Laughing girl and her friends sitting by served festive table and celebrating holiday

The Less-Stress Holiday Countdown 

After a tumultuous year, the last thing anyone needs over the holidays is more stress. What was once a season of family celebration has, for many, become fraught with obligations and expense. How can we ensure that we get the R&R that we need this holiday season, and that when we celebrate, it actually feels like celebration? 

 10) Prioritize connection. Whether it be with family, friends, or by serving others, meaningful human connection is the quickest path to joy and gratitude.  

 9) Say no if you need to. Don’t give so much of yourself through overscheduling, that you have nothing left to give. We all need some peace and quiet, so make time to enjoy things that feed your soul. Give yourself some breathing room in between holiday plans. 

8) Get quality sleep and exercise! These are two of the most powerful tools there are, in reducing stress & anxiety. Even a brisk walk will do, if your regular exercise routine is disrupted. Fresh air will do anyone a world of good. 

 7) Feed your body well. Don’t overdo it on the sweets! Too much sugar messes up your body’s natural hormone responses, as well as your insulin levels, which have an impact on your brain’s neurotransmitters. Feed yourself well to feel well.  

 6) Stick to the budget. Impulse purchases and big sales can wreak havoc on the budget, and while they may seem like a great idea at the time, you don’t need the stress in January when bills are due. Any great deal that puts you in debt was never a great deal in the first place. 

 5) Limit your social media and news consumption. We only have so much mental bandwidth, and perfectly curated social feeds and “entertainment news” do nothing for our sanity or self-esteem. It’s a lot to weed through, and there is so much misinformation out there. When you can, choose real connection over virtual. 

 4) Know your role in the situation. Are you taking on roles that no one asked you to carry? Are you making a huge feast because you feel obligated, though no one actually expected you to do so? Are you hosting someone, or being hosted by someone, where the traditions are different from yours? These can be opportunities for new experiences. Being a martyr serves nobody. 

 3) Focus on what you can control. Like traffic and weather. (just kidding!) All we can control in life is our attitude and our behavior. When you choose to let go of what you can’t control, you’ll automatically reduce your stress. Breathe, and let it go.  

 2) Avoid conflict. There is no shortage of controversial topics that are likely to make their way into dinner conversation over the holidays. Decide before you go, what your boundaries are, and what you will and won’t discuss. If someone is drunk or hateful or behaving in a way that makes you feel awkward or unsafe, you have the right to end the conversation. It is ok to walk away, and it is more than ok to set boundaries before you even go. 

 1) Set your intention for the holidays. What does it look like when you visualize it? Maybe it looks like a big gathering and an even bigger meal. Maybe it looks like sleeping in and watching movies with your loved ones. Maybe it looks like a silent retreat alone, to rest and rejuvenate. Keep that picture at the front of your mind, and “act it out” when the time comes. 


Adapted from "13 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress" by Dr. John Delony.