Surviving the Holidays: Coping with Emotional Triggers

Surviving the Holidays: Coping with Emotional Triggers

The conviviality of the holiday season is often coupled with a maelstrom of emotions that can leave one reeling with stress, anxiety, and even depression. Emotional triggers, those situations or events that trigger an intense emotional response, can be especially complex to navigate during the holiday season. With an abundance of potential stressors, managing these triggers can feel like a Herculean feat.

Holiday triggers can take many forms, but some common examples include family conflicts, financial stress, grief and loss, loneliness, and social pressure. These triggers can lead to a range of emotional responses, including anger, sadness, anxiety, and even physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches.

Understanding the physiological response to stress is key to managing holiday triggers. When we are under stress, our bodies release a cascade of hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, which can lead to physical symptoms like increased heart rate and blood pressure, muscle tension, and shallow breathing. These physical symptoms can then exacerbate our emotional response, leading to a vicious cycle of stress and anxiety.

It's important to remember that emotional triggers are a natural part of being human, and everyone experiences them to some degree. However, it's also important to take steps to manage these triggers and prevent them from overwhelming us during the holiday season. In the following sections, we will explore some strategies for coping with holiday triggers, including mindful awareness, setting boundaries, self-care, and seeking support.

Strategies for Coping with Holiday Triggers

The holiday season can be a challenging time for many people, but there are a number of strategies that can help you cope with emotional triggers and make it through the holidays with your mental health intact. Here are some effective strategies to consider:

Mindful Awareness

One effective strategy for coping with holiday triggers is practicing mindful awareness. Mindfulness involves bringing your attention to the present moment and accepting it without judgment. This can be especially helpful during the holiday season when stress and anxiety can make it difficult to stay grounded in the present.

To practice mindful awareness, you can try:

  • Taking a few minutes each day to sit quietly and focus on your breath
  • Paying attention to your surroundings and using your senses to fully experience the moment
  • Engaging in activities that bring you into the present moment, such as yoga, meditation, or walking in nature

Setting Boundaries

Another important strategy for coping with holiday triggers is setting boundaries with family, friends, and coworkers. This can be especially important if you find yourself in situations that trigger anxiety, stress, or other negative emotions.

To set effective boundaries, you can try:

  • Identifying what triggers you and planning ahead for how you will respond
  • Communicating your boundaries clearly and assertively, using "I" statements instead of blaming or criticizing others
  • Being willing to compromise and negotiate when necessary, while also sticking to your limits and priorities


Self-care is another essential strategy for coping with holiday triggers. Taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually can help you build resilience and manage stress more effectively.

To practice self-care during the holidays, you can try:

  • Prioritizing healthy habits like exercise, healthy eating, and sleep hygiene
  • Engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as reading, watching movies, or taking a warm bath
  • Connecting with others and seeking support when you need it

Seeking Support

Finally, it's important to recognize that it's okay to seek support when you're dealing with holiday triggers. Whether it's talking to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional, seeking support can help you feel less alone and more empowered to manage your emotions.

To seek support during the holidays, you can try:

  • Reaching out to a friend or family member who is a good listener and who you feel comfortable talking to
  • Seeking out a therapist or counselor who specializes in coping with holiday stress and triggers
  • Participating in online support groups or forums where you can connect with others who are going through similar experiences.

By using these coping strategies, you can take control of your emotions and navigate the holiday season with more ease and resilience. Remember to be kind to yourself and to prioritize your mental health and well-being, both during the holidays and throughout the year.

Planning Ahead

One effective way to cope with holiday triggers is to plan ahead. By taking the time to anticipate potential stressors and develop a plan for how to manage them, you can reduce your overall stress and increase your sense of control during the holiday season. Here are some tips for planning ahead:

Identify Potential Triggers

The first step in planning ahead is to identify potential triggers that may arise during the holidays. These can include family conflicts, financial stress, social pressure, and other stressors that may be unique to your situation.

To identify potential triggers, you can try:

  • Reflecting on past holiday experiences and noting which situations or events were particularly stressful or triggering
  • Paying attention to your emotional reactions to different holiday-related situations or conversations
  • Seeking feedback from trusted friends or family members who can help you identify potential stressors that you may not be aware of.

Develop Coping Strategies

Once you have identified potential triggers, the next step is to develop coping strategies that can help you manage them. This may involve a combination of the strategies outlined in the previous section, such as mindfulness, setting boundaries, and self-care.

To develop effective coping strategies, you can try:

  • Brainstorming a list of coping strategies that have worked for you in the past, and considering how they might apply to the specific triggers you have identified
  • Consulting with a mental health professional who can help you develop a personalized coping plan based on your unique needs and strengths
  • Practicing different coping strategies ahead of time, so that you feel more confident and prepared when you encounter a trigger.

Communicate Your Plan

Finally, it's important to communicate your plan to others who may be affected by your coping strategies. This can help you avoid misunderstandings or conflicts, and can also help you build a support system of people who are aware of your needs and can help you stick to your plan.

To communicate your plan effectively, you can try:

  • Using "I" statements to express your needs and boundaries, rather than blaming or criticizing others
  • Being clear and specific about what you need and why it's important to you
  • Being open to feedback and negotiation, while also being firm about your priorities and limits.

By planning ahead and developing effective coping strategies, you can increase your resilience and reduce your overall stress during the holiday season. Remember to be kind to yourself, and to prioritize your mental health and well-being, both during the holidays and throughout the year.