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Defeat Holiday Stress with These 5 Self-Care Tips

Woman reading a book and drinking hot chocolate in a cozy room.
Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock

’Tis the season to be jolly, right? Well, even though the thought of the holidays brings out the warm and fuzzy feelings, it can also be a time of tremendous stress. This year, turn it all around and defeat holiday stress with five ways to practice self-care!

Plan Ahead

Why does this fall into the self-care category you ask? Planning ahead equals better organization equals less stress equals more time for you equals taking care of YOU! See, making sure you’re well-prepared ahead of time for everything you need to do lowers the risk of sleepless nights, a cluttered kitchen, and frantic last-minute shopping tasks. Nothing in life is 100 percent guaranteed and surprises can still happen. But if you plan ahead, you’ll at least be in more control than when you need to figure out how to bake 15 desserts in less than two days.

Start with a simple to-do list and note down all the things that need to be done. Divide them into categories ranked by importance where number one will be the most crucial tasks, number two those that need to be done BUT after the first category is complete, and so on. This way, you’ll be able to focus on only a handful of things at a time, which won’t leave you overwhelmed. This also makes it easier to cross off completed tasks—and isn’t that the most satisfying feeling ever?

Delegate Tasks

Tying in very nicely with the previous tip, delegate the tasks you honestly don’t have the knowledge or time for. Also delegate any you know will take you too much time and will leave you stressing over whether you can complete everything else. We recommend delegating as a way to decrease Thanksgiving stress, and we recommend delegating for every other big holiday, too.

Delegating can be hard, especially if you’re the type of person who wants everything done in a certain way (hello A-type perfectionists). Letting go and trusting others to do a good job, however, is one of the things we learn as we grow. This will leave you with more time to focus on those tasks that are absolutely your fortè, and you’ll be able to do a much better job than trying to do everything at once. It will also leave you with more time for you, and that’s the ultimate goal of this de-stress list.

Take some time to rest, relax, focus on getting enough sleep, and don’t sacrifice your Tuesday pilates class because you need to track down the best wrapping paper in the world. Rely on your partner, family member, friend, or neighbor, and let them join in on the holiday preparations. What’s the point of doing everything yourself if, when it’s all over, you’re so exhausted you don’t enjoy the fruits of your own labor? Sometimes the best self-care thing you can do for yourself is to accept that you simply can’t do it all.

Let Go of the Pressure

So your cranberry sauce wasn’t perfect this year. You didn’t put up all the 28 Christmas decorations you always do, including twinkly lights on all of your backyard trees. Who made all that be the requirements for the perfect holidays anyway? We spend so much time making sure everything runs smoothly, that when something goes wrong (and something ALWAYS goes wrong), our stress levels go through the roof. Do it a bit different this time around, and ease up on the pressure.

You can only control so much. If you’ve planned ahead and done all you can to do what needs to be done, hitting a few speed-bumps along the way is OK. Accepting that and being ok with it is the real goal. It’s the only way you’ll be able to practice some self-care and give yourself permission to make mistakes, leave things incomplete, or even fail altogether. Most pressure you feel is there because you put it on yourself. By allowing it to chill down a bit, you’ll be able to sleep better, feel better, and deal with everything that comes your way.

Practice Gratitude

Holidays are the time when we’re most likely surrounded with our family and friends, so if you’re lucky to be around them (yes, even your Aunt Becky), be grateful. So many people around the world can’t be in your situation. Remember that every time a family member gets on your nerves, or your partner wants to play charades, or your grandfather starts telling the same stories he tells every year.

Take some deep breaths and be grateful for everything you’re able to experience, all the not-so-perfect pecan pies and burnt ginger cookies, crooked Christmas trees and childish decorations. Enjoy it all with a large smile on your face, because that’s life, and you should be so lucky to live it.

Carve Out Me-Time

You know that you can say NO to things you don’t want to do, right? If this is the first time someone’s telling you this, you’re welcome. In all seriousness though, taking some alone time is really important because it will make you appreciate the holiday season so much more.

You don’t have to attend every party and participate in all of the Christmas activities. If staying in, drinking a cup of hot cocoa, and watching a Great British Bake-Off marathon sounds like the perfect Saturday night, you owe it to yourself to do it. Don’t do it to reward yourself, but because you deserve it no matter what you have or haven’t accomplished so far. Same goes for everything else—instead of putting everything else first, learn to carve out time for yourself and breathe in the nutmeg and cinnamon in the air.

At the end of the day, holidays are really the time to be jolly, spend time with your loved ones, eat your favorite foods, and recharge your batteries after a long and busy year. Stress shouldn’t even be a part of the equation, so it’s really unfortunate we’ve managed to weave it into every activity we do. Practice these rituals and implement them into this year’s preparations and who knows—you might just find the perfect holiday recipe.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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