How To Stress Less And Find More Happiness During The Holidays

It is no secret that the end-of-year holiday season is a festive and exciting time for many people. That is because it's often filled with delicious foods and drinks, quality time with friends and family, parties, gift-giving, and holiday cheer. While this season can certainly be a time of joy and excitement, however, it can also be quite stressful for many of us (via Mayo Clinic).

Many of the chores and activities that go into celebrating the holidays, such as cooking, shopping, cleaning, and entertaining guests, can be overwhelming and lead to undue stress and anxiety.

In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Dr. Maike Neuhaus, a mental well-being and self-leadership expert, also known as the "flourishing doc," tells us just how common it really is to feel stress during the holiday season, and what you can do to help lower your levels of stress during this time of year.

How common is it to feel more stressed during the holiday season?

According to Neuhaus, it is actually "very common" to experience an influx of stress during the holidays. As it turns out, about 1 in 2 people feel more stressed during the holiday season than they do the rest of the year, while nearly 1 in 5 people feel very stressed. The reasons for this stress, however, can vary from person to person.

"For some it's because of the added pressure at work to meet deadlines before the end of the year," Neuhaus says. "For others, it can be the extra cost of having to buy gifts for loved ones or the pressure of having to find the right gifts."

In addition, the added pressure of feeling the need to be happy and merry during the holidays can also increase your stress levels. That's because trying to force yourself to be happy can often have the opposite effect, which is known as the happiness paradox.

"Some people also experience loneliness, which is often amplified during the festive season," Neuhaus shares. "And some simply struggle when the family comes together, the expectations family members may have, and the personal boundaries that are often disrespected."

How can this stress affect your mental health?

Believe it or not, there are actually two different types of stress: eustress and distress. While eustress is seen as positive stress, distress has a more negative connotation.

"When added stress is viewed as a challenge, it is usually experienced as something positive and can lead to higher performance," Neuhaus explains. "However, the above-mentioned challenges are often experienced as distress instead, and that has detrimental consequences for our health and mental well-being."

As a matter of fact, research has shown that distress can negatively affect your mood and quality of sleep. "If distress is experienced over prolonged period of time, it can lead to depression and anxiety," Neuhaus adds.

It can also impact your physical health and activate your fight-or-flight response, which can cause you to become irritable and emotionally disengaged. This can take a toll on both your personal and professional relationships and worsen your mental health.

What can you do to reduce stress and improve your mood?

According to Neuhaus, there are three main tips you can follow to help lower your stress levels and improve your mood during the holiday season: accept, regulate, and communicate.

"By accept, I mean simply being open and aware to the fact that the holiday season is stressful for many and to monitor one's own feelings," Neuhaus explains. "This is important because we often think that we shouldn't feel overwhelmed or that we have 'nothing to complain about.'"

Regulate, on the other hand, means taking action to help improve and stabilize your mood. For instance, implementing some good lifestyle habits into your daily routine, like exercising, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, and getting a good night's sleep, can greatly benefit both your mental and physical health and well-being. You can also help reduce stress by meditating, engaging in breathing exercises, practicing mindfulness, or even just savoring a cup of coffee or tea in the morning.

Lastly, Neuhaus recommends communicating your feelings of stress with someone, whether that person is a friend, family member, or therapist. "Many people find it helpful to practice communicating their personal boundaries, so that they're better equipped for conversations with family members during the festivities," she shares.

To learn more about Dr. Maike Neuhaus, visit and or find her on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook.