15 Ways to Manage Holiday Stress

‘Tis the season for... Stress? Not anymore! Have a healthy and happy holiday season with these stress-relieving tips.

drinking hot chocolate with dog at feet

The most wonderful time of year can also feel like the most overwhelming time of year. With so much to do, feeling a bit of holiday stress makes sense. Fortunately, when it comes to managing holiday stress, there are many options to keep you feeling healthy in both body and mind. 

Keep reading to find out how to relieve stress during the holidays, including practical holiday stress tips. 

How To Relieve Stress During The Holidays

Feel stressed this holiday season? Enjoy the holidays by using these 15 tips to prepare for seasonal struggles. 

Deep Breathing 

Deep breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, has positive effects on both physical and mental health. Beyond lowering blood pressure, deep breathing can reduce levels of cortisol (a key hormone involved in stress and anxiety) in the body.

Watching a deep breathing demonstration video can help you grasp this helpful technique you can use anywhere, anytime. 

Yoga And Meditation 

Just like deep breathing, meditation reduces stress markers like cortisol. Yoga has also been a significant practice for many people when it comes to stress and depression. Anytime you’re feeling overwhelmed, stopping for even five minutes to meditate or do at-your-desk yoga can work wonders.

There are even free apps, like Insight Timer or Calm, that can help you take a couple moments for yourself. 

Ask For Help 

If you’re having trouble coping with holiday stressors, reach out to a health professional. A licensed therapist can help give you tips to beat the holiday blues.

Finding strength in your support system can also help fortify you during difficult days. 

Create Clear Expectations

From boundaries to priorities, it’s important to create clear expectations during the holidays (especially if you have company coming. Remember, everything doesn’t have to be perfect! Learn to say no to anything that doesn’t help keep you in a healthy mindset during the holidays. 

For example, don’t feel pressured to go to all the holiday parties. Instead, pick a few festive events that are important to you to attend. Save the other time in your schedule for connecting with smaller groups or self-care. 

Acknowledge Your Feelings

It’s okay if the holidays don’t always feel “merry and bright.” Especially if you are missing someone this year, take time to express your feelings in a healthy way.

Truly, a good cry today may help you make more mental room for celebrating tomorrow! 

Buy Gifts On a Budget

Feeling overwhelmed by the financial impact of the festivities? Set and stick to a budget so you can gift without guilt. Luckily, many websites nowadays let you shop by price point (i.e. “gifts under $15”). 

Plan and Prep 

A little planning and preparation can go a long way! To make sure all your tasks get accomplished in a timely manner, set aside specific times or days for holiday prep.

Proper planning means you won’t be running to the store for last-minute ingredients or staying up wrapping until the wee hours of the morning.  Limit your shopping trips with thoughtful planning so you can save more time for what matters most. 

Improve Your Immune System 

No one likes being sick during the holidays. Good gut health is key for both immunity and mood, with about 95% of serotonin and 70% of immune cells being produced in the intestines.

During the busy holiday season, be sure to eat immune-boosting foods like citrus. If you aren’t sure what nutrients or supplements improve immunity, you can meet with a dietitian to find what works best for you. 

Boost Your Response With Biofeedback 

Another unique measure you can take to boost your health during the holidays is trying biofeedback. Biofeedback is a special technique that can connect you more with your body. 

During biofeedback, you are connected to electrical sensors that give you feedback about your body (i.e. temperature, heart rate). While you are hooked up to these machines, biofeedback experts can teach you techniques for lowering heart rate, relaxing, and ultimately reducing pain.  

Have Healthy Snacks 

Instead of overeating at one meal, maintain a healthy appetite by consuming nutrient-rich snacks throughout the day. This can help keep both your blood sugar and mood up while completing holiday cooking (and other tasks).

Some dietitian-approved seasonal snacks include: 

  • Deviled eggs with herbs 
  • Greek yogurt parfait topped with cranberries and homemade granola 
  • Hummus and whole wheat pretzels 

Indulge With Intention

Don’t totally abandon your healthy habits during the holiday season. Eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep can help you keep up with all the chaos.

Allow yourself to indulge (i.e. lounging in pajamas and watching TV all day, eating sugar-filled favorites, splurging on an item during seasonal sales), but do so intentionally. Continuing your healthy habits over the holidays can help you “bounce back” from a disrupted routine after the holidays are over. 

Focus On What Brings You Together 

When friends and family gather, it’s easy for the conversation to slip into uncomfortable topics (i.e. relationship status, politics, religion). Set aside differences and steer clear of divisive dinner conversations. Having several prepared responses ready for when the subject needs to be changed subtly can help everyone keep to feel-good topics. 

Take Time to Stay Present

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the craziness of the holiday season, especially if you’re hosting company. Be sure to take some moments for yourself to slow down and enjoy the environment.

Fun ideas for staying present among all the presents include: 

  • Bundling up and stargazing at the winter night sky 
  • Listening to instrumental versions of your favorite holiday songs 
  • Setting aside time to read your favorite holiday books

Donate Your Time Or Resources

It may sound counterintuitive, but serving others can boost your own mood and attitude. The holiday season is a great time to contribute your skills and talents to a greater cause. Plus, organized service activities mean another opportunity for spending time with family and friends. 

There are many opportunities to donate your time, money, or skills, such as: 

  • Adopting a family for Christmas through your local “Sub for Santa” organization
  • Helping to serve a holiday meal at a food bank or homeless shelter
  • Making a donation in someone’s name 

Don’t Forget To Have Fun

Sometimes gift-giving can pile on the pressure. Try hosting a gift exchange among family members or white elephant party where joke gifts can keep the atmosphere feeling jolly.

Don’t let the pressure of carrying on classic traditions keep you from making room for fun, new ones! 

In Summary On Reducing Seasonal Stress

Staying stress-free through the festivities isn’t impossible. From physical to mental health, there are many tips and techniques for keeping your mood merry.

Don’t forget to schedule time for self-care this year!