The Holiday Anti-Stress Guide: 19 Tips For A Relaxing Holiday Season

So here we are in the season of joy, but let’s face it, for many people, it should be called the season of stress. Shopping, parties, shopping, wrapping, traveling, cooking, eating, decorating, oh and did I mention shopping? They all add up to stress. At least they can if we let them.

It’s quite possible to have a stress-free, joy-filled holiday season, at least in theory. It really just takes a little bit of awareness and a just a bit of will power.

So if you want to wake up on January 1st feeling rested, and relaxed rather than run over by a Mac truck, take a look at these 19 simple tips for having a low stress holiday season.

1. Communicate early and often:

With all the added responsibilities and time drains during this season, communication with family and friends can take a hit. Have you ever had a conversation like this?

“What are you going to wear to the party tomorrow night?”
“What party?”

Or how about this one?

“Honey, do you remember what time Mike and Shannon are coming over tonight?”
“Tonight? What?!?”

Can you say stress?

Clear communication is always important, but especially so during this busy time. What parties have you been invited to? What parties are you going to? What parties are you declining? How much will you spend on gifts for family members? (Another big stress point is when a couple’s gift spending is way out of balance. You know, he gets her an emerald necklace, she gets him a necktie!)

Set up regular times to meet and talk about these issues. Set up a board for messages and notes. Set up a special holiday calendar noting parties, when guests are coming and travel plans.

2. Eat well:

At this time of year, it’s easy to fall into bad eating patterns. Temptaton is everywhere! Between the candy that started showing up in your office after Halloween and the Thanksgiving desserts to all the sweets you’ll find at your holiday parties, you’re likely to pack in a log of extra sugar, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods. All of these add to the stress on your body which, in turn, makes it more difficult for you to deal with any mental and emotional stress. So before you grab that fourth eggnog or that second piece of fruitcake, take a deep breath and ask yourself if you really need it..

3. Shop early:

Well I guess it’s too late for this one. But there’s always next year! Of course, if you were planning to do your shopping on Christmas Eve, you may still get some benefit from this tip!

4. Shop locally:

On Friday evening, my daughter and I did some of our holiday shopping. Instead of driving to a mall, sitting in traffic, jockeying for a parking space and waiting in long lines, we walked to town, wandered around the local shops, listened to some wonderful street performers playing holiday songs, and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Even if you can’t walk to your local town, there is probably an alternative to the mall nearby which often makes for a much more pleasant shopping experience.

5. Shop online:

I love to support my local shops and do so as much as possible. But I’ll be the first to admit that online shopping is perhaps the ultimate anti-stress method for shopping. Books, electronics, CDs, games, you name it. It’s all available. Plus you don’t have to worry about bringing your packages to the post office. And many online shops will even wrap your gifts for you. Can you say, “Ahhhh?”

6. Delegate:

You can’t do it alone. If you’re attempting to do all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, decorating and shipping all by yourself, you’re screwed. If you’re in a relationship or part of a family unit, this is where that clear communication comes in. Delegate! Get clear on what you’re going to do, what your partner will do, and what the kids will do. Make it clear that if they don’t do the tasks assigned to them, they’re not going to get done!

If you’re not in a relationship, fear not, this is where friends come in handy. Do your shopping together, have a wrapping party, share cooking duties. You can combine your tasks to increase efficiency, or you can just do your stuff together to make it more fun. Either way, it’s far less stressful than doing it alone.

7. Take time to relax:

If you think I’m nuts to suggest taking time to relax during this season, this tip is most definitely for you! It doesn’t have to be much: treat yourself to a 15-minute chair massage at the mall or market. Take a warm bath. Spend some time reading a mindless book. Close your eyes and meditate for a few minutes. Find time each day – even if it’s just 5-minutes – to unwind and bring yourself down from the fast pace of the world around you.

8. Get enough sleep:

At this time of year, burning the candle at both ends becomes the norm for many people. When you are sleep deprived, the effects of stress become much more noticeable. So during this holiday season, see if you can resist the temptation to stay up until midnight wrapping presents and checking your email.

9. Manage your time wisely:

In order to ensure a good night’s sleep you need to manage your time wisely. During the rest of the year, it’s possible to slack off a bit with time management and still get by. If we waste 20-minutes driving to an out of the way store for something we don’t really need it’s usually not a big deal.

The free online system, Simpleology 101, is a great tool for managing and tracking your tasks. It’s the system I use all year around, and it really gets a workout this time of year.

10. Set clear boundaries at work:

Whether you work for a company or for yourself, it’s important to set clear guidelines boundaries. How late are you going to work? What days are you taking off during the holiday season? Mark those times and dates in your calendar (USE BIG BOLD MARKERS!) and stick to it. If you’re taking off the week between Christmas and New Year, take it off, don’t “sort of” take it off. There’s nothing more stressful for you or your family than to feel pulled towards your computer when you’re supposed to be enjoying family time.

11. Be willing to say “no:”

How many holiday parties will you attend this year? How many events will you volunteer for? Remember it’s ok to say no. The urge to “do it all” and see everyone is strong. But it’s also stressful. At this time of year most people have multiple parties to go to on any given night. So they get it if you have to say no. Do yourself a favor: Enjoy one party fully, rather than driving around to three different events.

12. Consider going to just one family gathering:

Let’s face it, family gatherings can be fun and festive and filled with joy, or they can be boring, emotional and filled with stress. Either way, one is often quite enough. When you add in marriage, divorce, remarriage, and divorced parents, there is the potential for Christmas Eve and Day to a celebration of driving rather than a joyous time to connect with loved ones. As hard as it may be for you to believe, it is ok to tell your family that you won’t be visiting them this year.

13. Set a holiday budget:

One of the most stressful aspects of the holiday season for many people is the spending. Between buying gifts, traveling to see family, getting a tree and new decorations, the holiday season can be expensive. Without a a clear budget, it’s very easy to wake up to a bunch of credit card bills in January that are far worse than your hangover! Sit down with your family before the holidays (it’s not too late to do this now) and be honest about how much you want to spend and how much you can spend and how much you WILL spend. Feel free to tell your friends and family that you’ll be giving hand-made or inexpensive gifts this year.

If you’re looking for some inexpensive alternatives to the “usual” gifts, check out this post on inexpensive gifts that improve your life.

14. Exercise:

Running from store to store, brawling with other customers over the last Wii, and those 12-ounce curls while you’re watching the parade don’t count! Dancing at your office holiday party (if you really get down and funky) might count! Exercise is one of the best ways to release the stress. This is no time to indulge that inner couch potato. When you move your body the built up stress has a way to leave your body. And that’s good! So get to the gym or the yoga studio. Hop on that stationary bike or put on your snowshoes and get outside. But whatever you do, move your body on a regular basis.

15. Listen to Christmas songs (unless they really irritate you!):

I find Christmas songs very relaxing and fun and often funny. So at this time of year, when I’m stuck in holiday traffic, I surf the radio for some good holiday songs to sing along with. My wife, on the other hand, finds them extremely annoying most of the time. So this technique wouldn’t work for her! Use your best judgment.

16. Smile:

It’s the season of joy. Show it! When you’re out shopping, smile at people you see. Give a big smile to the cashier – believe me, they will appreciate it. And the best part is that your smile will make you feel better. Try it!

17. Breathe:

Sure, you’re breathing all the time. You’re breathing right now, I hope. It’s not like you’re going to stop breathing while you’re out there doing a marathon shopping spree. Well, you might actually. Not completely of course, but when we get stressed out our breathing gets faster, and shallower and we don’t get nearly as much oxygen as we need. So, when you find yourself stuck in traffic or waiting in the slowest line (again) or looking at a maxed out credit card bill, take a moment to remember to breathe and feel that extra oxygen working its relaxing magic on your body and mind.

18. Be nice:

I can’t think of anything more stressful than watching two grown adults fighting over a toy or arguing about who is first in line. Well maybe being one of those adults fighting over the toy would be more stressful. At this time of year, niceness goes a long way. When you’re checking out, ask the cashier how she’s doing, and really be interested in her answer. Give the waiter an extra tip, even if he didn’t do such a great job. Let the other person have that parking spot, even if you saw it first. Little things like this go a long way to bringing true joy to this season. And after all isn’t that what it’s all about?

And finally…

19. Remember what this season is really about:

It’s so easy to get caught up in the commercialism of the holiday season. But what is this time of year really about for you? It doesn’t matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs are, take time to think about and remember what this season means to you. Shopping and gift-giving and parties and merry-making are all great. But when that’s all there is, it’s easy for stress to find it’s way into your life. When you remember what the holiday season means for you – whether it’s joy, compassion, peace, generosity, faith, love, or anything else – there is a calmness that descends upon you and helps you move through this stressful time with a feeling of peace.

So enjoy this holiday season. And if any of these tips help you get through it with less stress, I would love to hear about it. Leave a comment below. And also leave other stress-reducing tips that you use during this season.

Image Credits:

Grumpy Holiday Girl – Rosemarie Gearhart at
Holiday Massage – The Naked Photographer.
Peace on Earth – Lisa Norwood.

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    21 Responses to “The Holiday Anti-Stress Guide: 19 Tips For A Relaxing Holiday Season”

    1. Tip Diva on December 18th, 2007 3:25 pm

      Great tips!

      Christmas cards are sometimes another hassle in the hustle and bustle of the seasons. After Christmas, I buy Christmas cards on clearance, then write them out way before Christmas (think September/October – not in the weeks before). I also have all my addresses on the computer, so I can print them out instead of hand-addressing envelopes. All I have to do is stick them in the mailbox in December, and I’m stress-free. This also gives you enough time to think of people you may have forgotten on your list.

    2. Lorraine Cohen on December 18th, 2007 4:20 pm

      Happy Holidays Edward

      It’s been a while and I thought I’d pop in and see what you’re up to. Great list of reminders that we have a choice as to whether we suffer through the holidays or experience greater ease and joy.

      Blessings to you and your family!


    3. Pass the Torch on December 18th, 2007 5:08 pm

      What a great post. I needed most of these reminders – thanks!

    4. Edward Mills on December 18th, 2007 6:01 pm

      Lorraine. Good to see you again. I must admit I have not been getting around to as many of my favorite blogs as I would like. Maybe I should add another item to the list – cut down on surfing time! 😉

      I’m all for greater ease and joy during the holidays and beyond! Thanks.

    5. Edward Mills on December 18th, 2007 8:32 pm

      Tip Diva. That’s a great tip! I know people who buy all their holiday stuff after the holidays. Saves a lot of money. Organizing your holiday card list on the computer is a great idea. Thanks!

      Pass the Torch – You’re welcome.

    6. Raymond on December 18th, 2007 9:26 pm

      Great tips.

      I love online shopping. No stress, no queue and no traffic jam. 🙂

    7. Jennifer Mannion on December 19th, 2007 7:04 am

      Hey Ed, GREAT tips! I was asked by a friend to write a post on stress free holidays and I will send her your way instead — I NEED to put a bunch of these into practice myself! Communication, Delegation, setting clear work boundaries and SLEEP being the key ones! One way I have found that helps me concentrate on WHAT the holidays are about are to write well thought out cards to both my parents and to my husband. Kind of a summary of the year and also helps to concentrate on the gratitude I feel towards loved ones. Makes me actually sit for a moment as well AWAY from the computer which is never a bad thing. I’m off to FINISH my shopping before going to my daughter’s nursery school Christmas concert! Thanks for these wonderful tips — I will be reminding myself of your post often these next few days! : ) I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday! Gratefully, Jenny

    8. Edward Mills on December 19th, 2007 9:31 am

      Jenny. I love your idea of writing a card to your parents and partner summarizing the year and what you’re grateful for. That really is a wonderful way to remember what this time of year is all about! Thanks for sharing it.

      Raymond. I’m with you. Although if you can walk to a local downtown shopping area – like we can – that can be pretty sweet too!

    9. Just Say No To Holiday Stress | Complete Life Success on December 19th, 2007 6:53 pm

      […] One of the personal development blogs I read, Evolving Times, has a great post on the subject of holiday stress and how to beat it. Check out their Holiday Anti-Stress Guide. […]

    10. » The 20th Tip for Happy and Stress-Free Holidays on December 19th, 2007 2:58 pm

      […] 19 tips for a Relaxing Holiday Season were wonderfully presented today by Edward Mills, in the Evolving Times Blog. I’d like to add the 20th tip […]

    11. Larry Mills on December 20th, 2007 8:26 am

      I just finished reading your Dec. issue of Evolving Times and enjoyed it. While I generally agree with your Holiday Anti-Stress Guide I do have a different take on your no. 12. Sometimes there aren’t a lot of opportunities to be with family and sometimes it can be for sad occasions as well as holidays. Therefore, my take is to spend as much time with your family as you can whenever you can, especially when you are separated by long distances. Also, Baron sends you licks and kisses.

    12. Edward Mills on December 20th, 2007 6:05 pm

      Hi Dad! Great to see you here. I must say, I never actually expected to see a comment from you here. Welcome to the blogosphere!

      I definitely understand your perspective. But, at this point, you have to remember that you are no longer attempting to balance time between your parents and mom’s parents. On the other hand, we not only have to try to balance our time with you and Melissa’s parents but do so with cross-country flights and extended time away from home.

      Honestly though, although it applies to us as well, I wasn’t thinking about our situation when I wrote #12. I was thinking more of the people who have several different family gatherings that they feel obligated to attend during the holidays. Saying yes to all of them can lead to a very stressful holiday experience.

    13. Mrs. Iten on December 20th, 2007 11:37 pm

      Nice tips! I sure won’t have any stress anymore…many thanks!

    14. Martin Saenz on December 29th, 2007 3:32 pm

      Two thoughts. 1) like the idea of shopping locally, however bearing in mind there are some small business owners that sell at the mall as well. 2) we should always look for gifts that are special to the person rather than fun for a day. I’ll never forget when my wife got me a NY JETS jersey with my name on the back. Small stuff.


    15. Edward Mills on December 30th, 2007 3:19 pm

      Martin: Great point! It’s so true that finding something special is important. And, I think you also have to balance your own sense of well-being in the process. If someone in your life wants something that is only available at a store far away from your home, you need to ask yourself if the extra stress that you’ll experience is going to be worth it. Perhaps you can call in and order it over the phone but have them pick it up later.

      I also think that we place far too much emphasis on gifts for the holidays. I’d much rather receive a small, simple gift and hang out with relaxed people than get something I really want only to spend the day with a bunch of stressed out people wondering if they got the “right” thing.

    16. dohfiddle on January 21st, 2008 11:09 am

      Breathing is one of the easiest methods to relax. Breathing influences alamost all aspects of us, it affects our mind, our moods and our body. Simply focus on your breathing, after some time you can feel its effects right away

    17. Trail Running on March 16th, 2008 9:27 pm

      These are really good tips, even for after the holiday season. It would be great to try and follow all of the advice given and would really help with dealing with stress.

    18. mirc on May 19th, 2008 2:08 am

      Nice tips! I sure won’t have any stress anymore…many thanks!

    19. Ahh - the Holidays — Shift Your Attention to what you love about them! | Heal Pain Naturally on October 5th, 2008 3:17 am

      […] and even felt some old aches wanting to manifest. Luckily I read Edward Mill’s post “The Holiday Anti-Stress Guide — 19 Tips For a Relaxing Holiday Season“. It really helped me to look at where my attention was going and gave me some GREAT tips on […]

    20. izlekop on October 15th, 2008 7:41 am

      Breathing is one of the easiest methods to relax. Breathing influences alamost all aspects of us, it affects our mind, our moods and our body. Simply focus on your breathing, after some time you can feel its effects right away

    21. lovefriends on January 7th, 2009 2:38 pm

      I also think that we place far too much emphasis on gifts for the holidays. I’d much rather receive a small, simple gift and hang out with relaxed people than get something I really want only to spend the day with a bunch of stressed out people wondering if they got the “right” thing.

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