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10 Ways to Reduce Stress During the Holidays

Stress affects us all at different times and in different ways.  It can be brief and situational. For example, if you are pressed for time, faced with conflicting demands and priorities on a given day, or just before a performance or an important speech. According to the American Psychological Association, certain types of stress can actually be a positive, motivating force to help us do our best. Prolonged stress, however, can become chronic and lead to negative health consequences or exacerbate existing issues.

As the holiday season approaches, stress can also be an unwelcome guest that undermines a time of gathering with friends and family and celebrating. So what can you do to prevent it? Actually, a lot. Here are some tips to help you relax and focus on the joy of this special time of year.

10 Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress

  1. Get plenty of rest. For some, that may mean going to bed earlier and setting a “go to sleep” chime or alarm so you can wake up and not feel rushed at the beginning of your day. Plus, feeling rested improves mood and the ability to deal with the “little things” throughout the day so they don’t become major stressors. Also, to help you get to sleep, avoid caffeine three hours before bedtime.
  2. Plan ahead. Planning your week (or month) out, noting important to-dos, meetings, appointments and events along with any prep time needed, can give you a sense of control and relief.
  3. Don’t overschedule your time. It’s okay to say “no.” Choose what’s most important to you and prioritize. Don’t add more to your schedule than you can reasonably do.
  4. Don’t feel pressured when it comes to gift-giving. For those you want to exchange gifts with, consider drawing names and setting a dollar limit, or think about making something special for them. A card, letter or fun photo is also appreciated. Remember, it really is the thought that counts.
  5. Look for activities that make the holidays special. If you have certain family or religious traditions, make plans with loved ones that center around those. Or maybe you enjoy sharing favorite recipes with good friends, caroling with neighbors, helping an older person or donating your time to a favorite charity or providing food, clothes or toys to someone in need.
  6. Don’t overdo it. If you’re celebrating the season, don’t eat or drink to excess. Part of limiting stress includes not creating unnecessary problems for yourself or others. If you’re planning to have alcohol, get a ride service or carpool with a designated driver. Drink water to stay hydrated, and avoid sampling all the tempting sugary-sweet desserts. They’re not nearly as tasty if they add an extra five pounds to a New Year’s resolution.
  7. Make your shopping list ahead, look for deals and be efficient with your time. Last-minute shopping, especially, can be extremely stressful, congested, overpriced and unpredictable in terms of availability or delivery.
  8. Family time. Set realistic expectations if you’re visiting family or vice versa. Think about activities and ways to keep the spirit festive and conflict-free. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or lend a hand if needed. Contributing to meal preparation or table-setting, childcare or errands can mean a lot to an overburdened host or hostess.
  9. If conflict arises, count to 10 or walk away. If a situation becomes heated, the American Psychological Association recommends counting to 10 before you react in anger. Consider taking a walk or run to let off steam.
  10. Make time for yourself. Whether it’s curling up with a good book, watching a favorite series or holiday classic, taking a warm bubble bath with relaxing music, hitting the gym or whatever helps you unwind and re-charge, don’t forget to schedule some you-time.

Now, take a deep, cleansing breath. You’ve got this, so let the joyful times begin.

If you or someone you know suffers with chronic stress or stress-related health conditions, such as recurring stomach or gastroenterological problems, frequent headaches, chest pains or high blood pressure, seek medical help. For assistance finding a specialist, complete the Find a Doctor form.

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