during the holidays, illness in family members, or last minute changes that make it difficult to plan ahead.

It is essential to acknowledge the difficulty that these situations could bring, but it is a choice to continue to focus on the negative aspects of the situation versus the positives. If the focus is shifted from what is going wrong to something that could be going right (even if a small detail), there could be a tremendous weight that is lifted from continuing to re-live the stress.

Tip #5: Stay Connected

People may be tempted to isolate themselves from friends and family during the holiday season because it increases their stress levels. There may be some situations where this could be appropriate depending on your own personal circumstances. If you need to stay away from the people who are causing stress due to the toxic nature of the relationship, make sure you are finding other people to stay connected to, even if virtually.

Having even one person you can talk to about your difficulties, who is supportive of your circumstances, could be extremely helpful for being a sounding board to your struggles and offering some advice.

Staying connected during the holidays has the potential to reduce feelings of loneliness, allows people to feel emotionally connected with others, and it could also reduce your stress levels because you worked through some issues by discussing them with a trusted person.


Holiday stress could lead to feeling disconnected, lonely, and reliving difficult situations over and over again. However, there are some strategies people could use to reduce those stressors and focus on different aspects of the holidays. Managing holiday stress through planning, self-care, mindfulness skills, expressing thanks for what is good, and connecting with others are all tools that could make surviving the holidays a more pleasant experience. Try these 5 tips to get through some of the stressful moments of the holiday season, and see if you can enjoy the positivity that the holidays could bring into your life.

Our Couch Conversations Psychotherapy and Counseling, Inc. therapists know the challenges that come from dealing with holiday stress. While it could be a hectic and busy time already, it is still important to be honest with your needs and ask for help if needed. If you would like to connect with one of our Couch Conversations psychotherapists this holiday season, please complete the “Contact Us” form below and one of our therapists will reach out to you.


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