Holiday dream: You spend Christmas Eve drinking hot cocoa and playing Scrabble in front of the fireplace with your family while wearing matching sweaters.

Holiday reality: You spend Christmas Eve in a fight with your sister while your mom alienates your new boyfriend and you hurriedly wrap up a candle for your dad because you forgot to buy him a present.

Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year. “Generally, the holiday season is a time of joy and family gatherings and celebrations,” says Dr. Katy Kamkar, a psychologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. “But it can also be a stressful time because of the variety of demands we have. The number of social obligations, family, friends and holiday parties; sometimes we might feel overwhelmed and exhausted.”

READ MORE: The value of a pre-holiday detox

Also causing that tight feeling in your chest:

Financial stress: Is anyone else panicking about how much they’ve spent on presents so far?

Travel: Whether it’s weather delays, fear of flying or simply driving to three different houses for dinners in one day, travel can be a moodkiller during the holidays.

Family: Then there’s the general Christmas melancholy you can feel you’ve lost a loved one or are mourning a past relationship.

The result? Stress overload. We got the experts to spill on how to feel better.


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