5 tips to help manage holiday stress during COVID-19

For some, the holidays are a joyful time, but a long to-do list of planning, shopping and social obligations may add a lot of pressure. Throw COVID-19 concerns into the mix, and it may lead to feelings of stress. The good news is, you may be able to help manage these feelings with a few practical steps. 

First, it may be helpful to identify when these moments of stress pop up, as prolonged, high levels may contribute to health problems such as high blood pressure, digestive issues, anxiety and depression. Understanding how and when these feelings arise may help you prepare a proactive approach to protecting your mental well-being. 

woman holding hand to head looking stressed


Ann Marie O’Brien, R.N., national director of health strategies at UnitedHealthcare, shares the following tips that may help reduce your stress and lead to a more enjoyable holiday season. 

  1. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers. Financial pressures and personal demands may cause stress during the holidays. Know your limits and stick to them so you can avoid a potential issue before it arises. Plan ahead and set a budget to help. When it comes to social demands, learn to say no to help avoid becoming overbooked.
  2. Give yourself a break. In the midst of doing things for others, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. If you feel stress building up, self-care may be the remedy. Find ways to release tension by enjoying the things you love about this season, like watching holiday movies or taking a brief walk to look at holiday lights. Spending even 15 minutes to unwind may help you recharge.
  3. Make time for your health. In the holiday rush, don’t forget about your healthy lifestyle habits. Try to stick to your normal sleep schedule, incorporate healthier foods, get regular exercise and be cautious of how much you are indulging. Going overboard may add to your stress and guilt.
  4. Check your health plan benefits. If you are struggling to manage your mental health during the holidays, consider looking at resources through your health plan benefits. Some insurers, like UnitedHealthcare, offer behavioral health care programs that can range from caring for your mental health to treatment for substance abuse. You may also have access to virtual resources to help you cope with stress, anxiety and depression, like Sanvello. If it feels like you’re not able to get a handle on your stress, talk to your doctor.  
  5. Enjoy, even if it’s virtually. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the holidays may look a bit different this year. If you or your loved ones aren’t able to meet in person, make a plan to celebrate virtually. This may help reduce feelings of isolation or loneliness, plus relieve the pressure of in-person gathering. Most importantly, it’ll help keep everyone safe and included in special memories. 

Taking these steps may help prevent and manage the feelings of stress that arise. A little planning and self-care may help you focus on the joy of your holiday season.