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Understanding Holiday Stress: A Mental Health Perspective

Christmas again—what stress! This thought can assail us before and during the Christmas holidays, and the truth is that there are many reasons for this. In less than three weeks, a multitude of expenses, meals, social gatherings, changes in schedules and diet, and sleepless nights accumulate. The combination of all these factors can be the trigger for the so-called Christmas stress.

People who aim for perfection, overcommit, or prioritize others over themselves are more prone to this stress. They often prioritize others’ needs perfectly but neglect their own, even basic ones. They may also feel resentful when others don’t reciprocate, keeping this dissatisfaction hidden.

For someone with an anxiety disorder, the holiday season can be overwhelming, triggering symptoms such as excessive worry, racing thoughts, feeling overwhelmed, difficulty concentrating, and trouble falling asleep.

Causes of Anxiety During Christmas:

  • Social pressure: The holiday season often brings social pressure to spend time with family and friends, attend events, and purchase gifts, leading to overwhelming feelings of anxiety.
  • Changes in routine: The shift in daily routines during the holidays can be challenging for some, causing anxiety as they try to adapt.
  • Finances: With additional expenses like gifts, meals, and parties, Christmas can be financially stressful, contributing to feelings of anxiety.
  • Expectations: While Christmas is associated with happiness, unmet expectations can lead to feelings of sadness and anxiety.
  • Reminders of deceased loved ones: For those who have lost loved ones, Christmas can be a painful reminder of their absence, triggering feelings of sadness, depression, and anxiety.

On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that the change of season from autumn to winter, the cold and the decrease in hours of natural light can cause the mood to decline.

The Empty Chair

The ’empty chair syndrome’ is a term that embodies the sadness and loneliness individuals may feel during Christmas due to the absence of deceased loved ones. This challenge intensifies during the holiday season, filled with memories and traditions once shared with those who are no longer present.

Loneliness and the absence of family tend to be the most common stressors during this time. The ’empty chair syndrome’ symbolizes the void left by departed loved ones, amplifying feelings of melancholy and isolation.

How to Reduce Stress at Christmas?

If Christmas is causing anxiety, there are some things we can do to reduce it:

  • Plan ahead: Reducing stress and anxiety is possible through proactive planning, which provides a clear understanding of expectations and allows ample time for preparation.
  • Set boundaries: Avoid the pressure of attending every holiday event or buying gifts for everyone. Establish realistic limits to maintain control over anxiety and prioritize self-care.
  • Write a to-do list: Stay organized and prevent overlooking essential tasks by creating a to-do list. This approach enables you to concentrate on one task at a time, preventing the overwhelming feeling of having too much to accomplish.
  • Exercise: Alleviate stress and anxiety by incorporating regular exercise into your holiday routine. Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain, contributing to an improved mood.
  • Seek support: If anxiety becomes overwhelming, turn to trusted individuals such as friends, family, or a mental health professional for support. Engaging in open conversations about your feelings can significantly enhance your well-being and help manage anxiety more effectively.


Understanding holiday stress from a mental health perspective helps us navigate the season with awareness and resilience. Recognizing the challenges empowers individuals to apply practical self-care strategies. This understanding fosters compassion and support. As we embrace joy and face stress, let this knowledge guide us to a balanced, mindful, and mentally healthy holiday season.


  • The American Psychological Association (APA) provides its website visitors with a wide range of information and resources related to psychology, including research, publications, educational materials, and information about the organization itself.
  • Child Mind Institute: Child Mind Institute’s website provides information about their healthcare services, facilities, medical professionals, patient resources, and more.
  • NIMH: On the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website, you can find a wealth of information related to mental health, research findings, treatment options, and resources for individuals, families, and healthcare professionals.

Helpful Links

If you or someone you know needs to talk to a professional, contact us now to schedule your initial virtual session. You can call us at 888-409-8976 or click HERE to schedule it online.

Take care and be open to the possibility of a brighter, more grateful tomorrow.


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