(630) 560-1100

Kaylin Thompson, MA, LPC
Clinical Mental Health Counselor
Midwest Center for Hope & Healing

The holidays can bring feelings of hope, excitement, and joy for many people. Thoughts of
nostalgic movies, gifts, Christmas music, time with family and friends, lights and decorations
lead most individuals to smile and look forward to the holiday season with hopeful anticipation.
There are countless aspects of the holidays that are enjoyable, yet the holidays are also known
for a sense of stress, overwhelm, and sadness.

A recent survey from Ohio State University asked 1000 Americans about their feelings
associated with the holidays (CBS News, 2023). The survey found that 81 percent of Americans
feel concerned about national issues and global affairs and how these matters will impact family
dynamics. The findings continued with noting that 75 percent of participants reported anxiety
regarding finances and holiday spending and that 53 percent of people shared concern about
illnesses spreading after the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Lastly, the survey stated that 44
percent of people feel stressed about traveling, especially with past recent years of unreliable
travel due to thousands of cancellations and delays throughout the country. NPR found that
weight gain, time with relatives, decorating for the holidays, and finding the perfect gifts are
additional stressors for Americans (2018). The holidays can also be a reminder of the loss of a
loved one, struggles with infertility, familial strain, and unmet expectations in one’s life.
How does one then cope with all that the holiday season can offer? It is clear that there are
many uncertainties and challenges that can emerge in the holidays. Let’s look at some ways to
navigate stress in a healthy, effective manner.

Reflect on your emotions

Before you head into the holiday season, take some time to consider how you are feeling. Are
you feeling hopeful and excited? Or maybe lonely and sad? Perhaps there is a mixture of
several different feelings, both positive and negative. This is normal; as human beings, it is
typical to be faced with a range of emotions to match the varieties of experiences that people

Identify your needs

Once you are attuned to your feelings, you are better prepared to know how to best care for
yourself. In therapy, clients are encouraged to gain a deeper understanding of their emotional
experience and to identify what is needed to appropriately cope with difficult emotions. Maybe
for you, your feelings are hinting at a need to feel comforted or loved. Possibly, your
overwhelmed feelings could be informing you that you need rest or stillness. Journaling,
praying, talking with a trusted individual like a friend or family member, or seeing a therapist can
help you acquire insight into your needs.

Provide care for yourself

After knowing what you are feeling and needing, then you can offer compassion and coping
resources to yourself. Some helpful coping methods are moving your body in a way that feels
good through exercise, stretching, or deep breathing. For many people, having a hug or quality
time with loved ones can be helpful. For others, maybe spending time in cultural traditions or
religious/faith-based practices can give peace and hope.

While the holiday season can be known for its stress, you can move through the upcoming
months with empathy, self-compassion, and resilience.