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How to Handle the Stress of the Holidays

Danielle Farmer, LPC

When the weather shifts, the holiday season looms, and the end of the year approaches it can be easy to look at all the things you weren’t able to accomplish or focus on the relationships that do not exist in your life. There are several tips and tricks on how you can take back control of how you are feeling, and it all starts with your perspective. 

Tip one: Focus on the Positives

It’s no secret we tend to be our own worst critics. It’s very easy to solely focus on the negatives and everything that has gone “wrong” or is “missing” from our lives. Imagine if you were to take the same time and energy spent focusing on the negatives to now only focusing on the positives in your life. We are what we surround ourselves with so why not make it positive. Gratitude practices help to pause, reflect, and reset. Try this, journal about three things, people, or situations that you’re grateful for and then ask yourself why. By digging a little deeper into your why memories and positive emotions will surface, and you will slowly start to shift your perspective to be a bit more positive.

Tip Two: Reframe

After bringing gratitude into your life, you can continue to shift your perspective by reframing negative, irrational, or maladaptive thoughts. Reframing of thoughts is rooted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  CBT’s guiding framework suggests if we can change our thoughts, we can change our emotions, which will change our behaviors (Piet, et al., 2010). How to tell what might be a thought that needs reframing—ask yourself how does this serve me? If you are stressing about being single during the holidays you may notice you are fixating on it and hyper-focusing is a key indicator reframing could be useful. Other indicators would be if your thoughts are causing you to feel sad, lonely, inadequate, etc. Try this, write down your irrational, negative, or maladaptive thought and then collect evidence to refute this statement then try to create a new statement that is more realistic, empowering, and positive.

EX: (Irrational Thought) I am inadequate because I’m single 🡪 (Reframed Thought) My worth does not stem from my relationship status therefore I am enough.

Tip Three: Breathe

The holidays are hectic and stressful, and we often find ourselves moving a million miles a moment. Take time to pause and breathe. Breathing exercises help us to feel more grounded and in the present moment (James, et al, 2019). If you struggle with anxiety breathing exercises will be your best friend as you will physically feel the tension being released through these practices. Try this, place your hands on your chest and slowly and evenly breathe in for 4 counts, hold the breath for 2 counts, slowly and evenly breathe out for 4 counts, and then repeat. 

The holiday season will likely always come with a bit of stress. Gratitude practices, reframing negative thoughts, and reminding yourself to breathe will help to make the holiday season more manageable and most importantly fun! 


James T. Decker, Jodi L. Constantine Brown, Wendy Ashley & Allen E. 

Lipscomb (2019) Mindfulness, meditation, and breathing exercises: reduced anxiety for clients and self-care for social work interns, Social Work with Groups, 42:4, 308-322, DOI: 10.1080/01609513.2019.1571763

Piet J, Hougaard E, Hecksher MS, Rosenberg NK. A randomized pilot study of mindfulness-

based cognitive therapy and group cognitive-behavioral therapy for young adults with social phobia. Scand J Psychol. 2010 Oct;51(5):403-10. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9450.2009.00801. x. PMID: 20210911.

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