How to Manage Anxiety Triggers During the Holidays

Adults celebrating a new year ring in. The holidays are supposed to be a fun time to spend with family and friends. Unfortunately, this is isn’t always the case for everyone. For many people, the holidays are busy and stressful which may cause or increase symptoms of anxiety. People who already experience anxiety disorders, social anxiety, or are being treated with anxiety medications may feel more stressed or fearful than they typically do.

Dr. Katherine Knight shares four simple strategies for managing anxiety triggers during the holidays that everyone can do.


It is easy this time of year to get preoccupied with holiday tasks. Don’t let the holiday stress effect your healthy lifestyle as this will only exacerbate your stress and anxiety. Eat healthy snacks, continue to exercise regularly, and making sure you are getting enough sleep are especially important now.

Setting aside 15 minutes for yourself a few times a day may help you feel refreshed or allow you to accomplish something you have been meaning to do. Do something that reduces your stress. Some ideas may include yoga, taking a bath, reading, exercising or taking a power nap. It’s always a good idea to do this, especially during the holiday season.

Set Priorities

Woman drinking coffee next to Christmas tree It’s common during the holiday season to feel obligated to participate in multiple events, parties, and community service opportunities. If you are too busy, say no – that is OK! Your friends and family will understand if you are overwhelmed as they are likely to feel overwhelmed themselves. A new year that will bring many more opportunities to socialize with and contribute to your community is just ahead. Also consider making a schedule and lists that allows you to accomplish the extra tasks you do want to take on and that come with this time of year. Set aside a realistic amount of time for the shopping, baking, decorating, and other holiday festivities that are important to you.

Many of us have the tendency to envision the holidays will go perfectly. Preparing ahead and being flexible will help you manage those expectations if things go wrong or differently than you thought. Remember what’s important to you, whether that’s spending time with friends and family, taking a break from work or indulging in holiday treats, rather than trying to measure up.


The holidays can be expensive. Some people may feel the need to buy more than they should or can afford. Before you go shopping make a budget and stick to it. If you’re unable to buy the gifts you want, there are some other things you can try such as, making homemade gifts, writing a heartfelt note in a card, or suggesting a family gift exchange. Some ideas for a family gift exchange include drawing a name or playing a game where you only purchase and receive one gift.

Family Differences

Young woman experiencing stress headache next to Christmas tree Spending time with family during the holidays can trigger anxious feelings or unhappy memories for many people.  It’s normal to feel stressed, bitter or even re-traumatized by certain family interactions. Reach out to friends or confidants who can listen to and support you rather than expecting that your family will always understand your experience.

Most families have their problems, but this may be the time of year to set them aside. It’s always easier said than done, but with the right support in place, you may try to avoid sensitive or controversial topics until after the holidays. Remember, everyone’s experiences, perspectives, and opinions are unique, so discussing uncomfortable family matters during holiday gatherings is usually just as stressful for the other person as it is for you.

Schedule and Appointment

Even if you do everything on this list, you may still feel anxious, irritable, or have trouble sleeping during what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year. If this is the case, it may be time to seek the help of a professional anxiety specialist. Contact us today or schedule an appointment using our secure client portal to learn how we can help you experience a happier new year.