Thanksgiving Ushers in Holiday Season, Holiday Stress

Depression, stress, and anxiety lead people to find a therapist or counselor at all times of the year. But emotional triggers and stressful tasks and obligations are especially close-packed during the holiday season. Most of the time, the holiday celebration itself—the gathering of family and friends—is a positive, uplifting experience. But the weeks leading up to the holidays are fraught with errands to run, gifts to buy, donations to make, gatherings to plan, and food to prepare. With so much to do, the holidays aren’t all joy and laughter: you don’t have to be a professional therapist or counselor to recognize that these times can make anxiety and stress, depression and loneliness worse.

So what to do? Well, if you’re truly feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to visit a counselor or therapist to get professional guidance. But if you’re toeing what feels like a typical line between calm and frazzled, focus on two things to keep the holidays less stressful: working ahead and keeping it simple. First, working ahead. Make time early in the month to get shopping done so that last minute purchases are the exception, not the majority. If hosting a get-together, plan dishes that can be prepped ahead of time, and get help from the family by preparing the house (and even the dishes) the day before. Second, keeping it simple. You may not be able to do everything and be everywhere. Holiday traditions don’t have to be clung to if they don’t work anymore: re-arranging who gathers where is okay. Just be realistic!

Then there’s the emotional side of the holiday season. Grief counselors often discuss upcoming holidays with their patients. Even if it’s been more than a year since you’ve lost your loved one, the holiday focus on memories, friends, and family can make fading pain fresh again. Deal with holiday-related grief by recognizing the pain and paying tribute to the person’s memory with a favorite dish or activity or by sharing stories. Present-day relationships can also be strained under the stress of the holidays: avoid romantic turmoil by integrating some of the stress-reduction tips mentioned above. And if you’re alone on the holidays, you’re not the only one. Reach out to friends in a similar situation, or get involved with an organization that needs holiday volunteers. Any positive human connection on the holidays is a good one.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Debra Stang

    Debra Stang

    November 26th, 2010 at 10:20 AM

    Veterans who have recently returned from deployment also tend to struggle during their first holiday season reunited with their families. Reasons can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mild traumatic brain injury, and learning to live outside the military culture. Veterans who are having trouble can receive counseling through the VA as well as through private counselors who are trained in working with post-combat veterans.

    Debra Stang
    Alliant Professional Networking Specialist

  • cathy


    November 26th, 2010 at 11:30 AM

    thanksgiving used to be so much fun when I was a kid and even when I was young.everything was just too good.I could be so care-free and enjoy all the festivities.but now that I’m married and have my own family I know what it is to actually celebrate something as a parent and it is not so much fun anymore.its more about your responsibility and everything.

  • Faith


    November 26th, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    We lost my brother almost three years ago right around Christmas so this is always such a hard time for me and all of my family to go through. It has gotten easier but you are always thinking of the last time you spent the holidays together and the things that you missed that you never got to do together. Sometimes you just have to power through but it is tough this time of the year.

  • jessie ryder

    jessie ryder

    November 26th, 2010 at 11:54 PM

    my mom is always doing things and making preparations at the last minute and this often gets her stressed whenever there is an occasion coming up. she ends up being so frantic and stressed. but this thanksgiving was different. I made sure that she began things early and there was no last-minute frenzy. It was much better and peaceful for everybody and especially mom :)

  • jason121


    November 27th, 2010 at 2:30 AM

    All the preparations and planning and the work may be stressful.But if one knows how to manage and do things in time then its all worth it and the day will definitely be one to remember :)

  • Jane


    November 27th, 2010 at 12:42 PM

    Quite frabkly I am tired of hearing about the holiday stress. Why not take this year to be thankful for all that you have instead of griping about having to spend the time with people that you don’t like? If you don’t like them then do not put yourself in situations that you know in the end are going to be stressful for you. You are a grown up and know what those are so avoid them, plain and simple. And if the financila aspect of the holidays worries you, then just make sure that you tell those that you normally buy for that the money just is not there this year and maybe do some baking for them. Most people who are your real friends will understand this and will appreciate the honesty!

  • Lonnie


    November 28th, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    Can’t we all just get along? :)

  • emily collins

    emily collins

    November 28th, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    although planning ahead and doing things in advance does help and nonmatter how much you prepare well,nothings good enough and there will always be that little bit of stress..not that I’m complaining though,because sometimes a little bit of stress during preparations feels exciting :)



    November 29th, 2010 at 4:23 AM

    Every get together or an occasion brings alOng tension and a little bit of stress but if we want to we can make it worth it all and have a great time rather than get bogged down by it.

  • jill


    November 29th, 2010 at 5:36 AM

    I just don’t get the whole stressed out attitude that so many people now project. Yes my mom was always a little frazzled getting everything ready for the holidays but nothing like I see these days! Perhaps trying to live up to the holiday ideal that we see on tv with Martha Stewart and the Food Network and others has led too many of us down the path of feeling like we can’t live up to those expectations. Our turkeys may never be quite that pretty and golden brwon, and there will be gifts that we buy that people will not like, but so what! It is the time that we get to spend with friends and family that should count and not trying to make that picture perfect scene. That’s the real root of much of the stress and anxiety if you ask me.

  • Gina


    November 29th, 2010 at 2:44 PM

    As someone in her late forties I know well about the stress Of the holiday season and also about thanksgiving. But I would like to say that thanksgiving gives us a chance to actually prepare for the stress of much longer version-the Christmas vacation season :)

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.



* Indicates required field.

Therapist   Treatment Center

Advanced Search

Search Our Blog

Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on