We all know that the Holidays can be a stressful time of year. For some it’s having the whole family around which can bring up old family dynamics and other stressors, for others it can be having the kids home from school for 2 weeks, while trying to get everything ready; gift shopping, meal planning, baking, Holiday cards and so on. Finding time for yourself can easily fall off the priority list. The holidays can also bring immense joy to the home, by reuniting with family and friends.

Here are a few tips to help minimize stress over the holidays while maximizing joy, warmth and connection.

1. Take Time for Yourself: During the hustle and bustle of the Holidays It is important to set aside time everyday to allow yourself to relax and escape the stress of life. Give yourself a private, mini vacation from everything going on around you. Sometimes this can be taking a relaxing bath in the evening after the kids have gone to bed. Or it can be taking 5 minutes to escape into your bedroom to pause and take some deep breaths once you notice your stress levels going up.

2. Meditation and Relaxation Techniques: Practicing deep breathing techniques, the relaxation response, or sitting still for 5 minutes in a quiet space are great ways to help reduce stress and induce relaxation. Meditation really trains us to calm our over-active minds; it’s a great tool for prevention as it can lead to greater mental and emotional clarity in times of stress.

3. Friendship and Support: Having friends who are willing to listen and support you through good and bad times is essential, learn how to reach out and ask for support when you are feeling overwhelmed. Talking about our feelings with a supportive friend, neighbour, family member or a counsellor can help empower you to feel more in control of your life. You don’t have to go through stressful or difficult times alone!

4. Physical Activity and Nutrition:Research shows that moving around and getting the heart rate up causes the body to release endorphins (the body’s feel good hormones). When we are stressed, our bodies tense up leaving us feeling constricted and often rigid in our responses to stress. Exercise is a great way to relax both the body and the mind. 

Eating foods that are good for you can be a challenge, especially during the Holidays. However healthy eating not only improves your physical health, but plays a major role in your mental health as well. Indulging a little during the Holidays is not a bad thing, but remember the saying “everything in moderation” and don’t let the Holidays be an excuse to throw your healthy eating plans out the window.

5. Setting Healthy Boundaries: It’s important to know your limits during the holidays and part of that process involves tuning into yourself and your feelings. It’s easy to over-commit ourselves and to give in to outside pressures of family and friends during a very social time of year. Give yourself permission to say No and make self-care a priority in order to avoid burn out. Tuning into ourselves can allow us to make clear, healthy decisions that are in our own best interest. Rather than trying to take on too much and please others, setting boundaries helps us to also take care of ourselves.

Julie Hughes
Senior Associate Counsellor at Steadfast Counselling | Website | + posts

Julie has been counselling individuals and couples for over 10 years and is a Registered Professional Counsellor (#3065) with the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association. Julie holds a degree in Psychology from the University of Ottawa as well as having completed a 3 year counselling program with Clearmind International Institute.

View Julie's biography and counselling schedule.