The 5 Stages of Holiday Stress

Self-Care & Mental Health


Everyone talks about holiday stress, but most of us don’t do anything about it. Maybe we could handle it better if we thought of it as an inevitable process—sort of like the five stages of grief.

First, as with grief, there’s denial. Christmas really isn’t coming in just a few months/weeks/days, is it?

After we realize that, yes, Christmas really is bearing down on us like a locomotive at full steam, then there’s anger. Why do I have to do all the shopping/wrapping/mailing/baking/decorating?

OK, maybe I don’t have to do it all—which leads to bargaining, the next stage of grief (oops, I mean, stress). Honey, will you bake cookies while I wrap and mail the gifts? And, girls, can you hang ornaments while I decorate the rest of the house? (Only problem with bargaining is I seem not to have much leverage. My best leverage is pointing out that we won’t have Christmas as we’ve come to know and love it, if they don’t pitch in and help me—now!)

The next stage of grief is depression, and, thankfully, I never get depressed around Christmas, no matter how angry or put-upon I’m feeling. I am a Christmas-aholic, and I will always love all the hustle and bustle and beauty of the season, no matter what. But maybe my periodic attacks of anxiety, panic, fatigue and feeling overwhelmed could be the psychological equivalents of depression in the stages of stress.

Lastly, comes acceptance. As I’ve gotten older (and possibly wiser), I complain less vociferously about the lack of help and all that needs to be done. I try to end the denial stage sooner, skip the anger and bargain more. And I’m trying to accept that I will always be busy and tired and sleepless through much of the holiday season.

I’m hoping that if I can just accept that, then my stress levels will be a little lesser and my enjoyment of each moment a little greater.

At least with acceptance, I won’t feel guilty over feeling stressed! I hope you and yours find ways to enjoy all of your holiday traditions, with minimal stress and maximum mindfulness. Because, seriously, holiday celebrations are not the same as grief!

Happy holidays!

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(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

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