How Therapists Handle Holiday Stress

There’s no doubt that the holiday season can be a stressful time, amid all the travel plans, family visits and present shopping.

These activities often involve an array of demands that take a toll on your mental health, such as cleaning, cooking and spending. So it’s totally OK to experience stress or anxiety among the festivities; even mental health professionals ― who may seem like they have it all together — aren’t immune to these feelings.

HuffPost asked therapists for insight on how they feel joy and cheer amid the stress of the season. Here are their personal tips for decompressing and relaxing:

They Set Aside Time For Themselves

The holidays can be a busy time, especially if you are surrounded by friends and family. It’s normal to feel stressed and anxious about meeting up with people or hanging with relatives.

“I always make sure I set aside some time for myself to relax during the holidays and focus on my wellness needs,” said Michael Klinkner, a licensed clinical social worker in Arizona.

They Scribble A Few Thoughts In A Journal

Minerva Guerrero, a therapist who founded Mind Matters Mental Health Counseling in New York, said she often takes a journaling break to intentionally ground herself.

“I like to journal to get clear on what I’m hoping the holidays bring me and how I feel during this time,” she said. “This self-care activity really helps me destress and relax during the holiday season.”

They Listen To Music

Music therapy can evoke feelings of calmness and relaxation.

“I often create soothing and hype-me-up playlists, which help me move through my feelings,” said Naiylah Warren, a therapist and clinical content manager with mental health platform Real.

They Focus On Holiday Events That Give Them Joy

During one of the busiest times of the year, it’s important to set boundaries to take care of your mental health and well-being.

“I generally check in with myself in regards to what traditions or gatherings feel stressful to me and which ones bring me joy,” said Kama Hurley, a clinical counselor and life coach in Idaho. “I prioritize what I love to do and say no to the things that make me feel anxious.”

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Even therapists need some coping strategies to get through the holidays.

They Make A Self-Care List

Hurley said she writes a self-care list when she’s anxious or stressed, as it gives her agency and lifts her mood.

“I write down activities that help me relax and make me feel good about myself that I can accomplish when feeling the intense emotions,” she said.

Having a go-to list that you can reference and change will help you identify which activities are sources of joy.

Madeline Lucas, another therapist and clinical content manager at Real, shared some self-care activities that help her feel less isolated in her holiday stress: taking long showers with music, applying sheet face masks, going on walks and stretching.

They Sit In Stillness For A Few Minutes

The art of meditation can be powerful in achieving a sense of calm and balance.

“I practice meditation exercises for a few minutes whenever I feel stressed,” said Regine Muradian, a clinical psychologist in California. When you feel that stress starting to creep up on you, take a moment to inhale deeply and focus on your breathing.

They Plan Ahead

Israa Nasir, a therapist who founded the mental wellness brand Well.Guide, said she plans ahead for the festive season, which helps her destress. “I make sure to take care of any client and associated work-related obligations fully when I take time off during the holidays,” she said.

Planning a schedule before you get too busy may feel comforting as it offers a sense of routine, with many decisions already made in advance.

They Talk To Their Therapist

Many mental health professionals get help from therapists of their own to manage stress. If you feel that stress is inhibiting your ability to get through the day, consider connecting with a mental health professional now.

“If I anticipate a lot of stress prior to the holiday season, I’ll schedule a few extra sessions with my own therapist before they go on their holiday break to help process the feelings I’m having,” Nasir said.