Holiday Stress? Just Say No!

Is your holiday season filled with holly, jolly and visions of sugarplums just like everyone else on Facebook?  Or are you stressed, tired and maybe even a little bit depressed or irritable like the real world?

Of course, most of us look forward to the holidays and spending some special time with friends and family, but research from the American Psychological Association suggests that at least one third of us, and 44% of all women, feel more stressed, tired, and irritable during the holidays. My apologies to any of my male readers, but it seems that women are the ones that take on most of the cooking, cleaning, shopping, and the responsibility for making everyone happy and bright during the holidays.  All of this, in addition to the regular stuff that already has us stressed out, causes our  holiday stress.  Really?

I think this graphic says it all.

thanksgiving activities
2006, Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner

Just add gift shopping and cookie baking with some long yellow bars, and you’ll have another graphic for Christmas 🙂

So it's no wonder if you're feeling a little bit of stress right now, but I'm giving you permission to step back, relax, and just say NO.  Here are a few suggestions for ways to make more time for yourself, and say no to holiday stress.

  • Don't pretend to be Martha Stewart.  She has her own problems, and she has a fairly major staff of cooking, decorating, organizing, and table setting elves.  None of it is real, and once your realize that, you'll be so much happier.
  • Be realistic about your baking and cooking expectations.  Really, what will happen if you don’t have three homemade cakes, and five different types of cookies? Set the bar lower, maybe one cake or pie that you can make ahead, and two types of cookies – one to bake with the kids and one to bake and freeze for company. No kids at home? Stick to one small batch. Trust me. You'll thank me when you step on the scale in January.  The same thing goes for the meal, appetizers and drinks (well maybe not the drinks - give them enough to drink and they'll never miss the food :).  Someone once told me the best dinner parties are the ones that you leave wishing for just a few more bites of the meal.  Makes perfect sense - let them leave wishing for more, rather than so full they can't think about food.
  • Let the grocery store help with the work.  As much as we all love to take credit for how delicious the holiday meal is, it’s really OK to buy some or all of it already made, and take credit for it anyway. I won’t tell.
  • Stock up on inexpensive, homemade gifts for any last minute invitations. Gifts like flavored sugars or salts, or homemade vanilla extract are thoughtful and so much more special than running out to Home Goods for a last minute gift. As a bonus, if you make them now and keep them in a cool dry place, they’ll last until next year – so you’ll be ahead of the game!
  • Make time for yourself.  It’s OK to pass on the neighborhood cookie swap, or the book club holiday lunch, or any other event that causes you to be stressed out. Just say “No, I wish I could, but I already have plans.” No one needs to know your plans are to have your hair done, or a pedicure, or just a bubble bath and a glass of wine. It’s important to have some ME time during the holidays, so aim for at least one day (or a few hours) each week to focus on something that makes you feel happy and relaxed.
  • Don't abandon your healthy eating and exercise.  Too much sugar, caffeine, and alcohol can actually cause stress and inflammation inside of your body, and when you don't feel well, it only adds to your stress level. Make it a point to eat a healthy breakfast, and load up on at least five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day during the next few weeks.  It will make it much easier to say no to all of the cookies, candy and holiday drinks that are calling your name. Even if you have to cut back on exercise, any amount is still a good stress buster.  If the weather is cooperating, try to get a short but brisk walk in most days of the week. Again, you'll thank me when you step on the scale in January.


  • Remember to laugh. It will all be over soon.


How do you cope with holiday stress?

Eat well!

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