7 Causes of Holiday Anxiety

Knowing the causes of holiday anxiety can help you deal with them. Here are seven holiday anxiety causes that might make your anxiety soar during the holidays.

The day the calendar turns to November, and often well before that, many people begin to experience holiday anxiety. There are legitimate, and numerous, reasons for this. The seven causes of holiday anxiety discussed below are common. They can cause anxiety in people who don’t have anxiety disorders, and they can magnify existing anxiety disorders to such a degree that they cause people to question their sanity. Understanding the causes of holiday anxiety can reduce your anxiety and allow you to actually enjoy yourself this holiday season.

This list of seven holiday anxiety causes isn’t comprehensive. To be sure, there are very personal reasons people feel anxious during this holiday season. These seven are common to many. See which ones you recognize.

7 Common Causes of Holiday Anxiety

  1. People pleasing: It’s the holidays, and you want to make them special for those in your life. (Or, they want you to make it special and you don’t know how to say "no.") With everyone making their own demands on you, anxiety will result and climb ever higher. Even when the demands are made kindly, having so many people to please is stressful.
  2. Feeling torn between different families/people/groups: Families want to spend holidays together. What happens, though, when different “sides” of the family are doing different things? What happens when you and your partner each have parents who want to see both of you? What happens when your aunt is having Thanksgiving dinner for the whole family, and a dear friend has invited you to her Thanksgiving dinner. Worrying about letting people down is a big cause of holiday anxiety.
  3. Family problems: The holidays don’t magically transform families into perfectly functional groups of people. Quite the contrary, holiday stress can bring out the worst in everybody. Existing family problems seem to worsen. Strife and turmoil in families cause incredible stress and anxiety.
  4. Financial worries: This is an expensive time of year. Normal expenses are still there, and new ones are added. Food, party supplies, and gifts are just the tip of the iceberg. When you spend beyond your means, or even more than you want to spend, anxiety soars.
  5. Pressure to do it all, perfectly: If you’re a perfectionist, this is definitely a problem. Even if you’re not a perfectionist, the holidays can swoop you up and make you get carried away. You want the holidays to be magical, so you place tremendous expectations on yourself to make that magic happen. The result is extreme stress and anxiety.
  6. Unrealistic visions of the perfect holiday: Movies, television, websites, magazines, and even catalogs depict the ideal holiday. The food is delectable. The decorations are award-worthy. Everyone is smiling and laughing. Differences are set aside. Everyone is so happy, including you. These depictions, however, aren’t real life. When we pressure ourselves to achieve unrealistic expectations, we end up anxious and disappointed.
  7. Triggers: Sometimes, things in our own personal life, past or present, surface during this time of year. Stress and anxiety are already running rampant, so it’s easy for these memories to surface and cause more anxiety.

Holiday Anxiety Has Causes, and Solutions

These seven things are among the most common and the most intense causes of holiday anxiety. Anxiety threatens to ruin the holiday experience for all who experience it. It does threaten to ruin a holiday, but a threat is nothing more than thoughts we react to.

You can address the causes of your holiday anxiety and enjoy your season. The next post will look at how to do it.

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2017, November 2). 7 Causes of Holiday Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Shelley Fredenburg
November, 17 2017 at 2:52 am

None of the above fit me. For all intents and purposes I have no family. I live in total isolation. On days that I don't work I speak to no one except my cat. I have lost all social skills because of my isolation. One year I tried to volunteer to serve elderly or homeless people meals and was told they have enough help for this year. I took this very personally and was devastated. It did support my belief that I don't fit in this world.

Dr Musli Ferati
November, 10 2017 at 5:19 pm

Holiday as uncommon psycho-social experiences includes different stressful interpersonal oppositeness that may cause anxiety and other reactive mental disorders such are depression, acute psychosis etc. Your seven depicted psycho-social turmoils indicate important and substantial precondition to anxiety as reflection to holiday exultation. So it is advisable to be prepare mentally and emotionally to avoid serious and annoying interpersonal misunderstandings and quarrels to the good of traumatic outcomes. However, it ought to know that holidays solemnities exhibit great opportunity to soften common and boredom life problems among frequent and surplus social relationships. it is value to use this psycho-social benefit of holiday input. In this way we shall prevent hard psycho-social traumas of holiday and improve our social skills, as crucial step to better mental statement. In consequence, it should be more prone and relax to new interpersonal experiences, in order to find out new friend and acceptable ways to friendships connections. This light site of holidays must use to overcome holidays anxiety and to fortify personal social network, as well.

Nancy Vermeren
November, 8 2017 at 5:31 am

Thank you.

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