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By Mike Clark

Do you get stressed during the holiday season? Well, a lot of people do so you are not alone. The holiday season should be a joyous time, a time of connection with family and friends. Even though there are many things that make this a happy time of year, some of those same things can also make it a time of increased stress levels. The holiday season usually entails trying to juggle increased family and social obligations along with the increase of tasks associated with the holiday season. This year and last you throw in the pandemic which could limit your ability to see some family members, then you have added even more stress to your already stressful holiday season. Even before the coronavirus, the holiday season added stress to your daily routine. This could add to depression and anxiety. Today we wanted to share some advice from experts to help you manage your holiday stress this year.

Why are the holidays so stressful?

The first step is understanding why the “happiest time of the year” turns into the most stressful time of the year? Well, the first reason is that the holidays occur during the winter months, which means shorter daylight hours. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) occurs in about 6% of American adults. This is a type of depression due to a lack of exposure to sunlight. This has been increased due to the pandemic, with people reducing their time spent outside. Another 14% of Americans experience winter blues. Thus, this means that 20% of Americans are already starting the holiday season on a downward emotional spiral.


The second reason could be expectations caused by holiday movies. It seems that there is more and more time spent watching movies these days due to the easy access to all of them and staying at home more. We have Christmas in July movies and then from Thanksgiving on Christmas movies are on every television channel. These movies give us a false sense of what the holiday season is supposed to be like. When I was a kid there were just a few of these movies and you actually had to schedule a time to watch them, because they only came on once during the holiday season!


A third reason could be that you are trying to continue family traditions that get harder and harder to complete. People are not traveling as much due to the pandemic. They are also wanting to avoid crowds and get-togethers. This can increase your stress level during the holiday season because you just want things to be like they have always been and don’t want these traditions to be lost forever.


The fourth reason could be money woes. You may be feeling stressed because you can’t afford the type of gifts that you normally give this year. You may feel the need to spend more during the holiday season which can tax an already tight budget.  

These are just a few of the reasons why we feel more stressed during the holiday season. Stress brings on increased depression and anxiety. This can turn into a vicious cycle and a downward spiral if you don’t know how to manage your stress.

How can you manage your holiday stress?

You know when I was a kid it seemed like Christmas just could not get here fast enough. In fact, there is a saying that when something was taking forever you would say “it’s as slow as Christmas”. The holiday season can feel like it comes in like a whirlwind now that we are older. It brings with it a long list of to-dos and don’t-you-dare-rest moments. But there are ways to take control of your holiday season and slow your pace. To find ways to enjoy the time, the season, and better cope with the stress. Here are a few suggestions on how to do this:

1.Be flexible and toss your expectations aside. This is true for any holiday season, but especially for this COVID-stricken one, with all of the changes and canceled plans. Go with the flow and focus on what you can control instead of what you cannot. I know that this can be difficult for some of us because we have become accustomed to certain things and now we have to change our expectations.

2. Stay connected with loved ones and family members. This might look a little different than in years past and you may not be able to do so in person, but with technology today you can do video conferencing, or make conference calls with several people at the same time. My business partner even has a family text that they use all year to stay connected. You can start new traditions by starting an online game, singing carols over Zoom, share photos and videos. There are all sorts of ways to create holiday memories, just be creative.

3.Make sure you have some “Me time”. It is important to do for yourself as well as to do for others. Did you know that saying no to excess obligations is an acceptable answer? Few of us do! Don’t over obligate yourself. Have some relaxing time for yourself, take a bubble bath, read a book, focus on more enjoyable activities. And remember you can accept help from others if things get to be too much of a burden.

4. Nurture your body. Make sure you get enough sleep, which can be especially difficult during the holiday season. Turn off digital devices a couple of hours before bedtime. This can help your body’s natural melatonin kick in and improve your sleep. Make sure you maintain a nutritious diet. Limit your alcohol intake, this can interfere with sleep. Get outside and move around, get some exercise.  This can help fight seasonal affective disorder and boost your endorphins (your brain’s natural happy chemical).

5. Limit your time on social media. Although some of these media outlets can offer great ways to connect with friends and family, they can also bring on false rosy pictures of how great other people are doing. This brings on a false sense of reality that everyone else is getting together and having a good time, but you can’t. Keep in mind that you are only seeing a part of other people’s lives that they want you to see. Not the entire full and true picture.

6. Stick to a budget. Don’t get caught up in the moment and spend more than you should. This results in post-holiday stress as the bills roll in. Give yourself a special gift this year and a peaceful January with the satisfaction of fewer bills and that you already budgeted for this.

7. Get in touch with your feelings. This year maybe your first without a special someone who has passed away, or missing visits from family members, or having to cancel your traditional holiday ritual. Don’t deny or hide your feelings, but rather acknowledge them and express them. It’s okay to cry. Consider writing your feelings down in a journal or expressing them to your family or that special friend in your life.

8. Get help if you need it. If your stress level is just more than you can handle and it is affecting your mental health, then seek help from your health provider or a mental health hotline. You can even call 911 if you feel in a crisis. If you don’t already have one you may benefit from seeing a counselor.

9. Ignore your inner Martha Stewart. Every meal does not have to resemble a magazine spread. Make the meal a little more simple this year, and try something new. And remember it’s actually okay to eat off of paper plates and use plastic ware.

10. Now, this is the very most important one. Focus on gratitude and kindness.  Others are just as stressed as you are right now and may even show it with rude or unkind behavior. Don’t take their behavior personally, respond with kindness. We in America have so much to be thankful for, but we tend to focus on the negatives instead of everything that we have. There are so many things in your life to be thankful for, so make sure you are thankful. Remember the true meaning of the holiday season and the sacrifice that Christ made for you. Be thankful!


Stress is not just about feeling frazzled and fatigued. It can have real, negative effects on your overall physical and mental health. So make sure you stay in touch with your emotions and feelings and reduce that stress level this holiday season. Say thank you, take some time for yourself, get plenty of sleep, eat nutritious foods, get some exercise and get outside. Have a stress-free holiday season and Merry Christmas from all of us here at Dwell at Home.

Dwell at Home is bringing in-home senior care into the palm of your hand with a mobile application that values convenience, personalized mentorship, and trust.  You can download the app in the Apple App store today by clicking here!

Dwell at Home is not a licensed medical professional and all information provided is provided “as is” with no warranties. You should consult a licensed physician.