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How To Cope With Holiday Stress

The holiday season is upon us and everyone is feeling the strain. An assistant professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences provides tips to combat holiday stress.

By Tiarra Drisker ‘25

The holiday season, though full of fun festivities and traditions, can be stressful — especially after extended quarantines and lockdowns. You may be visiting with family members that you have not seen in a while or you may feel lonely because you are unable to see family and friends this year. Even the added responsibility of buying presents, preparing food, or decorating can be stressful for those that choose to do so. 

During winter break, you may travel, have a different sleep schedule, or stay in a place other than your home. All of these situations can be stressful because they are different from your normal day-to-day routine. According to Annmarie MacNamara, an assistant professor and clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, the origin of all holiday stress can be traced back to changes in routine.

We know that any kind of change even positive change, such as moving or starting a new job can be stressful,” MacNamara explained. “Therefore, even if the holidays are enjoyable, because they often involve a change from our normal routine, they can raise stress levels.”

With the hustle and bustle of various holiday activities and winter break putting school routines on pause, it is important for you to prioritize your needs and be aware of when you feel overloaded. The holiday season is temporary, but your mental health will be a part of you for the rest of your life.

In addition to understanding the importance of routine itself, MacNamara said it’s also important to identify parts of your routine that you cannot go without.

“Know what’s important to you and to maintaining your sanity and preserve this, despite the challenges involved in a different routine,” MacNamara shared. “For instance, if exercise helps you feel better and more in control of your life, then plan for how you will still do this even though you may be away from your gym or busy with family activities. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits; it’s ok to set boundaries and take care of yourself, while still having fun and enjoying time with others.”

The holidays are a stressful break from routine for everyone, but there are ways for you to remain serene while also enjoying the presence of loved ones and taking part in winter break festivities. After all, the holiday season is meant to be enjoyable and fun. “Expect some stress,” MacNamara said. “Expect change in routine. Know your limits and respect them. Strive to come out of the holidays refreshed, inspired, and ready to get back to your normal routine.”