5 Healthy Ways to Handle Stress & Sadness at the Holidays

By Krista


Last Updated: January 1, 2022

Holiday stress is all too real.

If you’re not stressing about what to get people or bring to that family gathering, you might feel straight-up anxious about interacting with relatives or digging up old drama.

It’s no surprise why about 38% of people report increased stress during the holiday season. And it can even continue to impact you after-the-fact. You might face psychological stress afterwards as you ruminate and process all the conversations and situations that arose. 

You might be left feeling sad and anxious after that holiday gathering, as opposed to fulfilled, happy, and satisfied.

Rest assured, that this is completely normal.

You definitely aren’t alone.

So, let’s explore how you can overcome this holiday stress and leave this holiday season feeling better than the last.


Healthy Strategies for Reducing Holiday Stress

Holidays usually come with mixed feelings.

Family isn’t always easy. Expectations and drama can be hard to manage. Yet, you do have some control. Your stress levels are entirely within your hands. Below, we offer ways that you can manage them throughout and after this holiday season. What should you keep in mind?


1. Give Yourself the Gift of Time

With the recent pandemic, socializing hasn’t exactly been the norm over the last few years. Thus, days of family can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. You might even notice your tolerance has gone way down!

Author Anthony J. D'Angelo once said,

“The greatest gift you can give yourself is a little bit of your own attention.” 

It’s okay to excuse yourself to give yourself a little me-time. In fact, if it will make the experience that much better for yourself and others, you definitely should!

Tune into yourself as you go from gathering to gathering or when you spend the weekend with your family.

Ask yourself: How do I feel? What are my energy levels like? 

If you find you’re feeling drained, just simply state that you need a little time for yourself and take that time. It’s not selfish. If anything, you doing what’s best for you is best for everyone else too. When you’re at your best, you can give your best. 


2. Set Boundaries Beforehand

Ah, boundaries! These are tricky, aren’t they?

The key to setting boundaries for yourself is to make it about you, not anyone else. After all, you can’t control what your brother-in-law says at the dinner table. Yet, you can control how you react. For example, if you feel you aren’t being respected, you can choose to disengage. Yes, it really is that simple!

However, setting healthy boundaries really should take place before diving headfirst into the midst of it all.

If you’re worried about boundaries being crossed, take some time before your holiday gathering to sit down and think about it. Pull out a piece of paper, do some research, and lay it all out so that you are ultra-clear with yourself on where your boundaries lie.

Related Article: The Most Common Boundaries You Should Know & Set In Your Relationships


3. Practice Gratitude & Mindfulness

For your daily stress and mental health, practicing gratitude is a wonderful way to enhance your mood and happiness.

And it can work in holiday situations too! 

Focusing on what you appreciate and what’s great about each moment can help you view everything in a more positive and caring light. After all, your family and friends likely care about each other, or else you wouldn’t plan time together.

Coming back to this can help you avoid that holiday stress and the emotional effects of this stress.


4. Act and Respond with Kindness

Did your mother or father make a comment that got under your skin?

Did you siblings really need to say that one thing?

Most of the time, these comments say more about them than you. 

Thinking about and determining why someone would say something can offer a new perspective for you and allow you to respond with kindness. It’s likely that they might be going through something and their criticism is a reflection of that, rather than anything you’re doing.

Responding and acting with kindness can go a long way. And hey, you can always be the example for others. Show others how you want to be treated by treating them that way, and you might be surprised what you get back.


5. Set a Clear Intention for Yourself

Before anything, it can help to understand yourself better.

  • What do you want to get out of these holiday gatherings?
  • Is it for fun?
  • Do you want to connect?
  • Do you want to make others happy? 

Determining this can guide you toward an intention that sets the stage for the entirety of the holiday season. This is also something you can continue to come back to, especially when tension begins to build. 

Related Article: Understanding the Law of Attraction: How Can You Attract What You Want?


Other Tips & Tricks

So, what else can you do? What other bits of advice can we offer up? Here are a few:

  • Do what’s best for you.

If that means saying “no” to a gathering due to overwhelm, this is completely okay.

  • Journal about it.

If you’re confused about how you feel, this can help you understand yourself better and determine that to do.

  • Use stress relief techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, to help you cope.

Alternatively, a warm bath also tends to do the trick!

  • Practice compassion for yourself and others.
  • Don’t forget to have fun! 


Manage Your Stress and Mental Health Throughout the Holidays

It’s entirely possible to do! And yes, holiday stress happens.

Yet, you have more control than you might realize. Find those strategies that work for you. Aim to enjoy the season with those you love. Take care of yourself.

Maybe this holiday season will be your best one yet!

Read Next: 10 Thoughtful Ways to Reflect on Your Accomplishments in 2021

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash


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