Science-based tips to help you enjoy the holidays

Dr. Claire Vowell
Publish Date

Contrary to the image of picture-perfect holidays presented on social media, television and in movies, not everyone enjoys this so-called “special” time of year. Despite widespread pressure to adopt a festive mindset, let’s face it, many of us have feelings that are less-than-positive about the season.

For some people, this is a time of the year to look forward to, but for others, getting through the holidays is a struggle. And there are numerous reasons why. Some people are reminded of loss. Others are worried about the expenses involved. Many feel pressure to put on a successful event and keep the peace while interacting with loved ones they may only see once a year (and don’t always get along with).

Whatever your reasons are for having mixed or even negative feelings about the holiday season, here are a few things you can do to feel more positive or at least relatively neutral about this time of year:

1. Focus on self-care

Make time to relax during the holidays. Find time each day to do something to take care of yourself. Self-care is an important part of safeguarding your mental health. And don’t forget the basics. Try to stay active, get enough sleep and eat well. For some guidance on using science-based techniques to unwind, try Foundations’ Master relaxation program.


2. Go for good-enough

Unrealistic hopes can lead to disappointment. Figure out what “good enough” would look like for you and your loved ones and scale down expectations. Let go of things that don’t work for you. If a particular tradition makes you unhappy or just isn’t fun anymore, think of ways to change it up, or get rid of it altogether. For example, if you worry about how much to spend on gifts, set a price limit with friends and family or agree to give to charity instead.

3. Acknowledge your feelings

Take time to acknowledge how you’re feeling. By noticing and labeling your thoughts and emotions, you start to take back control. This can help you feel better able to cope. Try to be specific and pinpoint exactly what’s going on. If you need help getting started with this process, Foundations’ Challenge your thoughts walks you through it step-by-step.

4. Don't withdraw entirely

If the holiday season is difficult for you, it can be tempting to shut yourself away and skip it altogether. But it’s important to resist isolating yourself, as this allows too much time to focus on negative feelings and can lead to a vicious cycle. The more we isolate, the worse we feel. A more balanced option may be to choose a few select events or activities to participate in on your own terms, and give yourself permission to sit out the rest.

5. Recognize when you may need more support

Don’t be afraid to let friends and family know you’re finding this holiday season hard. If “holiday blues” start to disrupt your work or relationships, it might be time to reach out for professional help.


Whether you love the holidays but often feel overwhelmed, or just plain don’t enjoy the season, we hope these tips help. Log in to Foundations and get further tips in our guide to coping and finding more joy (even if you typically dislike the holidays).

about the author

Dr. Claire Vowell

Counseling Psychologist

Claire is a Counseling Psychologist and is passionate about improving access to mental health care. She works with the content team to create evidence-based interventions to improve people's mental wellbeing.