Season of Stressing: The Impact of the Holidays on America’s Stress Level

Woman looking stressed out while shopping

Key Takeaways

  • Over half of respondents reported that the winter holiday season was more stressful than the rest of the year.
  • 38% of respondents were concerned about contracting COVID-19 during this holiday season.
  • The top three methods for avoiding stress during the holiday season were to begin shopping early, make a budget for gifts, and to make a list of all gifts beforehand.

Americans Attempt to Balance Holiday Stress and Holiday Cheer

The holiday season may be all about being merry, but the weeks leading up to it can be miserable and filled with anxiety. The seasonal gift-giving ritual has become a stressful task for all involved, and COVID has worsened matters. Everything has been affected, from the supply chain of various products to the complexities of bringing together vaccinated and unvaccinated guests.

Lack of time, lack of money, and the pressures of gift exchange all affect more than half of the American population, according to a recent study by the American Psychological Association. Experts have offered some solutions for dealing with the stress, but we wanted to investigate further.

So, we decided to ask over 1,000 people about the challenges they face when dealing with holiday stress. What are they doing to mitigate any negative feelings? How are they coping with the cost? Do they wait for Black Friday to buy gifts? We found some fascinating answers.

’Tis the Season to Be Stressed

We wanted to know which holidays were the most stressful and how planning affects stress levels. From organizing events to Black Friday shopping, we asked participants how they were planning to get everything done on time.

How stressed out are people during the holiday season

The majority of respondents chose Christmas as the most stressful holiday – putting it ahead of Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, which came in a distant second and third, respectively. More than half admitted to being more stressed during the holidays than the rest of the year. While early November was the most popular time to start getting ready for Christmas, 3 out of 4 respondents said they planned to start preparations earlier than normal this year.

One in 5 said they would buy some gifts on Black Friday, but almost half said they would not be relying on those sales for presents. 66% of respondents aged 56 and older said they would not rely on Black Friday shopping at all, the most of any age group. Additionally, younger respondents were more likely than older respondents to plan to shop for gifts on Black Friday. Of those planning to rely on Black Friday, 2 out of 3 were 56 years old or above. Additionally, the younger respondents were the more likely they were to rely on Black Friday sales for presents.

COVID Carols

We wanted to assess how COVID has affected the holidays this year. So we asked how the second pandemic year is shaping up in comparison to the first and how comfortable people feel attending holiday events.

How are people feeling about the risk of COVID this holiday season

One in 5 respondents expected this holiday season to be more stressful than last year’s. At the same time, more than a quarter said they were less stressed for their second pandemic-era holiday season.

Forty percent said they were OK with attending events with unmasked attendees as long as they also didn’t have to wear one. This percentage dropped to 25% when respondents were faced with the same scenario while wearing a mask. Overall, 38% said they were worried about contracting COVID-19 during the holidays.

(Not so) Happy Holidays

How does stress affect enjoyment of the holidays? Is there anyone who doesn’t enjoy the holidays at all? How is mental health affected during the holiday period? The answers were mixed at best.

How to cope with anxiety and depression during the holiday season

Even with increased stress levels, more than three in four respondents said they found the holidays at least somewhat enjoyable. Still, a small number of people (6%) said that they didn’t enjoy the holidays at all. The majority of respondents reported experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression at least sometimes during the holidays, with the most common symptom being the inability to sleep.

Women were found to be more stressed than men, and those with at least one child under the age of 18 were the most likely to be stressed. Those with four or more children came next. Surprisingly, people with no children were the third most likely group of people to be stressed.

How to Bring on the Good Times

After asking participants about the cause of their stress and how it affects them, we wanted to look for solutions. So, we quizzed respondents about their best coping mechanisms.

How people plan to prevent stress during the holiday season

The most effective preventative measure, according to our respondents, was to start shopping early. This was closely followed by creating a budget for gifts. Similarly, shopping early and creating spending limits were the two practices most often associated with experiencing no stress at all during the holiday season.

The top method for de-stressing was spending time alone, followed by indulging in the holiday mood, and pre-scheduling downtime. Planning more and committing less also made the list. Overall, respondents seemed to understand the need for self-care and the importance of taking some time out for reflection and relaxation during what can be a stressful time of the year.


The holidays need not be the most stressful time of year if we can just take our own advice. A little planning and prioritizing self-care can go a long way toward beating the holiday blues. It seems that it is never too early to start shopping for holiday gifts, and a little exploration of coupons and deals can result in significant savings, further adding to the merry mood.

With COVID complicating matters, perhaps it is time we take a step back and reevaluate what the holidays really mean to us – reconnecting and rejuvenating bonds of love and friendship. If the stress is starting to get to you, schedule some downtime and take it easy for a while. One great way to avoid stress is to save money and find deals on CouponFollow. Get the best discounts on the best gifts for all of the important people in your life.

Methodology and Limitations

We surveyed 1,106 respondents, 54% of which were women, and 46% were men. Additionally, 26% of respondents were aged 18 to 30, 22% were aged 31 to 40, 25% were aged 41 to 55, and 27% were 56 or older. To help ensure that all respondents took our survey seriously, they were required to identify and correctly answer an attention-check question. Nevertheless, there are problems with self-reported surveys that include but are not limited to selective memory, telescoping, and exaggeration.

Fair Use Policy

These findings are offered freely for the benefit of all readers. You are welcome to share them with your friends and family for noncommercial purposes, especially when talking to them about their holiday plans. All we request is that you give credit and link back to this article whenever you share its data.

about the author

Marc Mezzacca
Founder and CEO, CouponFollow
As the Founder and CEO of CouponFollow, Marc has a passion for helping consumers save time and money while shopping online. He’s been a bargain and deal hunter since the early 2000s.