The holidays are coming, and so are the stress triggers, including family dynamics, financial pressures, and even loneliness in people who are away from friends or family.

These stressors are real — but you can proactively manage them. Use these seven tips to keep holiday stress in check and take care of your mental and physical wellbeing this season.

1. Create A Budget — And Stick To It

You can eliminate financial-related holiday stress by planning ahead. Look at what you can truly afford to spend and build a budget that reflects that. When you do so, consider what costs you can cut out entirely.

If that makes you feel deprived, try this exercise: Identify your core values. These might be things like “family” or “community.” Then align your spending with those values.

This might mean creating new traditions, like a holiday cookie swap among friends and coworkers instead of spending money to buy each individual a gift. Or it could mean doing things a bit differently, like hosting a potluck dinner instead of throwing an extravagant holiday party all on your own dime.

2. Set Boundaries To Protect Your Time

In addition to protecting your budget, you can also protect your time to reduce holiday stress. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to seasonal activities that don’t match with what’s really important to you this time of year.

You’re not obligated to attend every event and party you’re invited to — nor do you need to purchase a gift for every single person you interacted with over the past year.

Block off time in your schedule before the end of the year gets busy and use that time just for you. Consider what helps you feel relaxed and at ease, and use “me” time to give yourself that — whether it’s reading by the fire, engaging in a winter sport, or simply taking long quiet walks on your own.

3. Buy Time, Not Stuff

Time management can be one of the leading causes of holiday stress in Canadians according to Dr. Katy Kamkar, Clinical Psychologist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. But there might be some good news for those looking to buy back their time: By prioritizing your activities, you may choose to spend money in ways that allow you more free time.

For example, consider how you can, “Hire out,” any tasks or chores that weigh you down and take up time you could spend with family. That could include housecleaning running errands and grocery shopping.

4. Take A Break From Holiday Travel

Traveling around the holidays can be exhausting, frustrating, and extremely stressful — especially if it involves traveling in bad winter weather. Consider taking a break and staying at home.

If you always travel to see family, invite them to your home instead. Or not! It’s okay to give yourself a break from the seasonal craziness every once in a while if you want to stay at home and celebrate in a different way this year.

If you tend to try and make the most of your time away from work to fit in a vacation, plan a staycation that allows you to explore your local area or take day trips. This also allows you to sleep in your own bed each night of your time off.

5. Make Room For Self-Care

Sometimes, all you need is a little pampering to make stress melt away. What treat could you gift yourself in the middle of the busy season?

Other times, self-care might mean taking what feels like a more drastic step. If your stress feels unmanageable and simply treating yourself at the spa won’t resolve the deeper, underlying reasons for chronic worry or anxiety, consider seeking out a professional who can help you.

6. Connect With Others

People often talk about holiday stress in the context of having to spend too much time with relatives they don’t get along with. But sometimes, stress comes from a lack of time with friends and family. This time of year can feel very isolating and lonely if you’re away from those you enjoy being with or don’t have anyone you feel close enough to celebrate the holidays with.

If you feel this way, it can feel natural to want to close yourself off or withdraw. But consider this: if you feel this way, chances are someone else does too. Be the one to reach out to people and make plans with them during the holidays.

Host a dinner party at your home. Get out and volunteer with a charity you care about. Seek out meetups or events for those who don’t have family to celebrate the holidays with. You’re not alone, and you don’t have to experience the holidays on your own.

7. Stop Worrying About What Could Go Wrong

The holidays can be a time to relax and enjoy the things and people you care about most, instead of a time to imagine all the things that could go wrong financially.

Begin easing financial anxieties by starting small. Create an emergency fund to help cover life’s unexpected expenses — like a surprise car repair or a high medical bill.

Then, come the New Year you can start thinking about the big stuff, like your financial plan. Review your financial and insurance needs with an advisor, so you can make sure you’re on track and protected.

To discuss all your insurance needs, contact an insurance advisor.


This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.