How Can the Holidays Negatively Impact Mental Health

How Can the Holidays Negatively Impact Mental Health

The holiday season negatively impacts mental health for as many as one-third of Americans. Even as the holidays approach, people can experience a significant increase in anxiety and angst. There is a noticeable increase in stress levels around the holidays because of elements like:

  • Tension in family relationships
  • The pressure of shopping and gift-giving
  • Financial strain
  • Travel obligations
  • Parties
  • Alcohol consumption 
  • Unrealistic expectations to be happy
  • Loneliness or grief

During the holidays, 64 percent of those living with a mental health disorder experience worsened symptoms.

How Holidays Negatively Impact Mental Health

So, how do holidays negatively impact mental health conditions beyond just raising anxiety over shopping?


There’s often a lot of cheer around the holiday season and stigma associated with people who don’t feel the holiday spirit. If you are struggling with depression, there can be a lot of pressure to be social and happy even if you don’t feel like it. This can cause worsening symptoms because you may feel left out of traditions.


The holiday season can be particularly troublesome for those who are living with loneliness, grief, or trauma. During the holiday season, it’s easy to compare your situation to that of other people, which can exacerbate those feelings.

Holiday traditions might seem inauthentic if you have just experienced significant loss or if you are dealing with PTSD. You don’t have to force yourself to celebrate, or you can change your traditions to meet the changes in your life.


Stress comes in many forms during the holiday, but for some people, it relates to gift-giving. If you have a strained budget, you might experience feelings of guilt or shame that you are unable to provide extravagant gifts during the season. But what matters most is setting realistic expectations and being honest. You don’t have to get caught up in the marketing of the holidays. That only leads to increased anxiety.

How to Cope with the Negative Impact of Holidays on Mental Health

If your holidays negatively impact your mental health, there are steps you can take to control the extent of that impact.

Set Boundaries

First, set personal boundaries. The holiday season often has conflicting obligations and several invitations or demands for family events.

You need to set boundaries and simplify things.

Even though you want to make a pie from scratch using a fancy lattice crust, you might not have time, and simply buying a dessert from the store is perfectly acceptable.

Even though you want to attend every party, it’s perfectly okay to say no and to prioritize the things that help you stay emotionally balanced rather than the things that take away your energy.

Practice Mindfulness

Of course, there are still several situations where holidays negatively impact mental health no matter what you do. For that reason, practicing techniques like mindfulness or meditation can give you tools to deal with issues like travel delays, traffic, unexpectedly bad weather, or family tension.

You can learn to do simple meditations when you are driving, walking, eating, or just preparing to leave your home for the day, knowing that shopping will be chaotic.

Getting Help

Just because the holiday season negatively impacts mental health doesn’t mean you have to suffer through it. If you are struggling with the complexities of family relationships, high stress, gift-giving expectations, or even loneliness and isolation, you can reach out for professional help.

There may be situations where mindfulness, meditation, or other coping skills are insufficient because you need legitimate treatment for an underlying mental health condition or co-occurring substance abuse.

Top-tier mental health treatment centers like Water Gap Wellness Center can provide flexible mental health programs with a range of evidence-based and holistic programs. 

Water Gap Wellness Center, a mental health retreat in Pennsylvania, offers outpatient mental health services and substance abuse treatment. We provide treatment for anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more.

When clients come to our facility for treatment they can enjoy customized plans that take into consideration any dual diagnosis concerns and provide viable coping skills for long-term success and stability.

The holidays are a stressful time for everyone, especially those who have mental health disorders. If you are struggling with mental health disorders or feeling particularly anxious or depressed during the holidays, there are things you can do to cope with the stress. Above all, you can always turn to professional help no matter the time of year.

Call our team today to learn more about what you can do during the holidays if you are struggling with grief, depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health conditions

About WGWC

Water Gap Wellness Center offers expert and compassionate treatment for mental health and substance abuse at our Pennsylvania facility, just outside New Jersey, a short drive from New York. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you today. 

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