Keep calm and carry on – how to avoid stress during the holiday season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  Well, at least we like to believe it is.  The truth is, the holiday season is quickly losing much of its traditional significance, becoming less about treasured time with family and friends and more about the hustle and bustle of American consumerism.  According to a new survey by the American Psychological Association, emotions of all sorts run high during the holidays – at least 61% of Americans feel a significant increase in stress around Christmastime, with the main culprits to blame being lack of time and/or money for the growing number of festivities.

In lieu of these new findings, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the ways in which we celebrate the holidays.  Instead of succumbing to the looming pre-Christmas anxiety, take a look at these hints that are sure to bring back the holiday spirit.


Instead of giving individual gifts, throw a ‘white elephant’ party with friends. 

Sometimes the most stressful part of the holidays lies in the very spirit of giving.  Trying to find the perfect presents for friends and family tends to consume excessive amounts of both time and money, taking away from the true meaning of the season.   Instead of buying for everyone, mix up your holiday by throwing a traditional white elephant gathering.

Here’s how it works: everyone brings just one gift to the party.  And though some people prefer to buy their white elephant items from stores, others will inevitably go for the more eccentric gifts, unearthing trinkets and tacky collectables from basements and backs of closets.  At the get-together, all of the wrapped presents are placed in the same pile, creating a system that randomly matches every participant with a mystery gift.

One at a time, each person is given the chance to unwrap their chosen present for the rest to see.  If someone wishes to do so, they have the opportunity to ‘steal’ someone else’s item, rather than unwrap another.  By the end of the round, everyone ends up with a different present, a good laugh, and the knowledge that they saved themselves a considerable sum of cash, not to mention the stress of having to buy for a crowd.


When it comes to holiday treats, try not to over-indulge. 

Hold it right there.  What’s the point of celebrating Christmas without a slew of Hershey’s peanut butter blossoms washed down with a gallon or so of tongue-scalding hot chocolate?  Believe it or not, our tendency to indulge in sugary holiday treats during the Christmas season only further contributes to increased levels of stress.

Winter is the season of comfort foods, and for many who are trying to watch their diet, this means that winter doubles as the season of food-related guilt.  With tempting cookies and confections abound, it’s often difficult to pass up the occasional peppermint mocha or gingerbread man during the holiday season.  For those wanting to cut back on Christmas calories, know that the solution lies in preparation and moderation.

If you’re headed out to a holiday party, grabbing a healthy snack before leaving will help curb your appetite, making it easier to steer clear of overeating once the sugary snacks make an appearance.  It may seem like a challenge, but maintaining a healthy diet is essential to keeping Christmastime stress at bay.


Already stressed?  Take some time for yourself. 

It sometimes seems that the closer we get to Christmas, the more tightly-packed our schedules become.  Even with holiday events to attend and last-minute shopping to do, we tend to think that our calendars can magically expand to allow time for more, more, more.  Unfortunately, there are still only twenty-four hours in a day, but often far too many things to do.

Again, the trick is moderation.  If you’re already stressing about an upcoming event, take some time out for yourself.  As difficult as it might seem, cancelling plans to go ice skating with friends can be a blessing in disguise when it means getting to spend a peaceful evening at home with a mug of hot chocolate and your favorite holiday movie.

When it comes to Christmas, let’s try to remember what matters the most, whether it is time spent with family and friends or out in the community.  The true meaning of the season surely isn’t found through presents or big holiday sales, but in the time we spend surrounded by those who truly care for us.  This Christmas, rather than stress about what you could be doing, take the time to give thanks for what you do have.  It’ll make all the difference.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s