Managing home, work, and social lives can be hard enough without adding in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Tension levels are often at their highest during the holidays which can increase the physical and emotional symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety. Anticipating these elevated levels can add to one’s current professional and social pressures.

Many of us struggle from the impact of spreading ourselves too thin in effort to make others happy. Our clinicians have been discussing some ways they utilize their own self-care routines to support their clients during the holiday season. Here are some of the tips we have come up with:


  • We are all guilty of suffering from the fear of missing out, or FOMO, and choose social events, meeting deadlines, or picking up extra shifts.
  • This is detrimental to both our physical and mental health!

Set a budget AND stick to it!!!

  • Gift giving can be one of the most stressful parts of the holidays! Who do I buy for? What should I buy? How much is too much?
  • I’m here to tell you that it is not a requirement to buy EVERYONE on your friends and family lists a gift!

Establish and maintain boundaries and realistic expectations with your loved ones

  • This is a crucial part in avoiding overbuying or overextending yourself!
  • It is not necessary to go into debt to show someone you care about them!
  • If you feel the need to provide a gift, consider making something or sharing experiences with someone.

Be mindful of your food, drug, and/or alcohol intake!

  • It can be easy to become reliant on these things to get through the hectic holiday season, but remind yourself there are healthier outlets out there too!
  • For example, getting fresh air, exercising, spending time with, or talking to, loved ones, or even seeing a therapist; we can recommend a name or two 😉

Holiday burn out is a real thing! 

For this reason, we thought we would consult our friends at AMITA Health for some coping strategies for managing holiday stress.

Watch out for “shoulds.

  • Often times our ideas of what the holidays should look like is the real source of most of our stress; not the holidays themselves.
  • Be on the lookout for AMITA’s “buzzwords” like “should,” “must,” “have to;” if you catch yourself using these words, it’s time to make a change!
  • Instead, try these:  “It would be nice if…” or “I would prefer that …” This will allow you to recognize your expectations while understanding the reality of the current situation.

Tis the season to be transparent.

  • AMITA reminds us that we may not be the only ones with unrealistic expectations about the holidays.
  • If the threat of disappointment or a meltdown is pending for Christmas morning, it is best practice to be as transparent as possible. Be open about what (or how much) they can expect.
  • Help them create their wish list; this could help avoid, or at least decrease, the possibility of disappointment!
  • This includes what comes from you and what comes from Santa! Realistic expectations of what comes from Santa are very important as well! Santa can always leave a letter explaining things in more detail if needed!

Give the gift of radical acceptance.

  • It’s no secret that money can be a huge source of stress!
  • The term “radical acceptance” refers to the moment we stop fighting reality and accept it completely; in other words, living by an “it is what it is” mindset when creating a holiday budget.
  • If you’re hosting a gathering, request guests bring a dish to pass, or purchase “heat and eat” items ahead of time when they are on sale.
  • This is a good way to remind yourself and others that this is a season for spending TIME not MONEY!
  • Cognitively rehearse your worst case scenarios. “All or nothing” attitudes often serve as their own self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Taking time to think about what could happen, and how you would react to it, can make the “real deal” much easier to navigate.
  • You can even rehearse how you would treat yourself afterwards! Favorite movie, food, or alone time with a pet sounds good to us!

May your days be mindful and bright.

  • Mindfulness is the art of living in the moment; rather than being tied to the memories of the past or concerns about the future.
  • If you dread being forced to spend time with someone because they push your buttons, this is a perfect opportunity for activating your senses!
  • For example, take a look at one of the holiday cookies and explore every nook and cranny! Noticing the sprinkles, frosting, shape, texture, smell, and, eventually, taste, will allow you to take a “cognitive time out” and regain your composure during potentially stressful moments.

Make time for the ghosts of Christmas present.

  • Whether you lost a loved one this year or ten years ago, the holiday season can be extremely difficult. Should we be grieving or celebrating?
  • It’s okay and totally natural to feel sad from a loss, but it is just as okay or natural to feel happy and celebrate the holiday season.
  • If you are grieving, MAKE time for yourself to think of your loved one purposefully and let yourself feel. AMITA reminds us that this can be quite cathartic!

SO…. Happy Holidays or Baah Humbug?!

  • Regardless of which sentiment defines your holiday season, we hope the previously mentioned coping strategies from our team and our friends at AMITA Health will assist you in navigating the holidays.

If you need help this holiday season, please do not hesitate to reach out to our staff at Owens Counseling (847-854-4333) or The McHenry County Crisis Line (800-892-8900) for support.

If an emergency arises, please contact 911 or go to your closest emergency room immediately!

We wish you all a safe and happy holiday season!