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10 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

By DeVry University

December 7, 2022

7 min read

They may call it “the season to be jolly” but with all the shopping, cooking, scheduling and family commitments, let’s face it─ the holidays can be overwhelming at times. You’ve probably found yourself asking, how can I enjoy the holiday season and make time for myself while managing holiday stress?

The good news is there are many ways to find balance and peace in the hustle of the holiday season. Follow these simple, holiday stress management practices to help keep things merry and bright.

1. Tune into Your Feelings

It’s important to acknowledge your feelings during times of stress, especially around the holidays. Following simple mental health and self-care guidelines can help to keep you balanced and calm.

Mental Health:

Increased financial pressures, the need to balance social obligations with everyday responsibilities and self-care and high expectations to find the perfect holiday gifts or plan the perfect events can feel overwhelming. The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers this advice to reduce holiday stress: 

  • Keep up with your therapy appointments

    If you’re in therapy, don’t cancel sessions to make time for holiday activities. For some, the holidays can bring up difficult emotions. Those sessions provide an important, built-in block of time to explore them.  

  • Find healthy coping mechanisms

    When you need a break from your holiday to-do list, consider activities that help you find peace and encourage positive energy. Attend a yoga class, practice mindfulness techniques or make time for a favorite activity.

  • Let the sun shine in

    Holiday stress can be compounded by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Taking a few minutes to walk outside in the sun can be an effective centering and calming tool during the season.

  • Set realistic expectations

    Avoid disappointing feelings caused by over-examining the past year’s accomplishments. Get yourself out of a negative space by adjusting your expectations and setting more realistic goals for things like education, career advancement and fitness.


Figuring out how to avoid holiday stress begins with self-care. It’s important to value yourself as much as you value the people around you. When you take some me time, your mood and efficiency can improve. This begins with getting the appropriate amount of sleep to allow your brain to function effectively and productively, and being proactive. Don’t wait for someone else to ask you to take that walk, go to that movie or get that massage. Just do it, for you.


Setting boundaries is another effective self-care practice for holiday stress relief. This year, reduce holiday stress by resisting the temptation to go above and beyond during the holiday season. Don’t be afraid to say no to taking on more than you can handle mentally, physically or emotionally. By saying no to the outside pressure, you are saying yes to yourself.

2. Accept Imperfection

The expression “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” certainly applies to the holiday season. Holiday harmony can begin by embracing imperfection and the things that make us unique. So why demand perfection in décor, gifts, meals and other aspects of the holidays? Don’t allow an obsession with perfection to diminish your experience and ability to make cherished holiday memories.

Be realistic. Maintaining holiday traditions doesn’t mean doing the same things in the same way every year. Keep some of those traditions, but be open to accepting new ones. For instance, if some family members aren’t able to attend the big holiday dinner, you might include them virtually on a video call.  

3. Be Open to Communication

Past grievances and conflicts can cause a great deal of anxiety before, during and even after a holiday gathering. If it makes sense in your situation, consider talking things out prior to your events and working toward some much-needed emotional relief. Knowing the issue has been resolved may help brighten your outlook for the holidays and the New Year.

4. Get Out and Walk

Studies have shown that spending time in nature has multiple mental health benefits. Stress relief improved short-term memory and concentration, and a boost to the immune system are all benefits derived from being outdoors. Getting outside and walking, bicycling, jogging or whatever else you like to do is a good idea, even if you feel like you don’t have the time. Taking a walk around the neighborhood during this time of year can be a great stress reliever. During the day, take time to feel the sun on your face. In the evening, you might pause to marvel at the creativity of your neighbor’s holiday decorating and do a little stargazing while you’re out there.  

5. Meditation

Meditation is a great way to reduce stress any time of the year, and it’s something you can do anywhere, any time. According to the Mayo Clinic, some ways to practice meditation include breathing deeply, scanning your body for signs of discomfort, tension or relaxation or reading and reflecting upon a poem. Repeating a mantra can sometimes help. Your mantra can be anything that helps you feel uplifted and centered, or even a favorite song lyric that helps to clear your mind. 

6. Yoga

Many people practice yoga for its fitness and stress-reduction benefits. Yoga has many styles, forms and intensities. Hatha style yoga, which offers a slower pace and easier movements that are appreciated by beginners, is one of the most common styles. Yoga’s poses, breathing and meditation/relaxation elements combine to make it an effective stress reliever. If you’ve never tried yoga, it may be worthwhile to explore as the holidays approach. Who knows? This holiday stress relief tactic could become a positive year-round addition to your wellness routine.

7. Play Games

We all have joy within us. This year, try to remember what it was like to be a kid during the holidays. Spend a little time around children and channel their delight or play some games with your adult friends and family members. Whether it’s a raucous snowball fight or something played on a board with dice, games can allow us to experience the joy of the season and each other. 

8. Stay Hydrated

ydration is one of the essential, but often overlooked, aspects of maintaining good health.  Dehydration can slow down circulation and affect the flow of oxygen to your brain. As your heart works harder to pump oxygen through your body, you feel tired, sluggish and less focused.  Dehydration can even trigger headaches or migraines in some individuals. Drinking the recommended 8 glasses of water a day will give you the holiday hydration you need to stay on top of things this season. 

Keep in mind that the amount of water you need depends on your body. The National Council on Aging recommends using this formula: Take one-third of your body’s weight and drink that number of ounces in fluids per day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, try to drink 50 ounces of water each day.

9. Get Enough Sleep

You might be telling yourself there’s no time for sleep, but the holidays are no time to abandon healthy habits – no matter how much pressure you may be feeling to go the extra mile.  Sleep deprivation will likely cause you to be irritable, feel sluggish and lose focus, making for a less-than-jolly time for you and the people around you. If you make sleep a priority, you might find that you’re able to get just as much done without the negative impact on your physical wellbeing, mood and interpersonal relations. Be sure to get the sleep you need to be your best.

10. Take a Break

Sometimes the best way to clear your head and get the stress level down is to simply take a break. You may be thinking this is easier said than done, especially when there’s so much to do, but taking time for yourself can help you restore balance, refocus and ultimately get more accomplished. The Mayo Clinic recommends taking a breather to de-stress during the holidays:

  • Listen to your favorite music. Give the jingle-bell variety a rest, keep it soothing and make it something reminiscent of good times.

  • Have a little more time? Watching a favorite movie can provide a simple escape, and a massage can make all that holiday stress melt away.

  • Read a few chapters of that book you’ve been neglecting. Immersing yourself in a fictional world, even briefly, is another way to escape from the stress-inducing demands of the day.

The holidays can be a stressful time of year for many of us. Following simple tips like these can keep you emotionally centered and physically better prepared to take on the season’s challenges and make wonderful new holiday memories with family and friends. 

Happy Holidays from DeVry

Whether you’re already a member of our DeVry family, or a new friend visiting for the first time, we wish you a very merry – and stress-free – holiday season and a joyful, healthy and prosperous New Year.

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