News, Culture & Society

4 Tips to Thrive Through Holiday Stress

By Sarah Limardo

I never realized how stressful the holidays could be until I got married. Growing up, seasonal celebrations were all about my immediate family. We’d gather around a meal, enjoy some family traditions—from biscuits to puzzles to presents—and spend the rest of the day lounging around the house.

Saying “I do” initiated me to holiday travel, greeting loads of new family, budgeting for more presents for more people, and taking part in a long list of new traditions. It was the busiest season of my life. Gone were the days of relaxing holidays spent in my pajamas and eating choccy while watching reruns of “I Love Lucy.” By the time I returned to work in the new year, I was exhausted.

Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to destress during the holidays. Granted, I’m no holiday burnout pro, but I’ve discovered a few tips along the way to keep a healthy rhythm during what’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.

Healthy, Happy Holidays

Last year, my husband and I caught terrible colds over the holiday. It forced us to slow down, and I learned a valuable lesson about taking time for self-care—no matter how many presents are left to buy.

The holidays are full of festive goodies and delicious treats. Though great in moderation,  overindulging in unhealthy foods can compound the effects of stress, leaving you feeling anxious and tired. And stress, along with a poor diet, can be detrimental to your health and may negatively affect your weight. During the holidays, give your body everything it needs to thrive.

  1. Eat clean. Avoid foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce in favor of whole foods that will deliver the nutrients your body craves.
  2. Exercise. Get moving for at least 30 minutes a day to keep your body feeling good. You don’t even have to go to the gym—something as simple as hanging some tinsel or sprucing up your house will do.
  3. Probiotics. Your gut bears the brunt of all those tasty holiday treats, and a probiotic can help support a healthy digestive system.

Mind Your Head

A healthy mindset can make a world of difference during the holidays. Practice mindfulness as you visit, gift, and celebrate your way through the busy season. Find a moment each day to check in. Visualize the next few weeks and what they have in store for you—how do you feel? Do your muscles grow tense, or are you excited? Take a few deep breaths and focus on the people you love and what you cherish most in life.

Unlike Kris Kringle on Christmas Eve, you can’t magically be everywhere at once. It’s okay to make good choices for your mental health. If you need to say no to a commitment, give yourself the freedom (without the guilt) to do so. And if you’re off work, use some of your time for a vacation. Don’t push yourself so much you start the new year on a sour note.

Make a List—Check it Twice

When you start to feel overwhelmed, sit down, and make a list of tasks awaiting your attention. Prioritize it—which things need to be done immediately, and which can wait? Are there tasks you can delegate to someone else, or you can skip altogether?

I love to volunteer to bring a dessert to a holiday gathering. But when it comes to actually make these decadent confections, I choose complicated recipes to show off my love for baking. As my task list gets longer, my stress level piques. Suddenly, I have to go to the store for extra ingredients and squeeze in baking time after work, among dinner plans and the typical demands of home life. Feeling overwhelmed, the dessert often gets nixed for store-bought treats instead.

Maybe your thing isn’t desserts. It could be party-planning, shopping, or present wrapping. If it all starts to feel like too much, trim your list.

A Holly Jolly Budget

My husband and I look at our holiday finances early to decide what to spend on travel or any other expenses (we just bought a house, so this year looks quite different than years past). After our living expenses and holiday, have-tos are on the books, we look at what we have leftover. This becomes our fund for presents, decorations, and whatever else we may want to make the season more festive.

Spending beyond your means will only feed your financial stress in the following months as you try to pay down holiday debt. So before you hit the stores, make a plan. Know how much you can spend for the season and try to stick to it. Consider putting some big-ticket items off until after the holidays to take advantage of sales and the influx of brand new, open-box merchandise people have returned. You’ll get the best bang for your buck without breaking the bank.

Even if you don’t have mountains of money to spend, you can still make the holiday special by making it your own and spending time with the people you love.

Count Your Blessings

A sure way to a healthy, happy holiday is to be thankful. Take stock of everything you have, the opportunities you’ve been given, and the people around you. Be grateful for what you do have rather than what you don’t. Those who are intentional in finding what they’re grateful for are shown to have more positive feelings, better sleep, and stronger immune systems—and that’s a lot to be thankful for!

Wishing you a happy, healthy holiday—one filled with a little less stress and a lot more eggnog and mistletoe!

About the author:

Sarah Limardo is an editor from Salt Lake City, Utah. She’s an avid reader of young adult fiction—follow her on Instagram @SarahLimardo.