34 Ways to Beat Holiday Stress

Thanksgiving is over—rocketing us full-throttle into the countdown to the New Year. Thirty-four days of unadulterated joy—or added stress, depending on how you look at it.

Because at CaringWise our goal is to help eliminate stress, we offer this post: An idea a day to beat stress, and keep the holidays a time for celebration.

  1. Forget perfection. Most people agree that Martha Stewart set us all up for failure. But this year you have a completely valid excuse to let yourself off the hook. Trust me, even your persnickety Aunt Mildred will understand.
  2. Eliminate traditions that you don't really enjoy. Traditions beget expectations that take on a life of their own. Many of these have outlived their season, or weren't that much fun to begin with; some actually drive us crazy. Now is the perfect excuse to stop.
  3. Make sleep a priority. When you are wrapping presents at 3 in the morning, you are grumpy the whole next day. No one cares that much.
  4. Don't feel the need to jam everything into a two week period. Plan some "holiday" gatherings for January, when you'll need the lift.
  5. Hire a neighborhood kid to do your shoveling this winter. Better yet, bribe 'em with cookies; your house will smell fabulous.
  6. Go to the cheesiest holiday performance you can find. You will laugh about it for the rest of the season.
  7. Dance to the music in the mall. The shopgirls will give you lots of attention and you'll be on your way before you know it.
  8. Organize a white elephant gift exchange—of things people already own. No shopping, lots of laughs. Isn't joy the point?
  9. Exercise! Remember it is the best stress-reliever around. And it just might ward off the traditional holiday weight gain.
  10. Put on your PJs, pile in the car and ride around looking at the lights. This is a fun activity for the whole family. (Kudos to my friend Isabel Fawcett for this idea).
  11. Hang twinkly lights in your loved one's bedroom. Nothing telegraphs the season better.
  12. Crank the tunes. Sick of mall music? There are lots of options—from country to humor to Celtic tunes.
  13. Drink 8 glasses of water each day. Dry heat makes winter a really dehydrating time, and dehydration, among other things, makes you tired. 
  14. Read the holiday classics. Look at the pictures. Find the magic. (Two that should be classics: How Murry Saved Christmas and Santa Calls)
  15. Hang up some mistletoe. And enjoy those extra hugs and kisses!  
  16. Get the same thing for everyone on your list. It can be a book, a photo, an ornament, a plate of cookies—or a contribution to your favorite charity.
  17. Get your picture taken with Santa. Bring your care recipient, too—Santa's happy to see kids of ALL ages...and talk about a cherished family memento...copies for everyone!
  18. Pop the bubble wrap that comes in your online orders. This is a fun activity everyone can enjoy!
  19. Hang a picture of the Grinch on the refrigerator as a reminder to smile.
  20. Buy a prelit tree. The point is for it to twinkle—and it will. Then spend some time just looking at it. We set up a card table and enjoy dinner in front of the tree for the whole season.
  21. Use Christmas cards to decorate the tree. That way you only do a little at a time. Supplement with old family photos.
  22. Remember to take at least 10 minutes a day just for you. Showers don't count. Bubble baths do.
  23. Cut your junk mail into snowflakes. This can relieve frustration while creating rather unique seasonal decorations.
  24. Don’t overdo it — you're allowed to say no to holiday parties. This is especially true of the ones that, on reflection, you don't actually enjoy.
  25.  Rewatch the old holiday classics: A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
  26. If you are traveling with an older person, read these tips first
  27. Make someone else's Christmas bright by volunteering at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. You have enough to do? You'd be amazed how reaching out makes your life feel better.
  28. Burn the wrapping paper and the boxes. SO much easier than taking out the trash!
  29. Share stories about your best holidays ever. Record them for posterity (or just to share with far-flung family).
  30. Delegate at least one chore you hate. This will be a fine thing to continue in the New Year.
  31. Resolve to laugh hard at least once a day in the coming year. Figure out how to keep the resolution.
  32. Try to remember that snow is magical. This is easier when someone else is doing the shoveling (see item #5).
  33. Start taking a Vitamin D supplement. And turn on the lights. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is nothing to scoff at.
  34. In the coming year, resolve to take ten deep breathes every time you think you'll lose it, and ask yourself: In five years will this have mattered? Nine times out of ten, the answer is no—and you can lose the stress now.