15 ways to beat holiday stress
Tip/Thought of the Day

15 Ways To Beat Holiday Stress

While ‘tis the season to be merry, for many of us, it’s also a season for stress, anxiety and angst, which leads us to behave in ways we’re sure to regret later. In fact, the American Psychological Association found that nearly half of the United States experiences heightened emotions during the holidays. Which is why we often resort to bad habits. Studies show that 41% of people choose food and 28% choose alcohol. Others cave to sugar cravings or overdose on caffeine. Feeling overwhelmed financially, pressed for time at work, overcome by loneliness or loss, annoyed by meddling relatives or losing patience with loved ones Is common. 

Here are 15 tips to help relieve holiday stress:

Breathe deeply

Take several deep breaths and meditate or just relax. Imagine yourself in a beautiful place, think of a happy memory or visualize floating at the beach with a warm breeze on your face. Quieting your mind before you begin the day can get it off to a great start. It can also work miracles whenever you’re stressed out, anxious, or feel overwhelmed. Conscious, slow breathing can help you when you’re feeling frustrated tackling the large crowds, long lists of things to do, and lots of commitments.

Put on rose-colored glasses

When people are pushy or irritating during this holiday season, tune into their motivations. Before you get annoyed at Aunt Jane, who keeps urging you to try a piece of her apple pie, or your co-worker Frank, who keeps trying to fill your glass with wine, take a deep breath. Realize Jane is just showing she loves you, and Frank is merely trying to be friendly. Graciously thank them, be grateful they care, and move on.

Get moving

Research shows that physical activity not only boosts your fitness and energy levels but can also elevate your mood. Despite the many demands on your time, this is not the season to stop exercising. According to one study, when regular exercisers are inactive, they begin to feel depressed and fatigued after just one week. Exercise can also give you that much-acclaimed “runner’s high”- the release of feel-good neurotransmitters.


Inevitably, at this time of year, you’ll be tempted with sugary, empty-calorie “treats” everywhere. Instead, opt for filling, low calories foods that grow on trees or in the ground (vegetables and fruits), healthy fats (such as olive oil and flax seeds), lean protein (such as fish and organic chicken) and legumes, nuts and seeds to be your most energetic, focused and happy self. Check out my posts on the added benefits nuts, protein, and legumes offer for weight loss and reduced pain.

Choose small portions

During the holidays, it’s easy to use, or over-use alcohol, sugar and caffeine to survive. The best way to stay healthy and happy is to limit consumption. When offered these and other “goodies,” take a few polite bites and sips and then choose to fill up on healthier foods instead. You and your waistline will be thankful later.

Make your lists, and check them twice

Prepare “How to survive the holiday” and “need to do” lists. Writing down all that you have to do during the holidays will help you to organize and allot the necessary time. It’ll also help to pare it down to what’s absolutely necessary and show successes as each one is crossed off. Be realistic, then start tackling them one at a time, alternating from one to the other. For example, after wrapping gifts, take time to work out. By alternating between lists, you won’t feel deprived, diminishing resentment and anger.

Be generous

One of the best ways to stay calm, content and cheerful this time of year is to be generous with your loved ones, co-workers and friends. This doesn’t mean spending a lot of money. You can be generous with your compliments, taking on errands or writing something to let them know how much you care. When you are creative with your gifts and thank you’s, people appreciate real, heartfelt sentiments. I don’t have all the gifts I’ve been given over the years but I still have those special cards and handwritten notes.

Take a break

When the pressure builds, before you explode- walk away. Take a break. Whether that’s outside for fresh air, to another room, or just to close your eyes and breathe. Take a minute before you respond and say something you might regret.

Acknowledge your feelings

If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.

Reach out

Don’t isolate. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others is another great way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. You are not alone. Many feel the same way this time of year. Seek them out and you can comfort each other.

Be realistic

The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold onto, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.

Set aside differences

Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and anxiety too.

Learn to say no

Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no to a commitment, try to remove something else from your “to-do list” to make up for the lost time.

Squeeze here

The fleshy place between your index finger and thumb is called the hoku spot in traditional Chinese medicine. Applying firm pressure there for just 30 seconds can reduce stress and tension in your upper body. So if you start to feel overwhelmed by the holiday chaos, give your hand a squeeze and take a deep breath.

Stick to a budget

Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Instead, donate to a charity in someone’s honor. Make special, homemade gifts. Write a heartfelt note. Start a family exchange so everyone gets something but it decreases the financial and time factors.

Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend this time of year. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can have a wonderful season.

Happy holidays to all!

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