Many employees are checked out at work by mid-December, creating a not-so-jolly time for productivity. The holiday season is supposed to be a joyful time full of celebrations with family and friends. But for many people, “the most wonderful time of year” brings holiday anxiety, stress and the blues. According to the American Psychological Association, 44% of women and a third of men report increased stress around the holidays. To some, the holidays are filled with anticipation and joy as they celebrate with coworkers, friends and family. For others worry over spending and debt or being alone, the holidays are filled with loneliness, anxiety and fear. 

Three Tips To Overcome Fear of Holiday Parties

The thought of attending an office gathering sends some employees into panic mode. Seeing colleagues out the normal routine or those you haven’t seen in a while, meeting new people and trying to make small talk can make for a long evening, according to Dr. Sean Leonard, psychiatric nurse practitioner atHealthy Life Mental Health Center. He offers three tips to ease anxiety and overcome fear of a holiday get-together. 

1. Choose gatherings that make you feel comfortable, and remember you are allowed to decline an invite. 

2. Give yourself a time limit that you have to stay. But if you’re not enjoying yourself after that time is up (around 30 to 45 minutes), give yourself permission to leave.

3. Before the social gathering, contact a friend to help you face a large crowd. 

Seven Healthy Living Tips During The Holidays

It can be stressful to take actions necessary to promote health, well-being and the pursuit of a positive lifestyle. Best-selling author and registered dietitian Nichole Andrews shared tips with me on healthy living during the holidays whether you’re traveling, hosting festivities or feeling isolated:

  1. Don’t be afraid to say no. Andrews says the holidays are a great time to practice your boundary setting skills. Instead of focusing on what you could or “should” do, she recommends focusing on how you truly want to spend your time.
  2. Step away from work completely. Andrews reminds us that downtime is critical to prevent burnout and lower stress. “Trying to answer one more email while cooking the turkey or wrapping presents won’t serve you well in the long run,” she points out. “Instead, focus on truly disconnecting. Put your out of office message on your email and stay out of the office. We all like to think we are great at multitasking, but we have limited cognitive capacity, especially during times of stress. So attempting to constantly switch between multiple activities will only lessen our effectiveness in each of those areas.”
  3. Plan time each day to focus on you. Andrews suggests prioritizing something from the Healthy Mind Platter to provide the balance and self-care we need to lower our threat level and maintain our cognitive capacity.
  4. Make a plan. Andrews agrees that when we feel lonely, it’s easy to sit and wallow in our loneliness. Instead of just sitting around, she recommends actively planning activities that bring you joy. “Going to the movies, catching up on a good book, starting that podcast you’ve been hearing about and going into the holiday season with a list of things you want to accomplish can help mitigate feelings of isolation.” 
  5. Talk to co-workers about their plans. The author advocates planning a ‘friendsgiving’ or some type of gathering for team members who may not have other plans. She notes that many people relocate for jobs so they may not have a social circle in their new city, but we all still crave that connection. 
  6. Plan a vacation or staycation. The holidays are great times to travel to tourist areas that tend to be less crowded since so many people stay home or spend time with relatives. She suggests finding that resort you’ve wanted to check out and enjoy.
  7. Focus on self-care. Andrews reminds us that having time away from work is a great time to get massages, do your nails, exercise or binge that show you’ve wanted to see. But, if work is your happy place, she proposes that you volunteer to cover the office and take time off at a date that is more convenient for you.

Five Ways To Set Intentions For The Holidays

Dr. Rafaat Girgis, psychologist and clinical director at Moment of Clarity, told me by email that it’s important to set intentions about ways to tolerate something that causes unpleasant memories or feelings of sadness or depression. He offers ways to conduct the intention of being comfortable with where you are and what you’re doing during holiday celebrations.

1. Avoid assumptions and expectations.Girgis notes that there are times that we suffer unnecessarily by making assumptions or have fear of expectations. “It is important to set personal and external boundaries during holidays or celebrations that leave you feeling less than comfortable or happy,” Girgis says. “Know yours and others expectations and what you’re willing to participate in. Do not make assumptions that others expect something you are uncomfortable with. More importantly, know your financial limitations and make decisions on how much you are spending this holiday.” 

2. Be clear in your communication.Kindly and clearly state what works for you with no explanations or stories of why, Girgis states. “Only participate in what you are comfortable with and set the proper ground for open discussion, making sure to evaluate your personal needs and create an atmosphere for acceptance.” 

3. Refrain from repeating the Christmas past. We know from past experiences how holiday celebrations have left us feeling about gathering or spending them alone or with non-family members. Girgis recommends that you decide how you want to celebrate and create for yourself the holiday of your liking. Listen to your inner voice that guides your choices and make the one that is right for you.

4. Practice self-care.It’s important to know and honor your personal space. Girgis believes when you focus on what helps you feel brighter and at peace, you know how to match your holiday time with your needs. “When we compromise our needs and find ourselves out of sorts or uncomfortable, that is the cost of self-care, self honor,” he declares. “When you honor yourself you are honoring others.”

5. Make requests.Girgis suggests that you give yourself permission to make a request that would help you find joy and happiness. “Speak to your family or friends or others and ask for a ride or a certain dish, or make a suggestion of something important to you,” he advises. “Be willing to accept their response and discuss what your needs are and what you prefer.”


  • Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Journalist, psychotherapist, and Author of 40 books.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest books are CHAINED TO THE DESK IN A HYBRID WORLD: A GUIDE TO WORK-LIFE BALANCE (New York University Press, 2023)#CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow, 2019), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a regular contributor to, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC's World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary "Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself." website: