How to Navigate the Stress of the Holidays

Do you feel stressed around the holiday season? Learn why you may feel overwhelmed and what you can do about it.
Published on: November 1, 2023
Updated on: March 5, 2024

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Man dealing with stress during the holidays.


It’s hard to believe we’re rounding the holiday season again. Where did this year go? If you’re contemplating the holidays and all of the upcoming social events with a mix of excitement and dread then you’re in good company. Here’s some tips to get through it all with a sense of calm and certainty, so when you’re on the other side of this season, you’ll walk away with some happy memories.

Gain Some Clarity: What’s Underneath the “Stress?” 

Stress is a catchall term for a bunch of emotions and it’s important to gain some clarity on what you’re actually feeling. Is your ‘stress’ signaling a feeling of overwhelm, sadness, frustration, irritation, or confusion? What’s actually going on? A framework to go a little deeper is to realize that 1) our thoughts create our feelings and 2) our emotions reflect unmet needs. 

All of us have normal human needs for peace, space, autonomy, control, connection, celebration, and acknowledgement. If we perceive that those needs are not being met for whatever reason, we’ll experience emotions that don’t feel so good. For example, let’s say that you’ve lost important people over the last year(s) and everytime the holidays come up, you feel sad because your need for connection with those people won’t be met. Or it could be that you’re expected to host the holiday celebrations and work has been particularly difficult, plus other circumstances in your life have pushed you a bit over the edge, and your thoughts are, “There’s no way I’m going to be able to do everything!” This is an example of how thoughts can create overwhelm when your needs for control and peace are not being met. If you’re not sure about what’s going on, set a timer for 5 minutes, and use the prompt, “What are my thoughts and feelings  about the upcoming holidays?” Just write down everything that comes to mind without censoring anything. This exercise should create some clarity for you about what’s going on.  

What Do You Want From the Holiday Season?

We don’t typically take the time to imagine what a successful holiday season/event would look like, but this exercise could give us even more insight into what we’re most hoping for during this time. Take a moment to think about a scenario that would make you feel good during the holidays. What would you be doing? Who would you be with? What are you needing? How do you want to be feeling?  What do you love about the holidays and how can you ensure more of that? 

After you’ve completed this vision, consider what you’ve been telling yourself about what you should or have to do. Is it true that you have to cook everything under the sun? Go to every function? Eat all of the food and drink all of the alcohol that will be at the parties? Buy the perfect present for everyone? We often put an inordinate amount of pressure on ourselves (and on other people) to have what we think are ideal events. 

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Plan in Advance 

After you’ve gained clarity about what’s going on for you right now, and what you would like your holidays to be, then it’s time for you to plan strategies to achieve the best case scenario for your holiday season. If you’d like to limit weight gain over this season, what do you need to do to achieve your goal?  If there’s something really special you like doing over the holidays, how can you make sure it’s in your schedule? If things feel overwhelming, what can you do to simplify the tasks ahead and cultivate some gentleness and kindness for yourself? And if there’s someone you love who won’t be here this season, think about how you can honor that person’s memory during the holidays.  

The point of these exercises is for you to recognize that you have some control over your holiday season experience and to leverage that control where you can. There is a way for you to get closer to what you’d like so that your holiday season can reflect the deeper meaning of what I suspect you’d like: Time with loved ones, time to slow down from the hustle and bustle of work and regular day to day life, and the opportunity to recognize and give thanks for the wonderful things in your life. In the meantime, everyone at FORM wishes you all a happy and healthy holiday season! 

FORM Can Help Meet Your Weight Loss Goals

If you’d like the support of weight loss experts to help you achieve your health goals, the FORM clinical team is here to help. Whether you decide to get started during the holidays or in the New Year, the FORM team will create a personalized plan to help you lose weight no matter the time of year. When you join FORM you will be matched with a board certified doctor and Registered Dietitian who will help you make healthy, sustainable changes to your lifestyle. 

If you are interested in learning more, you can schedule a call with our Care Advisors, or take our online quiz to find out if you are eligible.

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