Stress, Family, Depression: Holiday Mental Health

Though full of nostalgia, traditions, and wonderfully indulgent food, the holidays can also be a time of stress, familial strains, and the winter blues. Stress is especially common. If you experience stress and anxiety year-round to levels that detract from your life, you should consider finding a therapist or counselor to help you devise some stress-reduction strategies. But even without anti-anxiety counseling, the holiday season can be overwhelming: so much to do, buy, prepare, and schedule. To beat the stress this holiday season, there are three things you can do. First, simplify your season; the less you have to do, the less there is to worry about. Second, steer yourself toward healthy coping strategies rather than relying on food, drink, or other indulgences that can harm you if over-relied on. Finally, try to maintain some perspective; look past the hustle to what matters most to you about these season, and focus your energies there.

Sometimes it’s not your to-do list that causes stress, but your family tree. Many family gatherings are positive, joyful, fun experiences. But plenty are stressful, tense, and at times hostile. If you have a particularly toxic relationship with a family member you will have to see, work with your therapist or counselor ahead of time to develop an emotional game plan for your visit. You can walk through how you’ll handle criticism, argument baiting, or other negative behaviors that may arise in a way that best preserves your composure, peace of mind, and positive spirit during the get-together. Returning home also makes it very easy to fall into old (bad) habits, especially if you’ve done quite a bit of growing since you’ve been living under your own roof. In her article “Operation Preemptive Peace,” Jessica Digiacinto offers some great advice for 20-somethings returning home to the not-so-ideal world of their younger selves.

Last but certainly not least, the blues. Feeling down during the holidays is far more common than individual sufferers may imagine. There’s a lot to live up to when the season is touted as “the most wonderful time,” and compared to the seemingly-perfect memories of childhood, adult holidays can seem dull. For those struggling with depression and seeing a therapist, the stress and strain of the holidays can be particularly draining. And for those who have lost a close loved one, holiday traditions can trigger a resurgence of grief by making the loss feel new again. There’s no single way to get through the Christmas blues, but there’s a lot of good advice out there. If you’re feeling down, don’t hesitate to reach out, even in small situations. Whether it’s your therapist or sibling, your coffee barista or hair stylist: these may be the human connections that get you through this season and into the fresh start of the new year.


Gigante, V. (2010). Operation Preemptive Peace: A 20-Something Guide to a Sane Holiday at Home. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 15, 2013, from

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, 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.

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  • Clarence R

    Clarence R

    December 28th, 2010 at 9:03 AM

    Holidays are a great time to enjoy,lay back and generally have a good time with those around you.But this can easily tun into horror what with all the preparations and spending and shopping.

    Planning and doing things in time is what is the difference between the two results!

  • Ladyj


    November 25th, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    Let us say that KNOWLEDGE is not the things that are usually associated with it. It is not ideas. It is not a body of information. It is not a system of belief. Its outward manifestations are profound intuition, great insight, inexplicable knowing, wise perception in the present and in the future and wise understanding of the past.
    Being true to Oneself, being responsive to one’s deeper nature, to look beyond one’s fears and beliefs and preferences, to listen for a greater voice, for the power of Knowledge that God has placed within you.

    Knowledge will respond, of course, because it is responding to its Source.

    A united humanity will need a new experience and understanding of the Divine if it is to make this great transition and to avoid the ever-growing temptation towards conflict, competition and war. Facing a world of declining resources, a world of environmental destruction, a world of violent weather and growing economic instability, you will need to have a greater experience of the Divine and particularly of the power of Knowledge within yourself. It is at this deeper level beneath the surface of your intellect that God will touch you and move you by the very power of Inner Knowledge.

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