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Embrace | Overcome | Create Your Life 

  • Writer's pictureTerri K. Lankford, LPCS

Holiday Stress: 3 Ways To Combat the Top Stressors this Holiday Season

When you think of the holidays, what do you picture? Is it family gathered around a dinner table? Or following a family tradition? What about a spiritual practice, like lighting a menorah? Do you picture giving some great gifts, and hopefully getting them soon?

Or - are the holidays more stressful? Is your image of a holiday closer to canceled travel plans, financial strain from buying gifts, and forced togetherness with family you may not exactly get along with?

The good news is - you’re not alone. In fact, one study reported that 62% of people have increased stress during the holidays, and only 10% said they had no increase in stress at all. In another study, 41% of people reported an increase in depression during the holiday months as well.

What causes such an increase in stress and depression during the holiday season, and how can you stay joyful this season? Don’t stress - the holistic counselors at Rise and Thrive Counseling are here to help! Read on for the top three reported causes of stress during the holidays along with three strategies to combat that stressor.

Holiday Stressor #1: Inflation + Financial Strain

In a November 2022 study, 38% of respondents named inflation as the top stressor in the holiday season. In 2022, American families spent an average of $1,530 during the season on gifts and travel expenses. To help combat financial strain this holiday season, try the following:

  1. Stick to an agreed-upon budget: if you’re struggling to buy presents for everyone on your list, there’s a good chance your friends and family are struggling, too. Before the holidays are too close, meet up with the folx you commonly exchange gifts with to set an agreed-upon budget that is satisfactory to everyone - and to your wallets.

  2. Buy presents for several months leading up to the holidays: most people aren’t shopping for presents in July, but spacing your purchases out can help sustainably fit in your budget in the months leading up to the holidays.

  3. Participate in a “Secret Santa” style holiday: if you’re from a big family or have a large friend group to buy for, it may be more sustainable for everyone to buy a gift (or gifts!) for one person instead of everyone. Instead of spending $20 on 10 people, spending $100 on one person serves a fantastic present and a $100 savings for all.

Holiday Stressor #2: Gift Shopping

In the same 2022 study, purchasing presents was named as the second highest stressor with 19% of folx reporting it as the most stressful thing of the season. While finances are certainly a contributing factor to this stress, choosing what to buy and for who can be just as stressful. Check out three ways to reduce anxiety around gift-giving:

  1. Ask for a list: if picking a present for Uncle Dave who you talk to once a year is stressful for you, ask Uncle Dave for a list. That way, Dave gets what he wants and you miss out on the stress of guessing.

  2. When in doubt, let them decide: While they’re not as fun to wrap, gift cards are a great way to tangibly give a present but leave freedom for the recipient to decide what they want to purchase. Instead of guessing Grandma Nancy’s shirt size, a gift card to Target to buy her own shirt would work just as well.

  3. Embrace imperfection: gift-giving can be stressful if we’re striving to buy the perfect gift. If you aren’t on the Santa Claus level of gift-giving, that’s okay!

Holiday Stressor #3: Family Dynamics

Third on the list of top holiday stressors was, you guessed it, “awkward” family dynamics. You know what we mean - that sister you haven’t talked to since that big fight last year, the cousin with political views you can’t stand, or even seeing the parents you’ve avoided from toxic family patterns in the home. To reduce stress from uncomfortable family dynamics, try these three things:

  1. Set boundaries around togetherness: sometimes we feel we must spend all the time together during the holidays. Instead, decide how much together-time is too much for you, and only commit to a visit for that long.

  2. When traveling, stay in your own place: we get it - hotels certainly don’t help that financial strain we’re all stressed about. However, having a neutral place to escape to after a tense dinner may be worth it.

  3. Try to maintain your routines: its highly unlikely you’ll stick to all your routines perfectly during the holiday season, but if there are pieces you can keep in tact (like journaling before bed or yoga in the morning), try to maintain them to reduce the feeling that family is uprooting your life.

We hope this blog post helps you combat the top three causes of holiday stress this season! If you want more holistic help, look no further than Rise and Thrive Counseling. Our holistic counselors can help address all areas of life. Reach out today to learn more. We look forward to hearing from you!


Welcome to Embrace | Overcome | Create Your Life.


I’m Terri Kiser Lankford, owner of the Rise & Thrive Counseling Practice, a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (in NC), and the host here at Rise & Thrive Counseling, PLLC and the Embrace| Overcome|CreateYourLife Blog.


I’m also an entrepreneur, Syltherin, foodie on a fitness journey, complete book nerd, photography novice who happens to think music is life. 


Warning! This site is about motivation, health & wellness, and self love.  but its also about various mental health issues and may talk about subjects such as suicide, self-harm and other touchy subjects at some point. This site is not intended for youth and may be “too much” to some.


Nothing on this site should be considered a medical recommendation. I am not a doctor. Anything of interest should be discussed with your doctor or therapist, or me (in person) if you are my current client.  No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. (Sorry, I have to say that.)


All writing and mental health information here are accurate to the best of my knowledge at the time of publication. However, keep in mind my opinion, and available information, changes over time.

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