Navigating the Holiday Hustle: A Therapist's Guide to Coping with the Holidays

The holidays are hard. This post provides you with helpful tips from a Calgary therapist about how to cope with the holiday season.


Kaylee Procter


Holiday leafs representing the grief about the holiday season
Holiday leafs representing the grief about the holiday season

The Holidays are hard. While it brings a whirlwind of festivities, family gatherings, and a touch of magic, many can experience anxiety around the holidays. It can also be a source of stress and grief. For this reason, this time of year can present unique challenges.

Keep reading for some valuable strategies on how to cope with holiday stress and manage anxiety.

No, let's explore explore practical strategies to not only survive but thrive during the holiday season:

Set Realistic Expectations: It's easy to succumb to the pressure of creating picture-perfect holidays. I encourage you to set realistic expectations, both with yourself and others. Embrace imperfections, and understand that it's okay if your holiday season doesn't mirror a festive movie. Hallmark movies are not real (I wish, though).

Understanding Holiday-Related Anxiety: The pressure to create the perfect holiday experience can contribute to heightened anxiety. Plan for these emotions and schedule time to relax. Know that no holiday celebration will be perfect. Practice self-compassion when things don't go as planned. Humour can be another helpful way to embrace flexibility.

Prioritize Self-Care: Balancing both looking after yourself and fulfilling holiday obligations is crucial so that you don't start the New Year already feeling burnout. Ensure that you're prioritizing self-care amidst the chaos. Whether it's a quiet moment with a book, a walk in nature, or a soothing cup of tea, self-nurturing activities will be essential in keeping up with the pressures of the holiday season.

Set and Enforce Boundaries: Boundaries become crucial during the holidays. Be it with family, friends, or work commitments, clearly communicate your limits. Saying "no" is a powerful and will help you sustain your energy and protect your peace. Even more important than setting boundaries is enforcing them. Make sure that when you set a boundary you follow through, or else we run the risk of resentment taking over.

Acknowledge and Validate Emotions: The holiday season can be a rollercoaster of emotions, from joy to grief. I encourage you to acknowledge and validate your emotions. If feelings of nostalgia, anger, loneliness, sadness, or stress arise, acknowledge them without judgment and seek support if needed. These emotions are normal, many people experience them during this time of year.

Connect with Support Systems: Reach out to your support systems – friends, family, or psychotherapist – to talk through your thoughts and feelings. Let the people in your life know when you need support and how they can help. Connection is a powerful antidote to holiday stress.

Practice Mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine. Whether it's meditation, deep breathing, or mindful walks, these practices can bring you into the present moment and alleviate stress.

Don't Abandon your Exercise Routine: I know exercise can be one of the first things to go when life gets busy. However, exercise is effective for a range of concerns like, stress management, anxiety relief, depression, burnout, anger management etc. It can be the coping skill that helps you get through this holiday season, even if it's a 30 minute walk per day or a gentle yoga practice.

Enjoy the Holiday Treats, but Don't Overdo It: The last thing that I want to do is say that you can't enjoy all of the delicious holiday desserts that accompany this time of year. Definitely go for it! However, balance them out with healthy snacks and meals too. Food can impact our mental health, emotions, and energy levels, so it's important not to totally abandon our health in this regard if we want to prioritize protecting our wellbeing.

Reflect and Set Intentions: Take time to reflect on the past year and set intentions for the upcoming one. What values do you want to live by? How do you want to show up in the New Year? If you're going to make resolutions, ensure that they're flexible in order to avoid the harshness of our inner critic if life happens and you don't follow them perfectly. This reflective practice can provide a sense of closure and anticipation for the possibilities ahead.

Managing Stress Through Couples or Individual Counselling: The stress of juggling family obligations, social events, and personal expectations can strain even the strongest relationships and can impact our individual wellbeing. Couples counselling provides a safe space to navigate these stressors together, fostering effective communication and shared coping strategies. Individual counselling can be effective for exploring what aspects of the holidays elicit so much stress, provide a non-judgmental space for self-discovery, process the difficult emotions you may be experiencing, or develop coping skills to manage challenging feelings like, overwhelm.

As we navigate the holiday season together, let's remember that survival isn't just about getting through; it's about finding moments of joy, peace, and connection amidst the hustle. I encourage you to prioritize your well-being and approach the holidays with intention and self-compassion. Wishing you a season filled with warmth, understanding, and moments of peace or genuine joy.

As always, if you need extra support this holiday season from a Calgary therapist (or online therapy throughout Alberta), feel free to reach out for a complimentary introductory call below. I offer individual counselling for adults and teens and couples therapy.

Navigating the Holiday Hustle: A Calgary Therapist's Guide to Coping with the Holidays