Nia Clark
8 min readNov 17, 2019


Don’t let the stress of the holidays get you down. Millennials are proving that the holidays don’t have to be overwhelming.

We’re often told that the holiday season is a time when we’re supposed to reflect on gratitude and spend quality time with loved ones. Sometimes, however, we loose sight of that and let the stress of “the most wonderful time of year” get the best of us. Try feeling warm and fuzzy inside while worrying about what gifts to buy or fighting with your little sister about whose going to wash the dishes. Once I became an adult and began my career in television news, the holidays seemed to take a back set to my daily responsibilities and my odd work schedule, which included working nights, weekends, and yes, holidays. Now that I’m married, it seems as if my husband and I spend more time going back with our families about whose house we’re going to visit on each holiday, rather than actually enjoying the time we spend with them.

Like many Millennials, my life isn’t structured in a way that makes it as easy to enjoy the holidays as is it may have been for my parents. A demanding, unconventional work schedule coupled with feelings of “burn out” don’t help. And lets face it, we may love our family members, but sometimes they can drive us nuts! They often know exactly what buttons to press. Visiting them for the holidays may require a lot of mental preparation. Many of my peers concur. At least one in 10 Millennials wish their in-laws don’t have enough space for them at their holiday gatherings accouding to Refinery29. Disclaimer: I was not a part of that survey.

However, this year I resolved to remove the stress from the equation of this season and instead spend the time creating happy, pleasant memories with those I love the most. Having little luck in this area in the past, I wanted to know how other Millennials who struggle with balancing “adulting” and this season are tackling this issue. I found that Millennials like myself are setting trends that are changing the face of the holiday season and in many cases, making it easier to spread some holiday cheer. This is the topic of the latest episode of my podcast, The Skooled Millennial.

Turns out I’m among a growing number of Millennials who can’t get home on every holiday. In a recent study by, the majority of Millennials surveyed (84%) said they would like to spend the holidays with their families. However, a majority (86%) also said they have spent holidays away from their families. And more than half (54%) said their families made them feel guilty for not going home for the holidays.

In response to this challenge, many Millennials are finding other ways to have “family time.” More than 3 in 5 (62%) have video called their family during the holidays. Nearly half (47%) have visited their families at another time when travel was cheaper. Nearly 1 in 3 (29%) have had their families visit them. I have done the last two options while living away from my family earlier in my career and it definitely helped lift my spirits and decrease the burden of traveling home for the holidays. Especially, as a young adult struggling to make ends meet.

Alternatively, many Millennials reported spending the holidays with a significant other (52%) when they can’t make it home. But for a growing number of Millennials, holiday dining isn’t just a family affair. Many are also celebrating the holidays with friends(18%). In recent years more Millennials have started hosting “Friendsgiving” during the Thanksgiving period. Research shows that hosting friends before the actual holiday has become popular among young adults. This is a great alternative if you can’t get home for the holidays or if you just want to avoid talking politics with your relatives over the dinner table. If you’re interested, Chowhound and Taste of Home have a great “Friendsgiving” guide.

The same study found that some Millennials (12%) worked during the holidays (been there, done that many times) while others celebrated alone (8%). Having experienced all of the above at some point in my career, I would recommend being around at least someone you enjoy spending time with — friends or family — during this time of year to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can lead to depression. This is especially true for those who already suffer from mental health illnesses. However, if you’re someone who has trouble avoiding conflict with family members during the holidays, video calls may not be such a bad idea. Insert smiley face emoji here.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Another great way to stay stress-free is to prioritize your wants and needs during this season. While it’s true that a majority of Millennials still enjoy opening presents and cooking, many are spending time doing things that make them happy. A study by published in 2018 shows that Gen Z and Millennials like to spend their holidays watching holiday movies (62%), listening to holiday music (62%), baking (60%), playing games (39%), and napping (50%).

Photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash

A study by Fandango shows that Millennials, have turned out in force at cinemas in recent years during the holiday season. The company said that Millennials continue to be a big part of their user base, with 41% of its monthly audience, comprising some 22 million customers, hailing from that age group. Whatever your choice of fun or self-care, now is a great time to indulge.

If you are able to be with loved ones this season, setting realistic goals can make all the difference when it comes to how much you enjoy the time you spend with them. For example, instead of cooking a big meal for every holiday, try dining out. Millennials are actually changing the game when it comes to holiday dining.

Photo by Natanael Cuenca on Unsplash

Data compiled by CAKE, a Sysco-owned technology company, finds that while Thanksgiving remains an eat-at-home occasion, more people are choosing to dine out during the season’s other holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Independent restaurants that stayed open those holidays in 2015 increased profits by 40 to 50 percent compared to average days, according to CAKE data. Millennials may be the ones to thank for that. Bank of America data shows that compared to 2014, people between 18 and 34 spent 6% more at restaurants on Christmas Eve in 2015: more than diners in all other age groups. Millennials also spent 4% more than the previous year while eating out on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

If you’re a cash-strapped Millennial, no need to look for coins under the couch cushion or on your car floor. Lizzie Post, author of “How Do You Work This Life Thing?” and spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute has some suggestions. A holiday card expressing your love and gratitude for someone special is thoughtful enough if you can’t afford a gift. If you can afford gifts for some family members but not others, stick to buying gifts for immediate family members first. Post also suggests asking relatives what they want and “gently” suggesting a cheaper alternative. This is great advice that can take some of the financial stress out of the holiday shopping experience.

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

It’ s important to keep in mind that the holiday season can be a tricky emotional time for some people. Those who get to spend the holidays with their families and loved ones are fortunate. Others aren’t as lucky, perhaps because they don’t have any family members to celebrate the holidays with. Others may be estranged from their families. Some feel nostalgic and happy thinking about all of the warm holiday meals and or fun trips spent away with loved ones during this time of year. For others, this season triggers unpleasant memories and feelings, particularly for those who have complicated relationships with relatives and may feel isolated and alone. The emotional ramifications of tragic circumstances may also be brought to mind during the holidays if one reflects on those who are no longer here to celebrate with them. When I was a young child I lost several loved ones during this time of year within months of one another. So my personal feelings are mixed during the holidays.

The responsibility also falls on each individual to make a clear assessment of their own emotions during this time of year. This can be especially helpful for couples who plan to spend the holidays together. In fact it can make all the difference.

Here’s a few helpful gems for couples during this holiday season courtesy of clinical psychologist, speaker and thought leader, Dr. Christina Hibbert.

  1. Be honest about your expectations and alter them if you have to. If your expectations are unrealistic, that’s a recipe for failure. Compare your expectations with your loved ones. If, on the other hand, your expectations, are realistic, be sure to communicate them as well. Honesty is the best policy.
  2. Pay attention to your heart. This will help you make more compassionate, loving choices not only for others, but for yourself as well. This may include not trying to please everyone. Pleasing someone and loving them are not the same.
  3. Boundaries are good things. “Healthy boundaries = healthy relationships.” They allow us to be honest about our needs and feelings while keeping us protected so that we can continue to be loving and kind. Setting healthy boundaries can be a loving action.

For more on Dr. Christina Hibbert’s “Holiday Stress Relationship Survival Guide,” visit her website here.

And to be a part of our conversation on this topic and many more, check out my podcast, The Skooled Millennial.



Nia Clark

TV Reporter, Millennial Expert, Podcast Host, Blogger