Holiday Stress and Anxiety: Top 4 Tips for Coping with Both

It can be truly debilitating when stress and anxiety take hold during the holidays. But there are strategies for positive coping even during this pressurized time of year. And there are certain negative habits you can look out for and avoid. As you learn all of these healing techniques, you’ll benefit from compassionate expert guidance.

Do you feel out of control? Do you feel as if you need to forfeit your chances of serenity to the holiday season? Do you feel that you are all on your own? Well, don’t give up just yet.

Holiday stress and anxiety are very real. Don’t give in to suggestions that you’re overreacting, that you should just push through it, that it will pass. These beliefs strip you even further of your power and your possibilities for a better path. You can’t just force anxiety away—any more than you can force a peaceful, perfect holiday.

Different types of anxiety will show up in different ways around the holidays:

  • Social anxiety disorder can bring incredible distress during social functions and even in anticipation of any social experience.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder tends to provoke widespread worries. Often these worries are out of proportion with reality, and it’s difficult to simply reason them away.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, symptoms can increase when the holidays disrupt one’s normal routines and coping mechanisms.
  • Panic disorder will likely encounter more frequent oppressive triggers around the holiday season so the symptoms and the anticipation of panic attacks worsen.
  • Certain phobias may also be provoked during this time of year, especially if they relate to exposure to public and social situations or travel. But any phobias could be aggravated when one’s typical routines and habits are altered.

You may be experiencing one or more of these disorders simultaneously. There are good reasons why it isn’t easy to manage your stress during the family and social gatherings, suspenseful gift-giving, hosting, traveling, end-of-year planning and financials, and many other pressures. But there are also good solutions that can help you feel prepared and empowered so you don’t have to go through another agonizing winter.

4 Positive Things You Can Do to Deal with Holiday Stress


It’s easy to feel defeated when the pressures start to pile up, but it’s never hopeless. You’re not alone in your distress. Many others also go through escalating symptoms of anxiety during the holiday season. And there are always caring specialists who know how to help you rediscover your strength and positive perspective.

1 – Manage Expectations and Assumptions

Our expectations about how the holidays should go can quickly undermine our opportunities for low-stress experiences. Whether you’re expecting the worst or you’re expecting everything to be perfect, these thoughts can apply heavy pressure and provoke incessant worries. You might even become preoccupied with other people’s expectations. It’s important to be aware of how these worries affect you. With compassionate perspective, understand that you can choose to give these expectations and assumptions less power. Reassure yourself that things don’t need to all fall into place perfectly, and, with the right support, things won’t inevitably fall apart.

2 – Practice Stress-Relieving Techniques

One good way to combat holiday stress and anxiety is to be proactive. When you learn new coping strategies such as muscle relaxation techniques, meditation, art and music therapy, and creative visualization, these positive practices can take the place of otherwise negative thoughts. When you have some of these practices in your toolbox, you feel more prepared to handle the stress to come, and that higher level of confidence takes some of the power out of your worries right away.

3 – Take Meaningful Time for Yourself

Take your self-care and mental health seriously, especially at this trying time. And set time aside to dedicate to positive habits and to decompress. This is not to suggest avoiding everything during the holidays; that isn’t necessarily the answer to your anxiety. Make the time you set aside meaningful, attempt to divert your attention away from your worries, and focus on what you need to feel well and empowered.

4 – Get Help Sooner Rather Than Later

One of the most important things to remember is that you don’t have to suffer through your holiday stress and anxiety alone. In fact, you may need some combination of clinical treatment options to help you feel ready to put this list of tips into practice. It’s perfectly all right to fall back on help; it’s likely the most effective and productive thing you can do for your anxiety and for the overall outcome of the holidays. The positive boost you get from treatment will support every other area of your life. And treatment programs can actually help your friends and family better understand what you’re going through and how best to support you.

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What Not to Do for Your Holiday Stress and Anxiety


On the other side of these positive coping strategies, there are negative coping mechanisms that do more harm than good for your anxiety. And sometimes, it’s easier to fall into these habits than the more productive ones we’ve already discussed. So, let’s look at some of the habits and reactions you’ll want to steer clear of:

Again, compassionate treatment specialists can help you to restructure these kinds of tendencies. They can also help you to be more aware of your anxiety triggers and to feel stronger and more in control of your experience. Today is a good day to take healthy steps toward an empowered holiday season.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles and San Diego-based programs and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to healing.