How to Avoid Holiday Anxiety

The holidays generate a mixed bag of emotions for many of us, not the least of which is anxiety. A study by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that people in the U.S. are more likely to feel stress during the holidays than those in other countries. The leading causes of holiday stress are time, money, and commercialism.

The individuals most likely to feel anxiety around the holidays are women, who tend to take charge and assume responsibility for others' happiness, and lower income individuals, who feel the financial strain.

The holidays can be a joyous time, so take a few precautionary steps to avoid—or at least minimize—holiday related anxiety.

Travel wisely. Experts at the Weather Channel offer tips to avoid travel-related anxiety.

  • Book tickets early, secure advanced seating, plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours early, and take public transportation or get a ride to the airport. Giving yourself extra time allows you to deal with crowds and long lines, avoid parking hassles, and ensures you don't miss your flight.
  • Travel light and carry essentials, such as medications, with you in case you lose your baggage.
  • Check ahead for rules regarding oversized items.
  • Don't carry wrapped gifts as carry-on items; security may need to inspect them.
  • Address your bags inside and out, in case the outside tag separates from your bag.

Reminisce. Holiday reminiscing has positive psychological benefits. According to Professor Krystine Batcho, Ph.D., people who are prone to nostalgia excel at maintaining personal relationships and choose healthy social ways of coping with troubles. Dr. Batcho says holidays remind us of important people and shared activities, which is why so many people travel, despite the challenges. The next time you feel holiday stress creeping in stop and take a walk down memory lane.

Broadcast your budget. Establishing a spending limit and setting appropriate expectations will help prevent you from making impulse decisions and overspending. Consider alternative gift exchanging traditions such as only buying gifts for children, implementing a Secret Santa program with a price limit, or exchanging homemade gifts.

Watch what you eat. We're more likely to engage in sedentary activities and unhealthy behaviors, such as overeating foods high in fat and sugar and drinking alcohol to cope with holiday stress. However, poor nutrition leads to sugar spikes, which disrupts your metabolism and leads to mood swings. Find positive ways to relieve stress, such as listening to music, praying, reading, exercising, or attending a religious service.

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D MSS reviewed this article.


The Weather Channel. "Holiday Travel Tips." Web.

Hochwald, Lambeth. "Have a Drama-Free Holiday." Web.

Pick, Marcelle, OB/GYN NP. "Avoiding holiday stress." Web. 18 April 2011.

Mayo Clinic. "Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping." Web. 4 November 2011.

Berktold, Jennifer and Greenberg, Anna. "Holiday Stress." American Psychological Association. Press release. Web. 12 December 2006.

Batcho, Krystine, PhD. "'Tis the Season for Nostalgia: Holiday Reminiscing Can Have Psychological Benefits." American Psychological Association. Press Release. Web. 7 December 2011.