5 Ways to Embrace (Not Escalate) Holiday Stress

Yesterday, I received an alert from Pinterest that “green bean casserole” is trending this week.

I guess the great race to the holiday season is on!

Like many of you, I actually felt panic set in the day after Halloween when my morning Starbucks arrived in . . . say what? . . . a GREEN cup! After last year’s controversy, all I could think was, “How could they do this to us? We asked for snowflakes and reindeer!”

Relax Already!

There’s no doubt the holiday messages come earlier and earlier each year, and they can do a number on our wellness if we’re not careful.

While many people EMBRACE their white peppermint mocha in a green cup and begin to make detailed to-do lists around holiday occasions and gift giving, there are others like me who tend to ESCALATE seasonal stress until we arrive at the New Year in an exhausted, overfed, underexercised heap.

Making Peace with the Holidays

If you’re feeling the rumblings of holiday stress in the form of sleepless nights, anxious days, and waning wellness motivation, maybe you’ll join me this year and press the pause button for a moment.

There’s plenty of time for us to get on board with Santa’s happier helpers, and set in motion a healthier approach to seasonal stress.

Here are my top five tips to help you EMBRACE the holiday season ahead:

#1 Start Small

Mindfulness expert, Pema Chodron, instructs, “Start with traffic jams.” The green Starbucks cup, the fully decorated holiday tree that appeared at the mall on November 1st, the Christmas carols that invade your morning commute to work—-all the tiny, early holiday annoyances are good practice for managing the bigger stresses ahead.

  • Notice the twinges of frustration or angst you feel around them and practice patiently staying present until they pass. When they do, you will begin to see you have a choice to escalate or EMBRACE whatever challenges the season presents.

#2 Make a Deeper Connection


My favorite girls in their holiday sweaters!

We know the holiday season is so much more than the hype and gifts piled high under the tree. Taking the time to define what that “true meaning” is for you could help you avoid being pulled into the frenzy.

  • Why not take out your journal or a blank peace of paper and do a 2-minute list, or 10-minute free write about what the holidays really mean to you? What would your Norman Rockwell painting look like? See what comes up, then EMBRACE that vision with daily actions.

#3 Take Advantage of the Early Bird Approach

Actually, the stores have it right. They start early with their efforts to ensure a successful season in the end. What if you EMBRACED this approach and got a jump on your holiday to-do list? Shorter lines, store shelves full of items, early bird sales . . .

  • With more than six weeks left to go, each week could be an opportunity to knock off a kid or two’s wish list. It also means that you will continue to have space in your days for beneficial wellness practices like regular exercise and a restful night’s sleep.

#4 Consider Making a Decision Around that One Annoying Thing

Do you have one particularly stressful aspect of your holiday that nags at you from the get-go and puts a damper on your outlook? Maybe it’s a long standing holiday tradition that has become more stressful than it’s worth, or a family recipe that just doesn’t fit into the new healthy you.

  • Evaluate its standing in your holiday line-up and EMBRACE the path you choose ahead. You can either say, “Thanks for your service, I no longer need you,” or “Come on in! I’m glad you’re back this year!”

#5 Put Yourself First!

No, this is not a selfish “me before you” suggestion. Instead, EMBRACING a wellness centered approach to the holidays by continuing to eat healthfully, exercise daily, and get enough rest actually says, “me, so I can be there for you.”

  • While it’s tempting to table your wellness for this finite period of time, schedule in your favorite daily (yes, I said, “daily!”) wellness practices to generate more energy, focus, and feelings of good cheer. Your family and friends with thank you for it!

WE Can Do This!

Sure, escalating holiday stress makes for fun chit-chat when we’re waiting in line for our morning caffeine fix. But at some point it becomes counterproductive, increasing anxiety and feelings of “when will this be over?”


Now, that’s a holiday cup!

Besides, these things tend to work themselves out.

The calendar pages fall away and our to-do list gets done, the holiday delivers unexpected moments of magic that can only be experienced at this time of year, and Starbucks eventually comes around to EMBRACE our vision of the perfect Christmas; a beautiful red cup dotted with tiny snowflakes.

We do have a choice . . . and I know what mine is going to be. What’s yours?

Feel good. Be well.


IMG_8111Wellness Prompt: I’ve suggested several easy action steps you could take to get your holiday started off on the right foot. Does anything catch your attention? What usually trips you up the most . . . food, relationships, gift buying, lack of time? What one thing could you do to EMBRACE a healthier approach this year? I’d love to know!

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