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Dealing With Holiday Stress When You’re Sensitive

holiday shoppers

“When we’re sensitive to other people’s emotions and struggles, holidays bring extra challenges.”

Carol Burbank, Ph.D. continues:

“Winter celebrations bring their own craziness, the joy/grief cycle of memory, reunions and rituals that touch everyone to the core.

“Just riding our own rollercoaster is enough! But when we are empathic, we sense everyone else’s wild ride, too!”

She provides several suggestions, including:

“Plan – and take some time to make your home nest beautiful. Make a place where you can feel grounded and have the cozy space you need.

“Choose a few places to create order out of chaos, and decorate the rest with love. I just cleared out my office, recycling a lot of paper and creating a fresh space for my writing, thinking and planning.

“What a difference it makes, to sit down and write my Christmas cards on a clean, empty desk. The rest of the house? – well, let’s just say, a quick sweep and a few pine boughs were enough to bring in the holiday feeling.”

Read more in the article Slow Holidays: A Survival Guide for Sensitives, HSPs and Empaths.

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Part of the value of the trait of high sensitivity is that it includes a strong tendency to be more aware of our inner emotional states, which can make for richer and more profound creative work as writers, musicians, actors or other artists.

A greater response to pain, discomfort, and physical experience can mean sensitive people have the potential, at least, to take better care of our health.

But it can also bring extra challenges during holidays.

Psychologist Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person and a series of related titles, estimates about twenty percent of people are highly sensitive, and seventy percent of those are introverted, which is a related trait that can make socializing an energy depleting experience, at any time of year.

In addition to her book, you can learn more about the trait on her site Highly Sensitive Person, which includes a self-test.

[Also see my site Highly Sensitive and Creative and Facebook page Highly Sensitive and Creative.]

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Thanksgiving-SNL-SpecialDr. Aron wrote in an issue of her newsletter about holiday season challenges – especially for highly sensitive people, but her perspectives can be helpful for anyone. She wrote:

“You know what you have to do: Fight the commercialization, which affects you as it creeps in, presenting things you can feel expected to do because everyone else does.

“Think consciously and deliberately how you will make this a meaningful time for you and others.

“At the same time, watch your expectations, fueled by memories and media (and me) that this should be a wonderful family time or especially meaningful spiritually–it may not be possible to find meaning right then, given the stress of the season.”

She points out the holidays have more than religious and commercial meanings:

“If you aren’t religious, think about the symbolic/archetypal meaning, always there, in this season of darkness turning to light and the birth of hope.

“Don’t take on too much, especially if you are already doing all you can in the time you’ve got. Make a budget for gifts and food, and stick to it.”

Read more in my article Elaine Aron on holiday stress relief for sensitive people.

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Ryerson University published a list of suggestions (via Medical News Today), including these:

“Make time for you: People often forget to prioritize themselves throughout the year and it gets even worse over the holidays.

“Take some time just for yourself. If you haven’t had a chance to do this during the day, set aside time before bed to wind down and relax. Even a half hour walk or soak in the tub at the end of the day will make a world of difference.”

The article adds, “If you find yourself lying in bed with visions of budgets, menus and obligations running through your head get out of bed. Leave your room to find something that relaxes you and return to bed when you are sleepy.

“Being upset or awake in the place where you should be finding rest can lead to longer term associations between your bed and stress and anxiety.”

Read more in post Minimize Your Stress This Holiday Season.

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An article by HeartMath notes:

“The holidays can be a very happy and a very rewarding time of year. Yet not everyone will feel overwhelmingly jolly during the holidays.

“There are different degrees of happiness that we may feel — and we won’t always have uplifting moments at the exact same time as others.

“Everyone’s mental, emotional and physical energies have different rhythms. Some may have more buoyancy and excitement, while others may be feeling quieter or more reflective.

“Whatever the rhythm, having acceptance of how we’re feeling can release any inner pressure we can put on ourselves or on each other because of what we think we ‘should’ feel.”

From article Holiday Rhythms.

[Click to read more of this article and others, and see info on HeartMath tools for emotional health.]


Also see my page:

Emotional Health Resources pageEmotional Health Resources

Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional wellbeing.


Dealing With Holiday Stress When You’re Sensitive

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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Emotional Health Resources - Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional wellbeing.

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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2015). Dealing With Holiday Stress When You’re Sensitive. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Dec 2015
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.