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10 Simple and Effective Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress


Reviewed by Leigh Ann Scott, MD of Forum Health Las Colinas

The holidays are here — and with them, all that holiday stress!


So, how do you cope with the demands on your time, the worries about being able to afford the holidays, and having to get together with people you don’t really get along with? (Yes, we know we’re just scratching the surface here.)


We’ve put together a few tips we hope will help you cope with holiday stress — and make your holiday season brighter.

1. Keep to your healthy routines.

This time of year, it’s easy to overindulge — which only adds to your stress. So don’t abandon your healthy habits, like healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and exercising. 


  • Eat as many healthy, lean protein and plant-based meals as possible.
  • To keep cravings at bay, have a healthy snack — that includes protein — before a holiday party or dinner. 
  • Drink more water than alcohol, and if you indulge, drink a glass of water after each alcoholic beverage.
  • Take healthy snacks with you when you go out shopping, so you won’t be as tempted to stop for fast food.
  • Get plenty of sleep — and stick to your normal sleep schedule as much as possible.
  • Take frequent walks — they’re a great way to fit in some exercise and fresh air during a packed holiday schedule.

2. Learn to say no.

The holidays are all about social obligations. If you feel overwhelmed by the number of activities you’ve been asked to attend, take a second look at your calendar and decide which ones are most important to you.


It’s okay to say no. If you find this challenging, try these ideas:


  • Say, “No, not right now,” and suggest a different time (after the holidays) to get together.
  • If you’ve been invited to a few events, tell the hosts that you won’t be able to go to one (or more) of them but will be happy to attend the one of your choosing. 
  • You can also just say, “No, thank you.” It’s not mandatory that you explain why, and people understand that we all have a lot on our plates this time of year.


Remember, saying yes to things you would rather not do can make you feel resentful, so you won’t enjoy the activity anyway.

3. Get in some “me time.”

Self-care is particularly important during the holidays, so carve out some time for yourself every day — even if it’s only a few minutes. Spending that time alone, without distractions, may give you the mental and physical reset you need to handle things.


  • Try deep breathing exercises, yoga, or meditation.
  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Take a hot bath with some aromatherapy bath salts.
  • Enjoy a leisurely walk in nature.
  • Take a nap. 


Any of these activities can reduce your stress by clearing your mind and making you feel calmer.

If you have a hard time finding 15 minutes to take time for yourself, then set up appointments in your daily calendar. By scheduling in “me time,” you’ll be more likely to make it happen. 

4. Be realistic about your expectations.

We all want a perfect holiday — but perfection isn’t reality, and setting the bar so high can add a huge amount of stress.


Understand that things may not always go as planned. In fact, they likely won’t go exactly as you think they will. That’s totally normal. Plus, as families change, traditions and rituals often change. That’s okay, too.


This year, try making a list of everything you feel you “have” to do for the holidays and get comfortable with the idea that it doesn’t all have to be perfect. Then you can more easily relax and enjoy the people surrounding you and the beauty of the season. 

5. Take a digital break.

Nothing can bring on more stress than scrolling through social media, getting the constant “breaking news” reports on your phone, and hearing the ever-present text and email notification sounds.


Each time this happens, it pulls your attention away from enjoying the present moment. So try to take some time to distance yourself from your devices. When you can put the phone down, it can give you much-needed separation.


Try putting your phone in another room and spending a few minutes with a good book. Place everyone’s phones in a basket before each meal with friends and family. You can also put your phone in airplane mode to temporarily suspend wi-fi and cellular service. 


Every minute you spend away from your digital device is another minute that you can reconnect with the people most important to you — including yourself.

6. Stick to a spending plan.

It can be so easy to spend too much during the holidays. It’s important to take the time to think about what you can realistically afford and also what you most enjoy about the holidays. Then prioritize your spending on those things. 


When you’re thinking of gifts, for example, try these ideas to cut down on costs and stick to a budget:


  • Give homemade gifts, like baked goods or crafts.
  • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
  • Start a gift exchange like a white elephant or Secret Santa.
  • Gift an experience with you instead of an object.


By making a spending plan and sticking to it, you’ll avoid a major holiday stressor. You’ll also avoid the after-holiday stress of paying off all that unnecessary debt.

7. Set aside differences.

Spending time with certain family members or friends can be a major contributor to holiday stress. This year, instead of going into a holiday gathering preparing for the worst outcome, try to come at it from a different viewpoint.


You likely already know that you can’t change another person’s mind over a dinner conversation. Plus, holiday gatherings are no time to try to “fix” anyone. So, this year, instead of responding immediately to that triggering sentence or conversation, try to stay out of it and observe. And, of course, step away when you feel you need a break.


Another point: Try to accept friends and relatives as they are, even if they have a different viewpoint. Perhaps focus on your similarities and steer the conversation back to those points whenever you see it going off-track.


By respecting others for who they are and not being part of the drama, you can replace all that tension with something more enjoyable for everyone.

8. Reach out to others.

Sometimes we can feel lonely or isolated during the holidays. If you’re in that situation, reach out to others through community events, religious activities, or other social activities. Many organizations have online support groups, social media sites, and virtual events.


Another way to lift your spirits during the holidays is to volunteer your time helping others. Drop off a meal at a neighbor’s house, help at a food bank or animal shelter, or go to a senior center. these activities and many more can bring you a sense of purpose and accomplishment and lift your spirits.


Holidays can be especially tough if you’ve had a loss in the family. It may make you feel better to share your feelings with others who know and love you.

9. Practice gratitude.

Nothing can counteract holiday stress better than expressing gratitude. Each morning, think of three things that you’re grateful for this holiday season and write them down. This grateful attitude will start your day off right.


Then do the same practice before you go to bed at night: Think of three things that happened that day that you’re grateful for, no matter how small. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll sleep.


And don’t forget to tell others in your life how grateful you are for them. If someone helps clean up the holiday table, for example, accept their help with gratitude and tell them how much you appreciate them. It will make both of you feel better!

10. Rethink your New Year’s resolutions.

You may already know this, but studies have shown that almost 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. So this year, it may help to think about your goals a bit differently.


First, be kind to yourself if you didn’t achieve last year’s resolution — and realize all the wonderful things you DID achieve this past year.


Then, when deciding on a goal for the new year, break it down into small, manageable steps. If your goal was to run a marathon, for example, you wouldn’t start out running 26 miles tomorrow — you’d break into smaller, more doable steps.


It’s the same with every goal you want to achieve: Start with a small step you can do in the first month, then add another step in the second month, and so on.

Our Providers at Forum Health Are Here for You

If you feel extra-stressed these days and you need some help with your overall wellness, come in and see us. While we are not psychologists, we are able to thoroughly identify and treat any physical issues that may be contributing to mental and emotional problems.