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Coping with Holiday Stress

christmas holiday candlesSeven steps to a great holiday break

Starting to feel anxious about "going home" or being around family for the holidays? Here are seven tips to help you make the most of the season and enjoy the break from academic pressures.

  1. Keep expectations flexible. Modify unrealistic holiday expectations and do what works for you. When you catch yourself thinking "Is this good enough?" take a deep breath, exhale fully, and let go of that worry. Ask yourself, "What will make this a good enough holiday for me?" and do that.
  2. Do what you value. Pick something that makes the holidays special to YOU and focus on that. Spending time in nature, in special religious or spiritual practice, getting extra rest, making your own gifts—find and create meaning and enjoyment that truly nourishes you.
  3. Keep it simple. Simplify whenever and wherever you can. Rather than cramming your schedule, do less. Leave time for quiet reflection and recharging your battery. Every now and then ask, "Is there a simpler way to do this?"
  4. Expect the unexpected. We can't control all the holiday variables—weather, traffic, schedules, sudden illness. Build extra time into your plans so you aren't thrown by unexpected wrinkles. If you end up with some extra "down time," relax and savor it!
  5. Stay connected to your "family of choice." In addition to time with 'blood relatives,' stay connected by phone or email to your "family of choice," those friends who accept and support you without the "agenda" relatives often have. Mutually support one another through the tensions of dealing with relatives.
  6. Don't become a Sugarplum yourself. Watch your sugar intake and sweeten your holidays in other ways! Sugar blues make it that much harder to deal with holiday pressures. Eat some protein before going to holiday parties and drink lots of water.
  7. Get more sleep. Sleep deprivation can become more of a problem at holiday time. Make sleep a priority and take some cat naps, even if you don't normally. Your health and your relationships will benefit!


  • Want to talk to someone about your anxiety? Help is available. Schedule an appointment with Hall Health.
  • Some degree of holiday stress is normal. However, if you're concerned about your anxiety level, learn more about anxiety disorders.
  • Check out, an online resource for emotional health and well-being at college.


Authored by: Hall Health Center Mental Health Clinic staff

Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Mental Health Clinic staff, January 2014