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Stress and the Holiday Season

Updated: May 16, 2020

For many people stress and the holidays go hand in hand. In fact, after talking with family and friends it seems that the holidays can be an extremely stressful, emotional, and draining time for everyone.

You’re not alone! Life is busy and chaotic before the holidays hit and it’s easy for anxiety and stress to spiral out of control when your already full schedule becomes even busier!

This week we talked with Kim Conway of A Centered Self in Andover, Massachusetts on the topic of coping with stress, grief, and anxiety this time of year. What did we learn?

That often times the best way to prepare yourself for this time of year is prevention.

“When people come to me new this time of year, they’re really more in crisis mode.” said Conway. But, this doesn’t mean it’s too late to take a step back, analyze, and adjust your game plan for this season. Take a pause from your busy schedule and read on for some tips!

The stressors that come up most frequently this time of year are grief/loss, over commitment, and family/relationship issues. “Anyone dealing with grief, the holidays are understandably so much more painful and the grief becomes really intense during this time period.” said Conway. She says that although you should be working on your feelings of loss or grief year round, the holidays often amplify this stressor the most.

Over scheduling is another common issue, “People also forget how to say no, and feel they have to say yes to everything and do everything and there’s a lot of running ragged.” Adding to this list are often complicated family systems. Conway added, “Any sort of complication in relationships and family can become more intense during the holidays because you tend to be spending so much more time with people where maybe the relationships aren’t healthy and good for you.” If you already feel yourself becoming stressed and overwhelmed, take a step back and ask yourself,

“What is the message behind that anxiety and stress?” says Conway.

She added, “For instance if the anxiety and stress is that we are just stretched too thin and we said yes to too many things and we’re trying to do too much for others. Okay what can I say no to and where can I cut back a little bit. When can I have some time for myself?”

This isn’t to say that we should all go cancelling every plan we’ve made for the holiday season. But, if you’re feeling overloaded with activities, do be selective in what you attend. Don’t feel bad saying “no” if it will give you some peace of mind and a chance to breathe during this busy time.

So, what actions can you implement into your daily routine this month to make sure you maintain your mental health? Conway suggests first asking yourself “How can I spend the holidays that’s going to best for me? What do I need to get through this time? Who really helps me? Surrounding yourself with people who really know how to support you.”

Another important element is implementing some basic self-care actions such as

  • Meditation ( even a 3 minute meditation will help you feel refreshed)

  • Exercise ( Take a quick walk with a friend, or do a 10 minute workout video on YouTube)

  • Eating Healthy ( Try drinking more water than usual and not indulging in all the treats)

  • Trying to get sleep ( Don't let yourself stay up too late!)

  • Taking care of your immune system ( Keep yourself and your family health with vitamins and probiotics, especially this time of year)

I think I can speak for many of us when I say that all of these basic actions (yes, let’s all try to make these actions basic) are so important. Even just focusing on one or two of the items from the list above on a daily basis can help put you in a better mental and physical place to move through this season. We should all focus on giving ourselves a gift this year and we can start with the gift of peace of mind.

Conway is also a big proponent of Reiki and meditation and recommends downloading a meditation app to your phone so you can take the time to do a quick meditation if you anticipate stress. “With meditation it’s really quality or quantity. You can meditate really well for 3 minutes, it’s just as good as meditating for an hour.” Conway adds.

“Reiki is healing for everything. Or if you don’t like that have a massage, or get a book that’s just for fun, nothing intense. Something that’s really light hearted that can feel really good when you sit and read. Thinking about the things you really enjoy.” said Conway.

Everyone is dealing with something during the holidays. After all, life doesn’t pause during this busy time.

“We’re treating everyone else around the holidays to things, but think about something that could be important for yourself.” Concluded Conway.

So as a gift to yourself this season, take 5 minutes out of your day and schedule in some self-care for yourself this season! It will make a world of difference and it’s the best gift you can give yourself.

Stay Tuned for Part 2: The Holiday Season and Social Anxiety

Kim Conway is a Licensed Social Worker, Intuitive Practitioner and founder of A Centered Self in Andover, Massachusetts. If you are local check out the A Centered Self website for the range of services Kim offers at


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