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Holidays Got You Down?

Holidays Got You Down? Try These Things to Help

You’re not alone if you’re not exactly feeling in the holiday spirit this year. Too many crowds, too much Christmas music, too many family obligations. You eat and drink like there’s tomorrow, but then have to wake up the next morning anyway.

It can all be a bit too much. The holidays can get us down, but we can also fight back. So how exactly do you fight back?

Kick the Stress

You can kick the holiday stress by doing as much planning as possible. Plan your time with extended family, plan who’s cooking what day, and where you need to be on which day. The more you schedule things (and stick to that schedule!), the more likely you won’t be stressed out by having to make a dozen last-minute decisions.

Now is the time to do those things you’ve done in the past that help you successfully deal with stress. If you like to exercise to keep the stress at bay, make sure you keep to your regimen as much as possible. If you like to get a massage, now’s the perfect time of year to get one. In short, stick to the coping skills you like to use and that work best for you. (Here are some new relaxation or meditation techniques to try out if you need them.)

Don’t put off using them because “there’s no time,” or “I have to be there for others.” You can’t be there for others if you don’t take care of your needs first.

Remember That Moderation is Best

It’s easy to go overboard with everything during the holidays. We tell ourselves, “Hey, I deserve this” or “One more helping won’t really hurt anything.” We feel like it’ll help the stress if we have one (or two, or three) extra drinks to help deal with our family. But overdoing it rarely helps anything, and makes us feel worse in the long run.

Yeah, it’s a pain to stick to eating a healthy diet and not over-indulging during the holidays. So do this instead: allow yourself one extra helping at one meal a day, or one extra drink or dessert. Giving yourself an allowance for a little extra ahead of time can help you keep to reasonable limits, while still allowing yourself to enjoy the holidays.

Don’t Try to Change Anything Big

Now’s not the time to start a new diet, a new routine, or try out a new personality. Sticking to what’s worked in the past is usually best, with a few little tweaks here and there to help make things even better. You can, of course, always try and change things for the better. But it’s wiser to do so in little bits and pieces, not all at once.

Want to improve your relationship with a family member? Take baby steps to work on more clearly communicating with them without snark, sarcasm, or bringing up past embarrassments or hurts. Actions speak louder than words, so no need to tell others you’re working on improving these things — just do it.

Prepare for the Tense or Awkward Situations

A good offense is the best defense, the saying goes. So if you prepare ahead of time for such situations by setting realistic expectations and work to minimize conflict with others. I love the advice given here:

If your mother-in-law — you know, the one who tends to push your buttons — is staying with you for several days, figure out how you’ll approach her when she inevitably hits a nerve, Taliaferro said. Let’s say she criticizes your parenting. When she makes a comment, Taliaferro said, you might reply: “I love how much you care about the kids,” and “recognize her intention, which really is about caring for the kids.” Or you might say: “Thank you for respecting my parenting style. I know sometimes that’s hard to do.”

It may also help to give yourself some alone-time after interacting with a particularly unhelpful family member. Excuse yourself and go for a nice brisk walk outside to help clear your head and re-establish your calm.

Need More Holiday Help?

We’ve got you covered with our annual, updated Coping with the Holidays Guide, a survival guide that is chock full of dozens of articles to help you with specific concerns, situations and issues. Check it out (and please share with your friends and family if you think it may help them too)!

Holidays Got You Down? Try These Things to Help

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Holidays Got You Down? Try These Things to Help. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 22 Dec 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.