The holiday season is often an overwhelming experience for many individuals. The combination of gift shopping, travel arrangements, and the expected anxiety of family and friends can create very stressful situations. Virginia Tech psychologist Rosanna Breaux shares her most effective tips for navigating seasonal stress. 

“Planning and prioritizing what activities are the most important is a better strategy than exhaustingly trying to do everything and ending up not enjoying it,” says Breaux, a professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech. “Setting boundaries and being able to decline invitations may help combat stress, especially if a party involves a person who is particularly triggering for you or a member of your family.”

In addition to the stress of planning, Breaux explains that financial pressures can add to potential anxiety. “For parents, expectations can range from getting the perfect gift for each child, with resulting financial pressures, to getting the perfect family holiday photo.”

“Being around triggering people, who may be family or friends, requires planning on how they will be handled and the anticipatory anxiety can often be more stressful than the experience of being around those people,” says Breaux. “Though for some get-togethers with coworkers, family, or friends may be very stressful.” 

To help reduce stress and limit extensive travel, Breaux suggests alternative gathering options like connecting with family via video call or group text when it’s not possible to be in person. Additionally, the holidays can bring about a sense of grief for those missing a loved one. 

“Holidays can make people, especially parents, feel grief for their own parents or loved ones who they may have lost,” says Breaux. “It may be good to include an activity that honors the memory of those who have been lost to keep them close during the holidays.”

Breaux says prioritizing self-care and staying on top of a consistent sleep schedule is a good habit to make during the holidays.“Poor self-care can make stress worse, but exercise and healthy sleep habits can reduce anxiety and improve mood and attention.” 

Additionally, she suggests people limit social media use and movies that can over-idealize the holiday season. 

- Written by Sarah Hern 

About Breaux

Rosanna Breaux is an assistant professor of psychology in the College of Science at Virginia Tech. She is also the director of the Child Study Center and CALMER Lab. Breaux's research focuses on the social, emotional, and academic functioning of children and adolescents, particularly those with ADHD. She is also interested in understanding the role parents play in shaping children and adolescent's social-emotional development, with a focus on emotion regulation. Additionally, Breaux is working to evaluate and disseminate the RELAX intervention, which targets emotion dysregulation and interpersonal conflict in adolescents.

Schedule an interview

To schedule an interview with Rosanna Breaux, contact Margaret Ashburn in the media relations office at or 540-529-0814.

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