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Holiday stress can take a major toll on health and well-being

The holiday season, often hailed as “the most wonderful time of the year,” paradoxically emerges as a period of heightened stress and neglect of personal health, according to the results of a new survey by the American Heart Association

The study highlights a worrying trend: the significant impact of holiday stress on healthy habits, a stark contrast to the festive cheer typically associated with this time.

Alarming new insights

The American Heart Association’s survey, conducted in December 2023 with U.S. adults nationwide, reveals startling insights into how holiday stress affects health and well-being.


A striking 63% of respondents find that the holiday season is more stressful than tax season, indicating the extensive pressure that is felt by individuals.

“Balancing work, family, finances and everyday obligations, while trying to fit in festive events that make this time of year special becomes overwhelming and induces chronic stress for many,” says the report. 

Post-holiday stress

More than half (51%) of Americans report it takes them weeks to de-stress after the holidays. This statistic is even more pronounced among mothers, with over a quarter indicating a recovery time of one month or more.


More than 70 percent of participants regret not taking time to relax and enjoy the season, highlighting a common pitfall of getting caught up in holiday preparations and activities.

Neglect of healthy habits

The top three things that respondents have trouble prioritizing during the holiday season are eating, sleeping, and exercising. Overall, 69% report not eating well, 64% say they fail to exercise regularly, and 56% lack adequate sleep during the holidays.


Alarmingly, 79% admit to being so focused on creating special moments for others that they overlook their own needs during the holidays.

Ripple effects of holiday stress

Dr. Glenn N. Levine is a volunteer with the American Heart Association and chair of the 2021 Psychological Health, Well-Being, and the Mind-Heart-Body Connection scientific statement. He warns of the long-term health impacts of chronic stress. 

“Chronic stress can negatively impact both your long-term mental and physical health in many ways if left unmanaged,” said Dr. Levine. “The holidays are an easy time to justify putting off healthy habits, but it’s important to manage chronic stress and other risk factors to stay healthy during the holiday season and into the New Year.”

The survey results resonate with his caution, suggesting that the holiday-induced stress may have deeper and more lasting implications than previously thought.

Tips for managing holiday stress

Recognizing the challenges, the American Heart Association offers practical advice to manage holiday stress:

  • Eat smart – Eat reasonable portions and think about what colorful fruits and vegetables you can add to your plate versus foods to avoid.
  • Move more – Physical activity is one of the best ways to manage stress, so aim to take a short walk each day. Any amount of movement counts.
  • Sleep well – Quality sleep can influence your mood, eating habits, memory and more. Experiment with setting an alarm reminding you to silence your phone notifications and wind down.

According to the report, connecting with others is one of the most important aspects of the holiday season:

“Whenever you or a loved one begins to feel stressed, make sure to express your feelings and lean upon each other for support, so you can enjoy the holidays together with lighter, healthier hearts.”

Healthier holidays ahead

The analysis serves as a crucial reminder of the need to balance holiday cheer with personal well-being. By adopting simple, healthy habits and maintaining open communication, individuals can navigate the holiday season without stress.

The AHA’s Healthy for GoodTM initiative provides further resources and tips at to support individuals in managing holiday stress and maintaining heart-healthy habits.

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