It’s holiday season and ideally, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a season that brings guests, travel (if you’re lucky), shopping, sleep-ins, and quality time with friends and family. But planning for the holiday season isn’t as idyllic or carefree as we want it to be. In many cases, it comes with anxiety, depression, feelings of loneliness, pressure, and financial stresses, to name a few. We’ve put together a guide to help you get through the upcoming holiday season.

International Stress Awareness Week

International Stress Awareness Week (7-11 November) was established in 2018 to highlight the need for stress awareness and its management. Building resilience and reducing stress are this year’s topics to engage in conversation between individuals and businesses. The hope is that through these dialogues, the stigma around stress and mental health will be heard and resources made more accessible to all who need it.

But with stress so rampant and affecting everyone at home and at work, how to manage stress can be lifesaving. Here are a few practical ways to get you through the holidays with as little stress as possible.

Effects of Holiday Stress

Work, family, health, and finances are all factors that can lead to our stress levels being heightened. Stress affects everyone differently. Thus, it’s important for us to minimize chronic stress due to its effects on one’s overall health.

  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Hypertension
  • Body aches
  • Reduces cognitive and learning abilities

Practical Guide to Stress Management over the Holidays

Unfortunately, for some, the holiday season can have an emotional toll. And at the height of the stress levels and situations, it can be difficult to stop, center yourself and find help.


If you struggle with stress and mental health, it’s important that you learn your triggers. Your inner emotions and personal struggles are highlighted during the season because in many ways, life “quietens down”. Know when you need to take time to be alone. Discover what helps you get back to “yourself”. Do more of what make you happy.

Plan ahead

This means planning your holiday travel ahead of time. Book your flight tickets, travel dates, and itinerary as well as your possible can. Planning also relates to your finances. Decide how much you have to spend for food, clothes, gifts, and travel. Swiping your card and spending more than you have can cause financial stress. Create a budget and stick as close to it as possible and make room for unexpected costs.

  • Homemade gifts or secret Santa gifting on a budget
  • Book tickets ahead of time (more affordable)
  • Buy one new outfit and not a new closet
  • Buy what you will eat, need, and use.

Have help at hand

The holiday season can make some individuals feel lonely and isolated, even when they’re with people. Sometimes it’s those closest to us who can trigger our mental health and add to the stress the season brings. During this time, you can feel isolated and without anyone to love and support you. But it’s important to know where to get help when you feel low.

  • Join an online support group
  • Seek out a community
  • Find a contact if your therapist isn’t available
  • Volunteer at a home or center
  • Broaden your friendship circle

When the need arises, pick up the phone and call.

Say no

Saying “no” is not as easy for some people as it is for others. But it’s a very necessary skill to learn. “Unfestive” as it may seem to others, it’s as good a time to learn how to say no as any. You’ll be relieved to know that the world will not stop if you say no and although some may be upset for a minute, people very quickly move on and make alternative plans. Saying no is a great way to establish your boundaries and ensures that others do as much work as you do.

Maintain your healthy habits

It’s easy to get lost in the spirit of the season and the festivities that you let go off the healthy habits you built so hard over the year. When this happens, the loss of routine and structure can result in you feeling lost and overwhelmed by everything that’s happening.

  • Keep up your exercise routine. Or start one.
  • Try maintaining your healthy diet.
  • Keep as close to your sleep schedule as possible.

Overindulging can add to your stress, guilt, and anxiety. Avoid excess and reduce the time you spend on things that drain your energy. Instead, have fun. Create memories. Be aware of your triggers and make use of the support resources around you and put them into action before the downward spiral.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another,” William James. With the right planning, the holidays can be enjoyed and not just endured.

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