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Five ways to reduce holiday stress

Five ways to reduce holiday stress

The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, but they can also be stressful. As the year draws to a close, many people feel the pressure to have everything just right for their friends and family.

Reviewed by:
Austin Lin, MD
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December 16, 2021
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Key takeaways

The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, but they can also be stressful. As the year draws to a close, many people feel the pressure to have everything just right for their friends and family. According to one poll, approximately 80% of us find the holiday season to be 'somewhat' or 'very' stressful. Of course, you want to give your loved ones the perfect gifts and the perfect holiday party, but don’t lose sight of what’s truly important during this season. Here are five ways you can reduce your holiday stress so you can focus on what matters most to you.

5 tips for managing holiday stress

1. Prioritize your time and energy

It is common for people to prioritize others over taking time for themselves during the holidays. This can be a problem because it’s easy to overextend yourself during this time. As a result, you might find that you have no time for hobbies or downtime with friends and family.

You can lessen your holiday stress by prioritizing your time and reducing your obligations. Plan ahead of any commitments, assess and choose only the events that are most important to you. You'll feel less stressed in the long run if you're investing your time in activities that make you happy instead of worrying about everything else on your plate.

2. Delegate what you can

The holidays are as much about spending time with your loved ones as they are about giving gifts and throwing parties. Don't let holiday stress take away from those important moments. Instead, delegate what you can so that it doesn't become overwhelming.

If you find yourself feeling stressed because, for example, you don't know how to wrap gifts, delegate the wrapping to another family member or shop for presents at a store that offers gift-wrapping services. Or, if a holiday potluck is on your social calendar and taking the time to cook means you won't have any downtime, buy a dish! Use the resources around you to take some of the pressure off.

3. Make lists

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the season. But it’s important to take time for yourself, and one way you can do this is by making lists. Putting things on paper can help you better understand how manageable your to-do list and all of the holiday events and gatherings will be. Create a list for everything so that you can cross items off as they are completed!

Making lists will also help you stay organized and on task overall while helping to keep your holiday stress levels down. Be sure to schedule time to be active and spend time outdoors (as weather allows) to reduce stress and ward off symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

4. Take care of yourself

You may have a lot of responsibilities this holiday season, but don’t forget to take care of yourself too. One key way to reduce your holiday stress is by taking good care of your mental health. Listen to music that makes you feel calm and happy. 

Meditate, be mindful, or do yoga at least once a day. Find time for exercise, even if it’s just walking around the block for 15 minutes each day. Eating healthy food will also help your mood. Watching a lighthearted comedy with friends or family can also help—you’ll laugh and release endorphins at the same time!

If you’re struggling this holiday season, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss managing seasonal depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues you might be experiencing. The best gift you can give yourself is to pay attention to your mental health and seek help when needed. You’re worth the time and effort!

5. Keep your perspective

Holiday stress often comes from trying to keep up with social expectations like holiday entertaining or gift-giving. People often put unrealistic expectations on themselves about how they should celebrate the holidays, leading to feelings of pressure and self-judgment if reality doesn't measure up to these expectations.

It's important that you try not to get carried away with these thoughts, and don’t worry about things going perfectly this holiday season. Instead, keep your perspective on what’s truly important in life and try not to lose sight of it amidst all the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

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Austin Lin, MD

Dr. Austin Lin is a double board-certified adult and addiction psychiatrist who has been in practice for over 9 years. At the center of Dr. Lin’s clinical approach is a strong emphasis on establishing trust and using a collaborative approach to help patients develop an individualized and cohesive plan so that they are able to achieve their goals.

Dr. Lin's practice focuses on medication management. Typically, he offers this in conjunction with supportive therapy, motivational interviewing, and/or cognitive behavioral therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. Occasionally, Dr. Lin may recommend that additional therapy is needed and ask that you bring a therapist into your care team in order to provide the best outcome.

Dr. Lin received his medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He went on to complete his residency in psychiatry at Harvard South Shore, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, where he served as Chief Resident and earned his 360° Professionalism award. He then had additional training in Addiction Psychiatry through his fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. After completing training, Dr. Lin has worked as an Addiction Psychiatrist and Director of Adult Services in the Trauma and Resilience Center (TRC) at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He specialized in treating patients with a history of depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use disorders.

Dr. Lin has held an academic appointment at UTHealth, and he has spent his professional career supervising and teaching medical students and psychiatry residents.

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