10 Ways to Deal With Stress & Major Life Changes During the Holidays

holiday-bluesThe holidays are already a stressful time. Let’s face it, they are probably the most stressful time of the year. No matter how much you love your family, they can also be some of the most stress-inducing people in your life, especially when you are going through a major life challenge like a career change, a divorce, or coping with a disease.

But holiday stress doesn’t just come from your family, or your circumstances, you can levy it on yourself with unrealistic expectations or it can bubble up as a result of past bad experiences during what should be the most relaxing, happy, and stress-free time of year. Instead of letting stress rule your life during the holiday season, we have 10 ways to deal with stress and major life changes e effects of a major life challenge during the holidays.

  1. Join the Holiday S.O.S Club. You’ll get free encouragement, tips, and talks right to your inbox, including even more ways to fight stress and lessen the effect of life challenges during the holiday season. The holidays—regardless of which one(s) you celebrate–all come with the same basic needs and stress-inducing demands…on top of what you are already dealing with on a day to day basis facing your major life challenge! This holiday S.O.S. club can help.
  2. Change your outlook. While dealing with a life challenge, it may seem like the last thing you want to do is be merry and bright, especially when everyone around you is caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season. In reality, however, you can find something to be positive and happy about, despite the challenge you may be facing.  If you change your outlook and embrace the reality of what life has thrown at you, instead of simply dreading the worst that can happen, you’re far more likely to find joy and peace during the holiday season, despite the life challenge you are facing.
  3. Try something new. If you already know that your mother-in-law is going to complain (even on the sly), about your apple pie recipe, there’s a pretty easy way to ensure she has nothing to complain about—don’t make that apple pie. Instead, try something entirely new. Don’t do what you’ve always done. Your life is likely in flux right now, so don’t try to cram it into the same old box.
  4. Try a stress reduction course. Those life challenges, whether they be job loss, death of a loved one, divorce, or disease, can make what is already a stressful time of year, even MORE overwhelming, but —only if you let them. A stress reduction course shows you how to stay on top of the stress caused be these challenges, so you can still have fun this season.
  5. Learn that it is okay to cut back. Trying to do everything yourself can be a major strain on your already over-strained mental, physical and emotionally capacities, which will further exacerbate your stress response. You, like most women, probably spend a lot of time trying to make everything perfect for everyone else and forget that you matter, too. Know that it is okay to cut back or to delegate holiday tasks (like wrapping presents, decorating the house, making cookies) to others or to cut them out altogether.
  6. Stop obsessing about how it was. With life challenges come major life changes. That means a lot of people will be looking back and wishing that life was just the same. Don’t compare your current situation to your past situation and especially don’t compare your life to someone else’s, especially during the holidays when everyone seems happier.
  7. Follow these five tips for reduced holiday stress. Having a life challenge is enough stress without also piling on the stress of the holidays. These tips will help you let go of the stress that is specifically caused by the holidays.
  8. Don’t be afraid to keep your life to yourself. One of the major stresses of the holidays and having a life challenge is being constantly asked about it. Don’t be afraid to tell your family and friends that you don’t want to talk about it if you really don’t want to talk about it. Divert the conversation back to other topics that may be more pleasant for you.  At the same time, make sure to find someone that you can confide in,  someone with whom you share the burdens of the challenges that you are facing.  Talking about the major stressors you are facing is an important step in acknowledging and coping with whatever life throws at you!
  9. Don’t get involved in family squabbles. Just keep reminding yourself that (even if you don’t celebrate Christmas) this season is supposed to be about peace on earth. Your family is going to gossip and squabble—maybe about how to carve the roast beef, but also maybe about the divorce or your illness. You don’t have to get involved.
  10. Invest in a mini-coaching session. Having access to a life challenge coach or a stress management coach, even for a few hours, is a great way to help you gain some perspective and find a way to power through this stressful time of year, without missing out on all the good things that the holidays are supposed to be about. A coach can show you how to still be happy and at peace, even in the middle of your personal storm.

 If you, ( or someone you know),  are currently facing a life challenge, we would love to hear from you and learn about how you cope.  Iron sharpens iron, so feel free to share your thoughts with us by using the comment section below.

About Darlene

Darlene is passionate and enthusiastic about helping women simplify their lives, develop stress resilience, regain balance, and find happiness, despite the personal storms life throws at them. She has published a popular series of stress management books which focus on simple, practical and healthy stress relief strategies, as well as provide FREE resources and services that help women become more stress-resilient.


  1. Library Lady says:

    What a great article. I used to stress about Christmas especially, to the point that I began to dread it. I finally realized what had happened and I decided to cut back. No more Christmas cards! They were time consuming and cost a fortune to mail. No one stopped speaking to me because they didn’t get a card. Also I stuck my neck out and suggested we draw names for my husband’s huge family instead of buying everyone a gift. People seemed relieved. I’ve cut back in other ways too, and found I enjoy the season so much more when I do it my way.

    • Hi Library lady, thanks for stopping by and sharing your holiday stress management tips. Cutting out Christmas cards and cutting back on spending when it comes to gift giving are excellent ways of dealing with the holidays and stress. Best of all, no one complained or stopped speaking to you! On the contrary, they seemed relieved. Wonderful!

  2. Geanie Marie says:

    I’ve had to employ some of these stress management techniques to avoid Holiday depression. One thing that happened year after year was that everyone came to my house for the big feast which I cooked myself. It finally dawned on me that I didn’t have to do it alone. I delegated some of the dishes to my married kids, and assigned different tasks like setting the table, mashing the potatoes, and mixing up drinks. Now it’s turned into a family effort and is more fun. Surprise – the kids are relieved to be helping because they hated to see me so stressed about everything. Who knew?

    • Hi Geanie Marie, Thanks for your comments. Cooking a huge holiday feast all by yourself is definitely an easy way to experience holiday stress and overwhelm. Glad you finally realized that you simply cannot do it alone, and started delegating some of the dishes and tasks. Good for you!

  3. Darlene Unsett says:

    These are great holiday stress tips. I’m especially intrigued by the Holiday SOS club. It sounds like fun and I’ll definitely give it a try. One thing I’ve done over the years to help deal with the stress of Christmas is reduce the number of decorations. I used to get a little carried away and while it was fun to put it all up, no one wanted to help put everything away.. Now I only put up one tree, I keep the decorations to one room, and have given a lot of my stuff away so I won’t be tempted to go overboard again. Thanks for sharing.

    • Darlene,

      Nice to meet my “namesake”. :-)

      People send out S.O.S messages when they are in distress, and that is exactly how it can feel when holiday stress sets in. So we decided to start a Holiday S.O.S. club. It actually stands for Holiday Season of Stress (SOS) club, but in can also mean Holiday Save Our Souls (SOS) Club ! :-) Glad you liked the idea and I hope to see you on inside.

  4. I’m glad I read this article, because I really wasn’t looking forward to the big family gathering this Christmas. I recently lost my job and my girlfriend left not long after. I know everyone will be asking me how I’m doing and wanting all the gory details. After reading this I realized I don’t have to discuss my life if I don’t want to. What a relief. When it comes up I’ll suggest we talk about something else and that should get the message across. Thanks.

    • Hi Michael, I fully understand how sensitive it can be to keep private matters from becoming the “topic of discussion” at family gatherings, but it can be done. Being tactful helps. Let them know you appreciate their concern, and that you are doing, and leave it at that. For those that want to push for more details, just switch the table and ask them to share how they are doing instead. It works!

  5. Felicia Comrade says:

    Last year my husband’s company was downsized and while he still had a job, his salary was cut in half. Luckily my children are grown and we didn’t have a lot of debt, but our finances were very tight and doing a regular Christmas was out of the question. We got everyone together and decided to make gifts for each other. The gifts were thoughtful and some hilarious, but the focus was on enjoying the holiday meal and being together. It was the nicest Christmas we’ve ever had, and I think we’ll continue the minimal Christmas tradition even though our financial situation has improved.

    • Hi Felicia,
      So many people put themselves in unnecessary debt during holidays to buy gifts and an abundance of decorations. I am glad you were able to switch to home made gifts and focus on the enjoying a meal and each other’s company. That is where the real memories are made. Continuing the minimal Christmas tradition and keeping holiday stress at bay sounds like a great idea. Kudos to you.

  6. Over the years, I have seen just how much things can change. Dealing with the holidays became a chore for my whole family. Once my grandparents stopped hosting Christmas day, we all just separated. It took a few years for my sister to get over it, she had holiday depression, no joke. Now we both go to our parents with our kids for Christmas day. Very useful tips. I will be emailing this to my sister for sure!

    • Hi Joann,
      Dealing with the holidays has become burdensome for many people. Keepings things simple and focusing on what really matters most is really be the best way to survive the season of stress with your sanity intact. Glad you enjoyed the holiday stress relief tips and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. These holiday stress tips are great! I watch my family fight every year. It has been a long time since they were all together on Christmas Eve or Day. I always tell them they need to take stress management because the holidays are suppose to be a fun family time to enjoy each other. I am going to recommend that mini coaching session to my half brother. He is one of the worst around the holidays. He has to have everything be perfect.

  8. Britanica says:

    I am guilty of number 5. Not last year, but the year before I was stressed. I had to be very strict with my income so finding gifts for everyone was not only stressful, but hard. Holidays and stress do no mix! I read through all of these holiday stress tips and they make sense. I have noticed though, so many people are so angry. From Thanksgiving till the first week of January, it seems like it is hard to find a happy adult. I used to work every Christmas day and I loved it, just because I didn’t have to watch my family argue! How sad right?

    • Britanica,

      Buying holidays gifts can definitely be burdensome especially when funds are low. Have you ever considered home made gifts? You can save a ton of money and still give a gift that is more personal, meaningful, and appreciated. Thanks for your comments and your thoughts.

  9. Holiday depression is very common in my family. We don’t have a huge family, but we are all struggling one way or another with money. The past few years have been tough. My wife tries to keep the peace and ends up in tears year, after year. Her own family was never nice to her so for her to be around my family and not be appreciated makes me mad. We decided to try something new this year and take our boys out of town. Just avoid the whole scene. We haven’t told anyone yet. I dread it… uggg

    • Holiday depression is more common than most people think. So many folks are struggling with major life challenges (job loss, relationship problems, financial problems, illness, tragedy and death) and the upcoming holidays could make it even more difficult to cope. My holiday stress management mini-coaching program might help. I know what you’re going through. I’ve walked in your shoes. Most people may not understand what you are going through right now, but I DO! I applaud your decision to try something new this year. Let us know how it all works for you.

  10. Lynda Jones says:

    I watch my mother go through holiday stress and depression every year. She just can’t deal with the holidays. Since my grandmother was put in to a home, the whole family has fallen apart and we all just do our own things. She tries to keep it all together and gets let down every year. I tell her to stop worrying about everyone else and just do stuff with me and my brothers, but she still gets worked up. I will be bookmarking this for her. I think she needs to read these holiday stress tips.

    • Hi Lynda,
      Unrealistic expectations can lead to stress and depression during the holidays. Sounds like your mom has a hard time letting go of the way things used to be and accepting the new realities. Try sharing the holiday stress management tips with her and making the time you and your brothers spend with her as pleasant as can be.

  11. I love Christmas – the music, the lights, the family, the friends. Not eggnog, but pretty much everything else. For as long as I can remember, Christmas was always at my mothers. Then she passed away a little over two years ago. I just dreaded the impending holiday and was anxious and full of stress. I couldn’t see how I could make the holiday joyous for my own kids when I was so sad. It could never be the same.

    We decided to break out in a new direction. To go for something different. We went on a short cruise. We had Christmas leftovers with neighbors. We sponsored a family in need. We spent time with just the four of us really enjoying our family and gifts and relaxing. It was different, and just a bit sad, but there was no stress. I found out that what my family really wanted was the time to relax and be together, in whatever form we could.

    • Sukey, Thanks for sharing and sorry to hear about the passing of your mom. My mom is the center of our family too. I broke out in a new direction and left the “traditional Christmas” behind quite some time ago. What’s really important for me is indeed time together with family, and not only around “Christmas time” but all year long too. Like you, I also found out that THAT is what my family really wants and NEEDS most.

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