Managing Emotions Throughout the Holidays

The holiday season can be complicated. While it can be fun and festive for many, this time of year isn’t a carefree and happy time for everyone. For some, the holidays can trigger stress, anxiety, and depression.  


According to a poll by the American Psychiatric Association, “Americans are five times more likely to say their level of stress increases rather than decreases during the holidays.” 


Today, we want to offer some suggestions to help combat negative emotions related to the festive season, and what you can do to help lift your spirits. 


Try these tips: 

  • Pay attention to your needs: Prioritize your health and wellness. Choose an activity that helps you relieve stress like reading a book, listening to music, or colouring or painting. Don’t forget to step outside and get some fresh air.
  • Don’t avoid or minimize your emotions: Instead of suppressing how you feel, which can worsen anxiety and depression, identify and validate your feelings. It is normal to feel various emotions during this season.
  • Embrace self-compassion: Are you being too hard on yourself? Blaming yourself? Are you trying to keep up with others? The holiday does not need to be perfect, and it’s okay if you make some changes to traditions or expectations.
  • Make a plan: This is an incredibly busy season! Create a day-to-day schedule so you can visualize your activities, which can help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. Remember, it’s okay to say no to some plans and requests.
  • Set boundaries: Consider what is most important to you and let that guide you. This will help you to say no to certain people, events, or obligations, and say yes to what is most vital for you and your family. Consider limiting social media and simplifying life as part of setting healthy boundaries.
  • Stick with healthy habits: Drink plenty of water, limit alcohol, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and try to balance holiday treats with healthy eating. 
  • Reach out for help: If you feel lonely, depressed, or overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to contact a friend, or loved one. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you need additional support. Call 911 if you or someone you know is in crisis or immediate danger. Resources in Alberta are also available here.

Testing your patience 

The holidays demand much patience in the occasional chaos. From waiting in long lines to buy that perfect gift to getting holiday groceries in a hectic grocery store, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Decorating for the season, coping with winter weather (although we have been lucky so far!), and meeting the demands of family and friends can increase stress and test your patience. 


Impatience with others often arises when we feel they are impeding our progress toward a goal. You want to get to work, and the person in front of you is driving ten miles below the speed limit, so you get impatient with them. Or if you are in a hurry, you can be sure that someone ahead of you at the checkout will take forever with questions or discussions that have nothing to do with getting checked out. 

Across all areas of your life, you can improve your patience by learning some relaxation techniques.

When you become impatient, try this breathing exercise:  

  • Shut your eyes and draw in a long, deep breath. 
  • Hold it for two to three seconds. 
  • Exhale slowly and thoroughly, letting your shoulders and jaw drop. 
  • Feel the relaxation flow into your arms and hands. 
  • Repeat this several times. 
  • As you breathe out, focus on what your loved ones are saying and how you can become more engaged with them. 

Give yourself double the time it usually takes to do a task and plan accordingly to help combat stress and overwhelm. 


The holidays are about spending quality time with family and friends, and there is no need to turn the holiday activities into a race or competition. So, surround yourself with the people you love and soak in the moments of the season. 

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