For a lot of people, the holiday season can be the best part of the entire year. You get to spend time with the three F’s:
Unfortunately those three F’s can also bring on some stress. Whether it’s the inability to break free from work to spend enough time with your friends, families fighting over the financial toll gift giving can bring, or your inner-struggle to not overindulge on turkey, ham, pies and other deliciousness, the holidays come with their fair share of stress.
But you shouldn’t let stress turn what should be a joyful time into weeks of stress and anger. In order to help you take control of holiday stress, we’ve asked 13 stress and personal development experts one question:
“What is your top tip for managing holiday stress?”
Read their answers below!
Cheri Augustine Flake, LCSW
Stress Therapist, Speaker and Author of the forthcoming book series, If I Know What I Should be Doing, Then Why Won’t I just Do It?: How to Make Your Goals the Habits of Every Day Living
In an effort to alleviate stress this time of year, we often put off everything until “after the holidays.” I think this practice creates more stress. Think about it…what do you put off until “after the New Year?” Lunches, fun activities, catching up with friends…? These are actually the resources in our lives that help keep stress at bay.
Plus, no magical time slot opens up after January 1st, and if it did, you’d unlikely pile the load of “what I’ve been putting off for two months” inside of it. Pushing it all off may feel good in the moment, but weighs on us at some point. Thinking about it as “one more thing on my plate,” however, will make it stressful. So, I suggest to my clients that they consider taking on whatever comes their way with a new attitude. That is, thinking of it all as a break from the hustle and bustle and therefore, a real stress reliever. This is a great way to actually enjoy the holiday season ahead.
Professional Speaker/Author of The NEW Stress Response Diet and The 10-Minute Life Plan to End Procrastination
My top stress tip for the holidays is to have a diet plan. The diet we eat determines the management of the Stress Response. With that being said, no one wants to diet during the holidays. So when it comes to my tribe everyone gets Thanksgiving as a free day. In my program they all get a cheat day and during the holidays they don’t lose it because Thanksgiving falls on Thursday. So they take Thursday off eat normal on Friday and take their usual Saturday off. Same with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, both are off.
The other key is to make sure they keep up with their exercise. During the holidays it’s important to manage the physiological stress response as the psychological stress is a lot more difficult to handle with family.
Founder of Be More with Less and Minimalist Fashion Challenge Project 333
Take care of yourself first. It’s the easiest time of year to neglect self-care, but the most important time to put yourself first. Holiday stress can compromise your immune system and leave you more susceptible to colds and viruses.
Protect the time and space you need to take care everyday so you can better handle extra stress. Find at least one thing in your self-care practice to do everyday. Mediate, journal, take a bath or a nap, or whatever it is that you know will help you treat people more kindly and really enjoy the most magical time of year. Taking care of yourself is the best gift you can give yourself and everyone you love.
Schedule in time for yourself. Christmas can be so busy with travel and seeing family; carve out some time to have a walk, take a bath or read a book.
Bestselling Author, Speaker and Work/Life Strategy Expert at HappyHourEffect.com
Have a plan far in advance. The more you procrastinate on planning your holiday events or buying gifts, the more stressful it will be.
Make a list now with what you need to do and start getting it done now. Schedule it on your calendar to make it even more powerful and split the list with your spouse or even your kids to get it done faster.
Mindful Running Coach and Creator of the Mindful Running Training System
My top tip for managing holiday stress is to practice brief moments of mindfulness throughout the day, particularly during physical exercise. Running can be refreshing and reduce stress, however, when we’re already feeling rushed, overwhelmed and moving frantically throughout the day, then running can add to the fatigue rather than help you recover from it.
It would be challenging to remain mindful for the entire duration of a run, besides simply being mindful of your body, breath for the first 5 to 10 minutes of your run is incredible effective. To do this, start off at a very easy pace that allows you to breathe with a consistent, steady rhythm. Your breath should be quiet and flow in out evenly. Scan your body for any tension, especially in the shoulders and arms. Are your feet slapping the ground or landing softly? Notice how your body feels and feel yourself relax in this natural rhythm. Listen to all the sensations your body is eliciting and breathe through any tightness or effort until your body feel s more fluid and flowing. Holding this relaxed, yet focused mindful attention can be as effective as running for two hours.
Stress Relief Expert, Award Winning Author, Speaker, Trainer, Coach
Stress is simply your body’s invitation to identify and adjust those perceptions of life situations which throw you into a threat response. As much as possible throughout your day, step out of your familiar response to life. You can actually boost your sense of well-being and your immune system each time you make the choice to explore positive responses to life: laugh; skip; whistle; hum; dance; play; sing.
When you engage in these activities, which you used to do daily as a young child, you distract yourself from the mental muck that keeps you tied up and stressed out inside your castle. Lighten up this holiday season and bring joy into your life and the lives of those you love.
Certified Professional Organizer®, President of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN
Take a poll to prioritize. Ask yourself and family members (in person or via text) what holiday rituals are MOST important. Invite honesty, even if it means someone else’s sacred cow isn’t on the list, and be prepared for surprises. Pare down the usual schedule of activities to just things that make someone’s Holiday Priority List. Use the rest of your time to discover spontaneous holiday joys and revel in the freedom of unplanned moments.
I know one family who always spent December weekends in a whirl of activities, from Black Friday sales to holiday parties. Nobody ever complained, but the season was often marred by exhaustion and crankiness. A simple poll of family members found that their truly favorite traditions involved listening to a scratchy old recording of Alice’s Restaurant and a modern Canadian comedy classic, Dave Cooks A Turkey, followed by a marathon of holiday movies like White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street.
Instead of rushing from store to store and open house to holiday party, a little internal family polling helped this family regain their center, and it could do the same for you and your loved ones.
Roni Cohen-Sandler, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist, Author & Speaker
Founder of Calm People and Calm Execs. Emotional Resilience Specialist and Relatively Calm Person
Manage your expectations.
The one thing that shatters relationships and ruins friendships more than any other is expectations. When we say that someone is not meeting our ‘needs’, we usually mean that he/she is not living up to our expectations. True needs are very few, but expectations are limitless. Our rule of thumb is “How big is our emotional reaction to this going to be?” If we will get really angry if our expectations are not met then the chances are our expectations in the first place are unreasonable.
Remember, it is only one day in the year. Don’t let the pressure you put on yourself and the imagined expectations of others leave a bad taste in your mouth for the next 12 months.
Susan Newman, Ph.D.
Author of The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It–and Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever
Call up a “No” when you need it.
For some people, the holidays are a time for friends, family, and relaxation, but for many, even most, the pressure to get everything done and be merry is just too much. Bickering relatives, end-of-year office demands, feuding friends and over-stimulated children add their own strong tugs on your sanity, stress level and overflowing To-Do list.
The solution to sidestepping holiday stress and feeling rested and joyous lies in one simple word—“no.” It eliminates the need to push yourself to the max or to spend the holidays somewhere other than where you want to be.
Author of the popular Psychology Today blog, “Turning Straw Into Gold”; author of three books: How to Be Sick, How to Wake Up, and the newly-released How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness
My top tip for managing holiday stress is to simplify, simplify, simplify! You need not go to every party you’re invited to. You need not take sole responsibility for the cooking. You need not find the perfect gift for every person on your list (in fact, these days, people love to receive gift cards!).
We all tend to over-commit during the holidays and then regret it after it’s too late to change our plans. So resolve beforehand to do less this holiday season. One way to assure you’ll stick to your resolution is to make a list of what you will…and will not do. Even if you don’t stick to your list 100 percent, I guarantee you’ll stick to it enough to see a huge difference in your ability to enjoy a stress-free holiday.
Therapist, stress expert, self-care advocate
If there is one recommendation I would suggest for managing holiday stress, it is this: Be choosey what you say ‘yes’ to! The holidays are typically fun and festive… and filled with many invitations. From office gatherings to family get togethers, your presence is in demand. Although many of the events may be ones you actually want to attend, some may feel more like obligations for a variety of reasons (insert yours here…)
You may quickly realize that juggling too many commitments is never a party. Saying ‘no’ can be difficult, but being selective about the holiday celebrations you go to will likely ensure you enjoy them more, because you won’t be running on empty. So celebrate this festive time, and remember to say ‘yes’ to yourself, by leaving time for those things that fuel you: sleep, healthy meals, exercise, and quality socializing.
Want more information and tips on holiday stress? Check out our holiday stress infographic!