What Causes Holiday Anxiety? (& 5 Ways to Cope)

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Published Date|
December 5, 2023

What Causes Holiday Anxiety? (& 5 Ways to Cope)

Does it feel like the holidays are coming up faster this year than ever before?

It can feel like there are a million things to get done before we head into a new year - and as fun as the holidays can be, it’s okay if they’re also a little bit stressful.

Here at KMA, we’re passionate about helping you learn the tips and tricks you need to take care of your mental health - no matter the season.

After reading this article, you’ll know what triggers holiday anxiety, why relaxing during the holidays can feel so tough, and five ways to cope with holiday anxiety.

What Triggers Holiday Anxiety?

Holiday anxiety is often triggered by the fact that our normal anxieties are put into the spotlight during the holidays.

what triggers holiday anxiety

The holidays often come with high demands on your time, money, and energy. If there are worries that have been brewing in the back of your mind, the holidays can bring them crashing right to the forefront.

Holiday anxiety may be triggered by:

  • Travel
  • Family dynamics
  • Financial pressure
  • Seasonal depression
  • Unrealistic expectations

Travelling during the holidays, especially if you’re going long distances, can add to your stress. Whether you’re anxious about experiencing traffic and delays, or the transportation itself stresses you out (hello, flight anxiety) it’s easy for travelling to add on to your stress.

Family dynamics often intensify during the holidays - and family members you usually deal with from a distance are often forced into close proximity. You might have a great relationship with someone from a distance, but still feel stressed out when you’re suddenly spending time together 24/7.

Financial pressure intensifies over the holidays with the obligations you can feel about giving gifts, decorating, and heading to special events.

Seasonal depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are hard enough to deal with on their own. When you add in the expectation of holiday cheer, it can be anxiety-inducing to worry that you’ll bring the mood down.

Unrealistic expectations are also amplified during the holiday season. Whether your neighbour across the street has the world’s most perfect light display, or your social media feeds are full of expensive gift-giving guides, it’s hard to feel like you need to keep up.

Why Can’t I Relax During the Holidays?

While the holidays often offer a break from your work responsibilities, your schedule can quickly fill up with other obligations.

If you’re someone who continues to work during the holidays, it can be even harder to find a moment to unwind.

You might feel guilty about taking time to yourself, or feel like you can’t relax with all of the things you still need to do.

5 Ways to Cope with Holiday Anxiety

Holiday anxiety can be overwhelming, but you can find strategies to manage it.

It’s possible to have a fun holiday season without being overcome by holiday anxiety - and these five tips can help you cope.

1. Release perfectionism

Perfectionism can impact any area of your life, and the holidays are no exception.

If you’re struggling to get things done because you just can’t do them perfectly, you might need to explore why you’re putting so much pressure on yourself.

Signs of holiday perfectionism include:

  • Worrying other people will judge you
  • Feeling like a failure when something goes wrong
  • Thinking that nothing you’re doing is ever good enough
  • Feeling like you need to do things well to earn love or respect
  • Comparing yourself to friends or relatives who seem to be doing the holidays “better” than you are

Perfectionism is often a way to feel like you’re in control of a stressful situation - but it can amplify and worsen the stress you’re feeling.

To learn more about navigating perfectionism (and how to let it go), read What is Perfectionism? by KMA Therapist Elizabeth Beiderman.

2. Create a time limit on anxiety

When you’re feeling anxious, it can be tempting to lock yourself away and ruminate about everything that’s stressing you out.

While giving yourself space to process your feelings is a good thing, you don’t want to get stuck in an anxious mindset for too long.

It might feel strange, but set a limit for your anxiety - you can choose a time limit that works for you, like five or ten minutes, and really let all your anxiety come to the surface.

Let yourself cry or shout or whatever you need to do to get your feelings out, but when the time is up, make yourself switch to something that comforts you instead.

3. Carve out some alone time

The holidays are a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend every single second together.

It’s okay to take some time alone during the holidays. (Plus, you’ll be better company if you’ve had time to release some of the stress that’s been building up.)

Whether you wake up half an hour earlier to drink your morning coffee in peace, or take a twenty minute nap in the afternoon, give yourself the time to unwind.

You deserve it.

4. Talk to someone who gets it

On the other hand, you don’t have to handle all the stress of the season alone.

Don’t be afraid to send a text to your friends venting your stress, or send funny holiday videos to your friends.

If you’re feeling especially overwhelmed, bundle up and take a walk while calling someone who you enjoy talking to - you’ll get the bonus endorphins from moving your body while remembering that you’re not alone.

5. Reach out for professional support

There’s a reason so many people come to therapy before and after the holidays - it’s normal for them to bring up difficult feelings and emotions.

If you need some extra support this time of year, you’re definitely not alone.

Speaking to a therapist can be a great way to learn new coping skills, feel validated in your emotions, and talk to someone who isn’t personally involved in the complex family dynamics you’re experiencing.

Next Steps for Managing Stress During the Holidays

After reading this article, you know how to manage your holiday stress with five new strategies to explore.

Here at KMA Therapy, we’re here if you’re ready to take the next step to get some extra support.

Register online to get started today or explore our Therapy 101 Guide to learn more.

If you’d prefer to keep reading, explore these articles we’ve chosen for you:

Author |
Emily Weatherhead
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