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The Top Causes of Holiday Stress and 8 Ways to Cope

We all deal with stress throughout the year but for more people than not, the holiday season presents a whole new set of triggers and stressors. Therapists are all too familiar with the resulting effects, which can include anger, depression, physical illness, fatigue and a general lack of enjoyment when we should be feeling happiness and joy.

Knowing where stressors come from and identifying it early may help prevent some of the typical problems that spring up during the holidays!

Here are the Top Causes of Your Stress:

Conflictual Relationships with Relatives

Many families have some individuals that have a conflict with one another. This can make the holidays more difficult increasing the opportunities for people to spend more time together that can trigger already uneasy situations.

Power Struggles

“Too many cooks in the kitchen, spoil the soup;” perfectly describes the power struggles that can occur between family members to increase tensions. There can often be unspoken expectations about being in control, jealousy, and competitiveness. Although these may not be discussed out-loud, they often contribute to already difficult situations.

Anxiety and perfectionism

This can be along the lines of someone wanting everything to be a certain way or even perfect. This can lead to huge disappointments and resentment between family members. An example might be individuals squabbling about how the table should look or what foods need to be provided.


Any issues that exist are often worsened by emotions that are released due to alcohol. This has been known to contribute to many family conflicts. Professionals with a focus on family therapy often have to address this with clients before any other issue.


Some people tend to want to make everyone happy during the holiday seasons. Over-commitment is very common during the holidays. The tendency for certain personality types to please can lead to resentment and not delivering on those commitments. There are so many parties, fundraisers and miscellaneous activities

External Situations

Dealing with high volume holiday traffic and crowds can put to test the patience of the most well-adjusted person. This can certainly put someone over the edge when other factors of the holiday routine are in place.

 Overspending/Creating Debt

Getting lost in the spirit of Christmas can sometimes make us lose perspective on what is the reality. Unless you prepare ahead for the financial implications of the holidays, it is very easy to overspend with the mindset of it’s Christmas. This can certainly cause major effects emotionally and mentally not only during the holidays but also in the long-term.

Review some of the suggestions below and see if your holidays are more relaxed and peaceful Holiday! 

8 Ways to  Cope with Holiday Stress

Focus on the Positive

Make peace with relatives when you can. When you can’t, try focusing on the positive and less on what you can’t control. Remembering the gathering is only temporary and there are many other positive things to focus on like the beauty of the season and blessings in the family or being happy for the blessings of others.

Determining Roles

Control is at the center of this problem (power struggles). Planning dishes and each person’s role in the meal or activities can reduce a struggle. Each person wants to contribute and feel purpose and value. If people’s roles are determined and all feel included, it could help reduce potential conflicts.

Setting Boundaries

No one can truly be perfect so if you are the one trying, just be aware of the pressure you are putting on yourself and your family. If it is someone else in the family trying to be perfect, just realize that it is their need, not yours and try to let it go.

Alcohol Management

Alcohol is always a danger of overuse in some homes. Being aware and managing oneself is one easy way to deal with stress. The more alcohol involved, the more likely conflict and stress will prevail.

Just Say No

Most of the problem with over-commitment is not knowing how to say “no.” There has to be a balance and the ability to set limits. This is a learned practice for most who do not have a natural ability to say “no.” This also is about boundaries but it is so important that it is in a category all its own.


Traffic is always stressful. Planning your outings and shopping will reduce time in traffic and crowds. Although, there is not a foolproof way to totally avoid the increased volume of mall-goers and holiday travelers but you can minimize it with planning out the timing of your trip and focus your efforts with a strategy.

Reasonable Budgeting

Money is likewise something that needs budgeting and planning or many people will overspend and feel awful about it! Starting early with a budget or drawing names will reduce the number of gifts people have to buy which will reduce the stress and help you enjoy the bigger picture.

Add Sleep to the Plan

Overall, fatigue is really a fun-buster! Staying to your schedule by practicing better boundary setting, sticking to your sleep schedule and balancing your parties, food, and activities will help immensely with this.


The Holiday season can be a heartwarming time. Hopefully, these tips will enhance your experience and allow you to more fully Embrace the Holidays!!


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