By John Holt, Executive Director of Cornerstone Psychological Services

With the holidays once again just around the corner it’s time to talk about holiday stress and holiday blues. The holidays can be full of activity, excitement and promise, with parties, shopping, entertaining, religious observances, family gatherings, and decorating. However, with this time of year inevitably comes stress, which for many people begins with the “countdown.” The clock starts ticking around Halloween and many people begin to feel that there is not enough time to fit in everything. We often have higher expectations for this time of year than for any other, which places even more pressure on us and increases the likelihood we may end up disappointed.

For some, the holidays can be an emotionally low time, with feelings of loss or sadness and increased stress because of not being able to be with loved ones, due to death, divorce or separation of any kind. Feelings of sadness, loneliness, and anger can intensify when contrasted with the joy expected of the holidays.

Here are some tips for coping with holiday stress and blues.

  • Make realistic expectations for the holiday season.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Pace yourself. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle.
  • Make a list and prioritize the important activities. This can help make holiday tasks more manageable.
  • Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
  • Do not put all your energy into just one day (i.e., Thanksgiving Day, New Year’s Eve). The holiday cheer can be spread from one holiday event to the next.
  • Live and enjoy the present.
  • Look to the future with optimism.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and sadness by comparing today with the good old days of the past.
  • If there has been a recent loss, you may want to do something different like take a vacation with a family member or friend.
  • If you are lonely, try volunteering some time to help others.
  • Find holiday activities that are free, such as looking at holiday decorations; going window shopping without buying and watching the winter weather whether it’s a snowflake, or a raindrop.
  • Limit your drinking, since excessive drinking will only increase feelings of depression.
  • Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  • Spend time with supportive and caring people.
  • Reach out and make new friends.
  • Make time to contact a long lost friend or relative and spread some holiday cheer.
  • Make time for yourself!
  • Let others share the responsibilities of holiday tasks.
  • Keep track of your holiday spending. Over-spending can lead to depression when the bills arrive after the holidays are over. Extra bills with little budget to pay them can lead to further stress and depression.
  • Spend time with people who care about you. Do not isolate yourself. If you feel there is no one available, then reach out to others in need.

Use these tips to help fend off holiday stress and the holiday blues so you can truly say HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

John is the Executive Director of Cornerstone Psychological Services ( and has a Masters Degree in clinical psychology and an Education Specialist Degree in school psychology. He is licensed in North Carolina as a Psychological Associate and Professional Counselor. John is also a Nationally Certified Psychologist and Board Certified Clinical Psychotherapist.  He sees older adolescents and adults, and has extensive experience in helping clients having a broad range of concerns, including depression, anxiety, adjustment problems, and trauma, as well as interpersonal, marital and partner issues. He also has expertise in psychological assessments.



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