top of page

7 Mental Health Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress

Originally posted December 4, 2017.

1. Be kind to yourself. Practice being non-judgmental about yourself. Be mindful of your internal chatter; if it is negative, stop and think, Would I say this to/about a friend? And don’t say it about yourself. Counter negative thoughts with realistic reframing! Change “I won’t get all of this done because I’m all alone!” which is multi-layered, packed with anxiety and then secondarily layered up with fears of being alone to “I can do a reasonable amount of things this holiday season.”

2. Practice realistic mindfulness about the amount of energy, patience, time and money you really have.

Mindfully create a list of things you’d like to do this holiday season, such as see the tree in Rockefeller Center, visit your aunt in Ohio, etc. Then, release. Guide your thoughts to the present moment and simply experiencing being, without judgement of your internal and external experiences. Pay attention to how you are feeling, how your body is feeling. If you notice that you’re getting super tense and terse, then breathe and take a step back. Stretch out your neck, re-assess the situation. Look at your list; you can’t do all of them. Mindfully proceed to schedule only a few of the things that you really want to do in the next few weeks.

Choose three things you’d really like to do from your list and that’s all. DO you want to see that light show at the skating rink? Invite some friends along to do that!

3. Use your repertoire of behavioral skills to manage your strong emotions when they get stirred up. Here’s an explicit reminder of a simple behavioral skill that most of already implicitly practice. The STOP skill will help you manage your emotions so that you don’t do or say things you’ll regret.

Use the DBT STOP Skill, when you notice you’re feeling overwhelmed and getting impatient.

Imagine a STOP sign in your head.

  • S- Stop. Before speaking or acting,

  • T – Take a step back

  • O – Observe your feelings inside and the outside situation before acting

  • P – Proceed Mindfully

3. Budget care is self care. Create a budget and stick to the budget. Overspending causes background anxiety and a money hangover in January.

Money hangovers create a real strain on your life and cause negative self-image. Don’t emotionally shop for yourself as well when you’re shopping for others. Think about your purchases. Wait a day or so before hitting that “BUY NOW” button. You can always buy yourself something during the January sales. Hoarding and deficit behaviors can be enacted as you look at all the shiny stuff. Remind yourself that all that cool, shiny stuff is not going away. It’ll all be there in January and you’ll have another paycheck by then. After some reflection, you will probably find you do not really need what you felt you needed.

4. Honor your grief.

If you’re missing a loved one at Christmas, allow yourself to feel what you need to feel. You can express your feelings by creating a simple ritual to honor that person during the holiday season. It can be a simple ritual such as creating an ornament with that person’s picture on it and hanging it on the tree. Or you can find a poem online that expresses how you feel about that person, then take a walk in nature and read it out to yourself and the trees and nature spirits. Or, you can create a memory box and put meaningful objects, such as gemstones, or their cufflinks, or their flannel shirt or pictures, and place this under the tree. Or plant a tree in their name or donate to a charity. Even you hav to donate in January due to budget constraints, that’s ok.

Give yourself some time to grieve, but don’t remain in that emotional space too long. Allot yourself 30 minutes to cry at a time, and then distract yourself with a walk, going to the gym, or to a yoga class.

5. Has the season taken on too much materialism? Feeling empty? You can give the season emotional meaning. Give back.

If you feel that the season has taken on too much of a materialistic element, then volunteer to serve lunch at a soup kitchen, donate to a food pantry, visit a nursing home, or walk dogs at a shelter. Through being around others and giving you’ll feel restored.

6. If you’re anxious and strung out about the current political upheavals in America, then ban political talk at the social gatherings that you’re hosting. As the host or hostess, I give you permission to ask this of your guests. So do it, don’t feel guilty.

Let’s face it, it’s been an emotionally charged year, maybe two years. I attended a holiday gathering where the hostess asked us not to discuss poltitics, and you know what? There was plenty of other stuff to talk about. If the hostess is not addressing this topic, you can personally be circumspect about getting into needless arguments with people in social situations where this just isn’t appropriate. Use your well learned and earned social skills and change the subject. Lighten up the atmosphere with talk of travel or pictures of your pets!

7. Don’t worry so much, be happy!

Enjoy yourself! Create a holiday song list that you love and listen playfully when you are feeling stressed. Dancing in your kitchen is allowed! Dancing while you’re baking is allowed! Singing Christmas carols is allowed! Enjoy!

The world is magical, even with all of its sham and drudgery, it’s still a beautiful world!


bottom of page