How to Avoid the Top 5 Causes of Holiday Stress

Family Wrapping Presents

Remember the “reason for the season.” We say it every year. It may even sound cliché.

But whether it be the gratitude of Thanksgiving, the spirituality of Hanukkah, Kwanza and Christmas, or the renewal of a new year, focusing on the holidays’ true meaning is more important than ever as challenges around the COVID-19 pandemic are still in our midst.

It’s easy to let stress override the joy of the holiday season, a time when you want to focus on the people and traditions most important to you. Here is a look at five major causes of holiday stress and some suggestions on ways to relax and enjoy the season.


Remember what truly matters. Instead of elaborate gifts, consider cookie exchanges, "Secret Santa," and other low-budget ideas that keep costs down and spirits up. Gifts from the heart always mean the most.

  • Make a personalized coupon book with offers to run errands, do household chores, cook a dinner, babysit, or take a friend on a hike at your favorite park or trail.
  • Whip up a seasonal sweet like cranberry loaf.
  • Draw on one of your talents. If you’re an amateur photographer, offer to take a family photo. If you’re a tech guru, help a non-tech-savvy family member set up their devices and gadgets.
  • Check out the many DIY opportunities on Pinterest and elsewhere. This DIY body scrub is a great pampering gift for family and friends…and don’t forget to save some for yourself!


Have realistic expectations. No holiday celebration is, or needs to be perfect. Slow down and take time for yourself. This will actually give you more energy to accomplish your goals.


Keep things in perspective. Approach family in-person or virtual visits with an open mind and avoid jumping to conclusions. Use holidays as a chance to reconnect and share positive experiences, not to judge or raise sensitive topics. Be respectful of differing viewpoints.


Travel is always challenging during the hectic holiday season. As some pandemic restrictions begin to lighten, these challenges are greater than ever.

Be realistic as you make plans to visit family and friends. You can’t please everyone. If possible, travel at times when there will be less traffic.

Weight Management

Between festive gatherings and less time for exercise, it can be difficult to maintain healthy habits over the holidays. Use good judgment with food choices and portion sizes. But don’t stress if you have one day of over-indulgence. Just get back on track the next day! Here are few helpful tips:

  • Try not to let overeating become the norm over the holiday season.
  • Monitor your weight weekly. Avoid using food to manage holiday stress.
  • Find enjoyable alternatives: make a holiday craft, treat yourself to a massage, read by the fire, exercise.

When to Seek Help

For many people, the holidays can evoke feelings of mild sadness, loneliness, anxiety and a sense of loss—even when we’re not in the midst of a pandemic. If you’re losing sleep, experiencing physical symptoms, or turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like increased alcohol use, it’s time to seek professional help. Many resources are available. Start with your primary care provider who can assess your overall health picture and make appropriate recommendations.

Finally: Keep things simple. When January rolls around, hopefully you will look back at the holidays with fond memories instead of relief.

author name

Jennifer M. Collins, PsyD

Jennifer Collins, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist with LG Health Physicians Neuropsychology and Chief Well-Being Officer for LG Health Physicians. A graduate of the Pennsylvania State University and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Collins’ areas of expertise include healthy weight management, stress management, and helping patients cope with medical conditions like obesity, fibromyalgia, infertility and stroke and other neurological conditions.

Call: 717-544-3172

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


Share This Page: