• Dr. Kate Henry

Practices to Handle Holiday Stress

Updated: Mar 15

Practices to Handle Holiday Stress: Interview with Mental Health Counselor Olivia Rogers


While the holidays of course bring us many joys—family reunions, good food, thoughtful gifts—they also entail an incredible amount of stress: Those family reunions can bring up old family conflicts, the good food often requires lots of careful preparation, and holiday shopping can be stressful! Some people can experience isolation, social anxiety, difficulty with communication and boundaries, feeling a need to “fake it,” and increase in overall symptoms during the holidays.


So how can we stay grounded and present?


Olivia is a Mental Health Counselor who works with adults in intensive mental health programs and outpatient settings through Sanare Counseling Services. Her primary specialty focuses on those struggling with anxiety, depression, mood and adjustment disorders, personality disorders, and stress disorders.


She shared with us what we can do to manage holiday stress and thrive throughout all seasons.




From Olivia


“Things you CAN do:


Accept Imperfection

  1. The holiday season can be long and full of commitments, from parties to PTA meetings. To help manage stress, make a list of what you expect from yourself, what others expect from you and your responsibilities for the holidays. You may want to place them on a calendar to get a feel for what the coming months will look like. Get comfortable with the idea that you don’t have to do everything and everything doesn’t have to be perfect.

  2. Similarly, accept that you may get sad or lonely, and that’s okay. If you’re coping with mental health concerns, they won’t go away just because of the holidays. Keep up your emotional health habits and apply when possible to your new set of responsibilities. If you’re particularly overwhelmed, talk to your emotional health professional about how to handle everything that is on your plate.

Don’t lose sight of what really counts

  1. With long lines and nasty traffic, the holidays can get hectic. When overwhelmed ask yourself:

  2. Where does this fit in the grand scheme of things? If you’re frustrated by the long grocery line you’re standing in, remember that it is just a long grocery line — nothing more. Don’t let it spoil your afternoon.

  3. Ask yourself can I use this moment of frustration as an opportunity to reflect? While the cashier rings up the customers ahead of you, take inventory of the good things that have happened today or the things you are grateful for.

  4. Even if this moment seems stressful, can I find a way to make it pleasant? Connect with someone else in line with a compliment or kind gesture, or notice what’s around you with fresh eyes and an open mind.

Remember your Boundaries

  1. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do! Just because they are your family members doesn’t give them a right to violate your boundaries.

  2. When setting a boundary, us “I” statements and reflective listening skills

  3. If they continue to violate a boundary set a consequence.


Short-Term Stress Relief

  1. Use grounding techniques

  2. Practice mindfulness

  3. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we're sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.


Create relaxing surroundings.

  1. Turn on some music, light some candles or open the windows on a sunny day. Research has found that listening to music and the scent of citrus can boost feelings of well-being, and vitamin D is always a happiness booster.

Rethink your resolutions

  1. Typical New Year’s resolutions set you up for failure. If you want to better yourself in the New Year…

  2. Start small. Break your goal into tinier steps over the course of the year. If weight loss is your goal, it doesn’t have to be drastic. Try to eat more veggies during your first month and gradually cut back on sweets throughout the next.

  3. Be kind to yourself. If you didn’t achieve last year’s resolution or stray from the path this time around, let it go. We often contrive these stories (‘I’m never going to quit smoking!’) that only add to our distress. With practice, we can notice this self-critic, let go of that negativity and pick our goals back up without the guilt or shame. This is called self-compassion!


Things you DON’T have to do this holiday season:

  • You don’t have to buy expensive gifts

  • You don’t have to spend time with your family

  • You don’t have to force yourself to be happy or to celebrate

  • You don’t have to maintain traditions you dislike

  • You don’t have to allow others to disrespect your boundaries

  • You don’t have to answer invasive questions

  • You don’t have to tolerate judgement or shaming”


Olivia utilizes cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, as well as motivational interviewing techniques. Through the treatment she provides, Olivia emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach by educating clients on how components such as food, sleep, and social interaction influence mood and functioning. You can find out more about her at https://sanaretoday.com/ and https://sanaretoday.com/olivia-rogers/ and attend a Thrive University workshop by visiting https://sanaretoday.com/thrive-university/


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