6 New Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

Holidays can be full of fun, happy memories and connection, but it can also lead to stress, burn out and a resolution not to do this to yourself next year.

Meanwhile more and more research confirms what we know already – chronic stress is the number one correlation with illness.  In addition, stress zaps us of energy we could apply to being present, connecting with family and friends, and attaining our goals.

Here are 6 tips to rock this holiday season with energy to spare:


1.  Identify Your Holiday Values

Right now, before you are in full holiday season force, ask yourself, “What matters most to me this holiday season?”  It could be spending time with your immediate family, sticking to your health and wellness goals, or feeling rested.  Once you have a list of what is most important to you, commit first to those events, people, and situations that best support your holiday values.  For example, if feeling rested at the end of the year is important to you, determine what your holiday schedule will need to look like for you to achieve this goal.  And then…


2.  Say No

If the event or activity does not align with your holiday values, SAY NO (or no thank you).  You don’t have to say yes just because you are invited.  I find this is particularly difficult for my clients who suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) or are people pleasers.  If you are motivated to attend an event out of fear (of missing out or of disappointing others) don’t go or find an empowering reason to participate instead.

The benefit of saying no: your time and energy are expensive, valuable and limited commodities.  Therefore, you should use these commodities on what and who will bring you joy.  It is quality over quantity.


3.  Refuse to Feel Dread

What are the activities you are dreading this holiday season?  Take a minute to write them down. Got your dread list?  Now look at each item on your list and ask yourself, “How can I think about this activity so I no longer dread it AND have a new found appreciation, enjoyment or respect for the activity?”  If you can’t reframe it and rid the negative feelings, then see #2.


4.  Give Within Your Means

Sure, the holidays are a time for giving, but that doesn’t mean you should be eating ramen noodles for all of January to make up for your lavish gift giving.  Let go of giving the most expensive gift and go for a meaningful one.

But this tip does not only apply to finances – give within your means when it comes to your time, energy, mental bandwidth, emotional stability and flexibility.  If someone wants you to bring a dish to a party and you have no time to cook the dish you want from scratch, make something else that will take less time or pick up a pre-made dish.  If your great uncle keeps bringing up politics after dinner and it is taking up your mental or emotional bandwidth, remove yourself from the conversation.


5.  Let Go of Old Roles

Are you the Peacemaker, the Scapegoat, the Hero, the Outcast, the Instigator, or the Responsible One in your family?  Maybe you are the Caregiver?  Or maybe you’re the one who is never expected to contribute.  Whatever it is, we all have at least one default role we fall into with family members, no matter how much self-work we have done.  AND the more stressed we are, the more likely we are to default to our assigned family roles and patterns, ESPECIALLY when we are with the ones who reinforce those roles.

This is where classic mindfulness techniques can help.  This year, observe when you fall back into your assigned family role and how it feels.  Attempt to identify what thought or feeling initiated this default setting within you.  Remember with a mindful approach, you are observing without judging.  In other words, take a curious approach.  When do you default to treating a family member like their assigned role?  What might change if you let go of your old role and everyone else’s too?

Remember you are a complex human who does not have to show up a certain way with your family, even if they expect it.  Explore how it feels to free yourself and your family of the old patterns.  We can’t expect to change other people’s perspectives, but we can always change our own.


6.  Remember Self-Care

Give yourself the time you need so you show up as your best self.  This is not the time to cheat yourself out of sleep, downtime, meditation and exercise / movement.  The best way to set yourself up for success this holiday season is to engage in what I call unselfish selfish behavior.  The more you take care of yourself, the more you can reset and have the bandwidth for uncomfortable situations.

Self-care also includes what I call reset activities – things you can do to feel refreshed.  I find movement of any kind can do this for many people – taking a walk in nature (even just around the block), going to a yoga class, or even just spending some time alone.  My mom and I found going to the grocery store to pick up a forgotten item was a great excuse to get out and reset.

However you take care of yourself, commit to it and remember you are helping yourself and others by prioritizing self-care.  Hey, some family members won’t get the value of self-care but that’s okay.  Others do not have to value your commitments to yourself – only you do.

Here are a few more ideas to reset:

  • Meditate (maybe even 5 minutes in the car before you go into the grocery store)
  • Exercise
  • Get out in nature
  • Play with pets /children
  • Choose to stay in a hotel or Airbnb to get some personal time or good sleep
  • Call it a night early and read in your room
  • Stay one day less so you have a day to decompress at home
  • Watch a movie with family for some quiet time

Lastly, remember your holiday values and goals.  Have fun and connect because laughter is the best defender of stress.

Happy Holidays!