Re-Stock Your Toolbox for Handling Holiday Stress

Help is here. So you don't go all postal this season.

Re-Stock Your Toolbox for Handling Holiday Stress

It's ironic, isn't it? A season that's meant to be a happy, wonderful time of celebration so often ends up being stress central. But do the holidays have to be synonymous with stress? Not if you take steps to cope.

Here are my suggestions:

Let go of the need to be perfect

Our expectations can get a little ridiculous this time of year. You do not need to channel Martha. You do not need to throw the perfect party, complete with handmade decorations and home-canned preserves for every guest...a person can only do so much. Make sure you know your true priorities, and focus on those. Quality time with loved-ones is probably a healthier goal than hand-crocheted doilies. Just saying.

Give yourself "Me Time"

Carve out some quiet time for yourself, no matter how difficult this might seem. If necessary, sneak away to do it. It doesn't have to be an entire day of indulgence—sometimes just a 10-minute breather will do it. (Although the indulgence day sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?) Don't feel guilty about making time for yourself! You are no good to anyone else if you are totally burned out.

Have a strategy for healthy eating

Temptation is all over the place this season. Making good choices will help your energy level, your digestion, your sleep...and will also help you avoid the particular stress that occurs when struggling to zip up your pants. Of course, I also think you need to enjoy yourself. Read YMC dietitian Sarah Remmer’s post on indulgences. One of my personal strategies: be a food snob. Be picky, and only eat the truly superb (there’s no shortage of that during the holidays!). Don't waste calories on something that's just ho-hum.


Most people recognize that exercise is a big help with stress. But finding the time for said exercise? A cause of stress. Hm. Conundrum. My advice: don’t sweat it if you can't find the time for long workouts right now. Just squeeze little bits in here and there. My personal preference is to do a little yoga—even 5 or 10 minutes of stretching--it's good for body and soul.

Just say no

Overcommitment will lead straight to overwhelm. Tune in to what you really need to do, and cut the fat on everything else. A lot of holiday stress is caused by taking on way too much. Most of us have pretty full plates to begin with. Throw a bunch of extra stuff in there...just where is that extra time supposed to come from, pray tell? Instead: Choose sanity. Say no. (And if you feel guilty, just tell people you’re following doctor’s advice. *winks*)

Re-frame the holidays

A quantum shift in perspective might be just what you need. Once upon a time, winter was a time of darkness, a time of seeking warmth and comfort and gathering indoors...not a time of nonstop cheer. It might help to respect the season, the darkness, and lower your expectations accordingly. Read Dr. Andrew Weil's wonderful post on this aspect of our cultural history.  


Quick and easy (thus fitting nicely into a packed schedule), breathing exercises are a wonderful stress-reliever. Here's my primer on that.

Listen to music

And no, not holiday tunes. I love Christmas music, make no mistake, but sometimes you need to take a break from the nonstop jingle-belling. Read this to see why music is medicine.

Shop online

I loathe Christmas shopping at the mall. The parking, the checkout lineups—and don't even get me started on the food court. I avoid it at all costs. But I'm no Scrooge. I love to shop, and I love giving Christmas presents. The internet, and Canada Post, offer the perfect solution. Read this to get you started

Protect your sleep

A person needs to rest; there's no way you can get through all the holiday festivities without it. Insufficient sleep makes you grumpy, irritable, and...wait for it: fat. (it's true: lack of sleep increases your chances of becoming overweight). Do whatever it takes to keep a regular sleep schedule. Your body, and brain, will thank you.