How to Manage Holiday Stress

By Gaan Akers, LPC, NCC | November 17, 2020

We can often feel pressure to make the holiday season perfect. Finding the perfect gift, throwing the perfect party, making the perfect meal. All of this can leave us feeling stressed and anxious. So, with the holidays approaching, how do we make sure that we enjoy our time with family and friends and keep stress and anxiety under control?

Here are some of the things that we do at Hillside to help young people take better care of their mental health during the holiday season:

  • Addressing expectations

Many of the times that we feel stressed or disappointed over the holiday season is due to the expectation we have created. It can be overwhelming to line up all the things that have to be perfect in order for us to enjoy ourselves. Try and think about what is important to you during the holiday. If the holiday is about spending time with your family, put that in the “Priority” box and try to allocate presents, decorations and cooking in the “Nice to have” box which means that they’re nice but if they’re not quite right, the holiday will still be fun.

  • Contributing:

One holiday season the kids at Hillside made tissue box holders and donated them to senior citizen homes. They enjoyed meeting new people and seeing their pleasure at receiving an unexpected gift gave the kids a sense of pride. This act of contributing or giving helped the kids shift their mindset, focusing on developing compassion and also gave them a different perspective on the holiday and a happy memory to enjoy. You can try this with your family by contacting a local animal shelter or hospice near you.

  • Communication Skills:

Spending time with family or having visitors over can change our routine over the holidays. If you function best when you go to bed at a certain time, exercise regularly or have some quiet time alone, don’t be afraid to let your family and friends know this. They may also have a routine that helps them to best enjoy the holidays, talking about what you need and finding a compromise to ensure everyone feels comfortable can help avoid conflict and disappointment. Planning ahead can help you to cope ahead.

  • When things don’t go as planned: 

It happens. Life is not perfect. So what do we do when something hasn’t gone to plan and we’re hurt and disappointed? Firstly, acknowledge that you’re upset and look at what could make you feel better – a hot bath, listening to music, going for a walk. Once you’re feeling calmer, look at the situation and see if there is something that can be saved. Being flexible and using problem solving skills can help us to find alternatives and still find enjoyment. Burnt the top of the pie? Perhaps you could save the rest and add some icing and still have dessert. Has your good friend cancelled a fun evening because they’re ill, why not stop by with something to make them feel better and watch a movie with them instead.

The holidays can be stressful, and it’s possible to mitigate the stress and anxiety by using skills like the ones listed above. Want to learn more tips and skills for managing challenging times? Follow us @HillsideATL


  • Hillside Clinical Education & Referral Relations Manager - Gaan has been working with children, adolescents, and families for over 10 years in various settings. In her current role, she provides education and training for mental health professionals, parents, and the community. She lives in Atlanta with her husband. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, climbing, and cooking. She is a donut aficionado and a national park enthusiast!

    View all posts
Current Version