November 28, 2022

How to Handle Holiday Stress

How to Handle Holiday Stress

The holiday season is supposed to joyful but it's also prime time for stress! And for many it’s a downright struggle. If your holiday season is more stressful than silly, read on...

What is stress?

Stress is a state of tension that occurs when there are too many demands in the environment. As well as having a physical effect on our body, stress can also affect our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

What triggers stress?

A wide variety of events or situations can trigger stress. These triggers can be both negative and positive in nature; for example, positive events like weddings, holidays, and promotions can trigger stress.

Other examples of triggers are physical and mental health problems, relationship difficulties, being apart from family, deadlines for work, financial problems, being in crowds, public speaking, and simply too many things to do.

There are also factors that make us more vulnerable to stress including poor eating and sleeping patterns, excessive drug use, lack of exercise, social isolation, physical illness, and lack of regular involvement in enjoyable and relaxing activities.

Stress is a state of tension that occurs when there are too many demands in the environment. As well as having a physical effect on our body, stress can also affect our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

When does stress become a problem?

Contrary to popular belief, not all stress is bad. People need a certain amount of stress to feel motivated to achieve goals and to face challenges in life. Stress that is too intense, too frequent, and/or long-lasting is unhealthy. (Too little stress can also be unhealthy but most of us don’t suffer from that!)

Prolonged stress can have a range of negative consequences both for your physical and your mental health as well as for your quality of life.

What happens when you get stressed?

Stress can trigger a variety of responses including physical reactions like tense muscles and headaches, emotions like frustration and resentment, worries about money or our ability to cope, and behaviours like not making time to eat, or snapping at others.

Stress also can lead to unhelpful coping behaviours like drinking or smoking.

Up to 20% of people feel high levels of stress over the holidays

What can you do about stress during the holidays?

If the holidays bring about more feelings of dread instead of joy, you’re not alone. In fact up to 20% of us feel high levels of stress over the holidays with financial worries, having too much to do in too little time, and work & family pressures often topping the stress list!

Many of us also feel sad during the holidays, it can be a time when others’ joy can make you feel more alone. So what can you do to get through the holidays with less stress? Here are 4 tips to get you started.

1. Get Back to Basics

Life can be demanding, leaving us feeling wrecked and stressed but have you noticed that some days you handle it better than others? Resilience isn’t a static trait—it’s like a muscle that weakens or strengthens, and you get to decide if you work it or not.

Don’t be defenceless when faced of stress, build resilience by addressing these five lifestyle factors everyday: Nutrition, Physical Activity, Sleep, Substances, Time-out for self

Chew on it: 

There is a connection between the quality and the quantity of food we eat and our energy levels, our mood, and our general health and well-being. Sometimes, it’s difficult to see the connection.

A food diary can be a great tool to assess your current eating habits. Add a stress rating to the diary so you can see how your food intake is linked to your daily level of stress.

Get Physical: 

We all know that exercise is important for physical health and well-being. Being active also improves mood, lowers anxiety levels, and reduces our vulnerability to stress.

Get started by finding something you enjoy and can maintain: daily walks with a friend, Pilates, spin classes, cardio tennis, training for a fun run, sit-ups at home.

While you are working out how to include daily physical activity in your life, try to incorporate incidental exercise by parking further away from your destination or going up stairs rather than lifts.

Remember that any steps made toward a more active lifestyle are beneficial.

Sleep Deep: 

Quantity and quality of sleep are important factors to responding well to stress. People usually need between 7 and 9 hours per night.

If you are getting this and are still feeling tired, the quality of your sleep may be the problem. Difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking, sleep apnoea, and not enough hours in deep sleep may all be factors that leave you feeling fatigued during the day.

And if worry is keeping you up at night, try the Contain Your Brain app to create healthy boundaries for your worries so you worry when and where it suits you most! 
Chemical Reactions: 

The use or overuse of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, over-the-counter medications and recreational substances can all affect your vulnerability and responses to stress.

Conversely, not taking medications as prescribed can also have negative effects and make you more vulnerable to stressful conditions.

If your overuse or underuse of substances are causing unhelpful chemical reactions, take steps toward making healthier choices and seek support if needed.


Taking time for yourself is vital to reducing your vulnerability to stress. Me-time is a mix of ‘alone’ time as well as time socialising with others.

Choose activities that are fun, relaxing, comforting, entertaining or amusing. Whether alone or with others, making room for pleasant activities is necessary for optimal emotional health.

You may find that you feel guilty or undeserving, just notice the feeling and then remind yourself that Me-time is on your “To-Do” list and get back to it!

2. Prepare yourself

If you know the holidays are always a struggle, plan ahead.

Be Realistic 

Know what you can and can’t do. The holidays are demanding—work, kids, school, social obligations, and finances are all weighing on you at once.

So expect that this period is going to be challenging, and at the same time, set boundaries for yourself and limits on others based on what you are willing to do and what you can do given your current situation and state of mind.

If you don’t know your limits, others won’t either, so be honest with yourself. If you find that you have over-extended yourself, keep readjusting your limits as you go along. 

Go online instead of in line! 

Be efficient! There is no rule that says we have to spend ages in traffic and trying to find a car space and wait in line to get everything we need for the holidays.

Everything these days can be delivered to your door. They can even come wrapped.

Give yourself a break from all the crowds and frenzy and shop from the comfort of your couch. Don't just stop with Christmas shopping, it's a great way to get your grocery shopping done too! 

Comfort Yourself 

Sometimes all there is to do is give yourself comfort. Validate your feelings and show yourself compassion by doing soothing, calming activities like have a bath, go for a walk, listen to a relaxation or mindfulness exercise, watch a movie, light scented candles, snuggle up to a teddy bear, have a massage, or read a magazine.

You don’t have to be cheerful during the holidays and you don’t need to judge yourself for how you are feeling. All you need to do is take care yourself and get through it as best you can. 

Seek Support 

The holidays can feel like the worst time of year for some. If you are feeling low, always remember that you are not alone and there is always someone out there that can help.

Have a plan that includes important phone numbers (your supports, crisis services) and a step-by-step process to follow if your mood goes beyond the ‘blues’ to a more severe emotional downturn.

If you find it difficult to get out of bed, you have lost the will to take care of even your basic needs, you are finding that you are drinking or using substances to cope, or you are thinking about suicide—these are serious signs of depression that require immediate attention.

3. Lift Your Spirits

If you can, try doing things to improve your mood. They don’t have to be holiday-related. Think of the things you normally do throughout the year that make you feel good.


A good laugh can be a much-needed reprieve from holiday stress and can help us take life and ourselves less seriously. For a dose of laughter, watch your favourite comedy, check out some stand-up live or online, read anything by Oscar Wilde, or Tina Fey, or have a look at the latest cat antics on YouTube. 


Research shows that kindness toward others benefits the recipient as well as the benefactor. Contributing to others’ happiness actually leads to a boost in your own sense of well-being, both physically and emotionally.

So get out there and do something nice for someone else, it can be as simple as giving someone a compliment to volunteering for an organization. 

Treat yourself 

Be as generous and thoughtful of yourself as you are of others. Get in tune with what you love, what you enjoy doing, what is important to you and give it to yourself. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, expensive or time-consuming, it just has to be about giving yourself moments of joy.

Frugal Fun 

If finances are getting you down, take advantage of all the free holiday activities on offer in your city or town. They might include checking out holiday lights on houses, street decorations, religious services, and local holiday concerts.

Be practical with your gift-giving—suggest a Secret Santa process for big families or groups of friends so you only have to buy one gift at a set price rather than one gift for every person—both a cost and time-saving solution.

4. Contain Your Brain

If worries are getting you down during the holidays and occupying too much of your mind time, remember you have the Contain Your Brain app to help you create healthy boundaries for your thoughts.

Set aside a half hour a day to worry & whenever you notice worries pop into your head, add them into the app so you can get on with your day. Then in your worry time, Solve, Accept & Reflect your way to worrying less and worrying better!

And remember, it’s called the “holiday” season—so make time to take a break, however you want to spend it—relaxing with friends, getting involved in anything that bring you joy, or doing absolutely nothing. That last one sounds good to me! 
All the best to all of you over the holidays!
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I had a similar app but they collected your data and I didn't like it, so I am glad to know that your app doesn't collect user data.
Alanna R.
I love the idea of blocking out worry time!!
This makes so much more sense than just trying to stop worrying.
Frances G.
I like that the app lets you edit your worries, schedule worry times across days, and also export your worries.
Anna L.
Congratulations and very well done!! I will definitely be recommending this to my clients.
Stephanie L.
Love this concept! I have an 18 year old who suffers from anxiety, and I think this will help.
Karin S.
I’ve just downloaded it and started having a play, looks great! Can’t wait to share it with a few clients! Well done!!
Danielle G.
I want this!
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