Holiday stress affects many people worldwide and can worsen the symptoms of mental health disorders. These 12 tips can help.

The holidays are a happy and exciting time of year with family gatherings and well-deserved time off. While enjoyable, the holidays can also be a stressful time that increases feelings of anxiety and depression. In a survey conducted in 2014, 64% of people who have a history of mental health disorders report feeling an increase in their symptoms during the holiday seasons. Up to 50% of women experience an increase in stress and anxiety during the holiday season and use unhealthy coping mechanisms to manage their symptoms.

COVID-19 adds an additional layer to holiday stress. Families and friends may be unable to gather and celebrate together. This can lead to higher levels of loneliness, sadness and isolation.

Take a moment to consider any symptoms of holiday stress you may be experiencing, then use these 12 strategies to manage and reduce holiday stress.

Signs and Symptoms of Holiday Stress

You may be suffering from holiday stress if you experience the following:

  • Feeling nervous or sad
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Urge to isolate
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Social burnout
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Financial worry

Holiday Stress Tips

Holiday stress may be common, but it can be managed with healthy coping mechanisms. Use these planning tips and healthy coping mechanisms to help reduce holiday stress.

Tip #1: Budget

The holidays can be financially stressful, and without a plan or budget, spending can become excessive and outside of someone’s financial means. To reduce the financial strain during the holidays, create a budget that accounts for your anticipated spending. Beginning this process a few months before the holidays can help you feel more prepared and less panicked about having the money to buy gifts.

Tip #2: Hydrate

The winter months can increase dehydration due a lack of moisture in the air to combat the artificial heat indoors. Dehydration is often associated with summer months or warmer temperatures, so hydration becomes less of a concern as it gets colder out. Drinking enough water will help with fatigue, dry skin and headaches.

Tip #3: Exercise

Exercise causes a natural release of endorphins, which are linked to feelings of happiness. Including adequate movement into a daily routine can help combat feelings of anxiety and depression that coincide with the holidays.

Tip #4: Time Management

The holidays are an incredibly busy time with a lot of obligations. Without a plan, it can easily become overwhelming. Creating a plan to address important tasks will help spread them out and make sure they are completed with plenty of time.

Tip #5: Sleep

Getting enough rest is important all the time, but especially during the busy holiday season. Prioritizing sleep and recharging will help manage holiday stress.

Tip #6: Healthy Eating

The holidays are notorious for overindulgence in food and alcohol, but that can have a negative impact on overall health. Limiting foods that are high in sugars and reducing alcohol intake will help maintain overall health.

Tip #7: Saying No

It is easy to say “Yes” to every invitation, request and obligation during the holiday season. Practicing boundaries around what occupies your time and mental health will manage stress and anxiety.

Tip #8: Time Off

The holidays are a time to spend with loved ones, but job obligations can feel like the priority. Take advantage of company-issued time off to rest, spend with family or friends and partake in activities that you enjoy.Tip #9: Connect

Using the holidays to spend time with friends and family can reduce the effects of stress. Social support is an important factor in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and stress.

Tip #10: Light Therapy

Light therapy is a proven intervention for people suffering from seasonal affective disorder. Using a light therapy lamp to help simulate the sun can reduce symptoms of depression during winter months.

Tip #11: Self-Care

The holidays focus on giving to others but are also a time to give to yourself. Scheduling time for activities that you enjoy can be a great way to manage feelings of anxiety.

Tip #12: Asking for Help

Holiday stress can be overwhelming, and seeking additional support from a medical professional is an effective way to manage symptoms.

What Other Resources Are Available to Me?

If you’re looking to access tools that can help support and alleviate symptoms during the holiday season, the Nobu app is for you. This free-to-use app has plenty of resources, including mindfulness tools, mental health lessons, journaling and goal-tracking. For an added fee, you can also use the app to connect with a licensed therapist to get even more support.

Editor – Abby Doty
Abby Doty graduated from Hamline University in 2021 with a Bachelor's in English and Psychology. She has written and edited creative and literary work as well as academic pieces focused primarily on psychology and mental health. Read more
Danielle Boland
Medically Reviewed By – Danielle Boland
Danielle is licensed clinical social worker, currently living and practicing in central Connecticut. Read more

American Psychiatric Association. “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).” Accessed November 9, 2021.

American Psychological Association. “APA Survey Shows Holiday Stress Putting […]’s Health at Risk.” 2006. Accessed November 9, 2021.

Chapman, Wilson. “This Winter’s Double Whammy of Pandemi[…]Seasonal Depression.” Discover Magazine, November 3, 2020. Accessed November 9, 2021.

Gregory, H., McConnel, A. “When It’s Not the Most Wonderful Time […]Around the Holidays.” Cummings Graduate Institute for Behavioral Health Studies, Accessed November 9, 2021.

Maharaj, Jessica. “Avoiding Holiday Stressors: Tips for a Stress-Free Season.” National Alliance on Mental Illness, December 3, 2018. Accessed November 9, 2021.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Mental Health and the Holiday Blues.” November 19, 2014. Accessed November 9, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.