5 foolproof tips for a less-stressed holiday season

It’s the most wonderful stressful tiiiiime of the year!

Okay, okay, let me backtrack a bit. There really is something special about this time of year. The weather cools down (here in Florida, that’s a big deal!), the shops are decked out with festive lights and awesome sales, schools and workplaces are closed to allow for more time together with family and friends, holiday traditions are in full force, and overall, there’s a sense of magic in the air … with a side of stress, that is. 🙂

Looking back, the most anxious periods of my life have always been around the holidays. Now, this may be due to the fact that I come from a family of divorce, which makes figuring out Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve pure chaos (I’ll save those details for another time). Or, maybe it has to do with all of the extra obligations around this time of year, which always adds a layer of anxiety. There are many reasons, which are different for everyone, as to why this time of year brings more emotion – and in my case, more anxiety.

I told a story in a recent podcast interview about how my older sister Angela and I would always get what we referred to as “that weird feeling” at big holiday parties. I now know that “that weird feeling” was anxiety. We were young, anxious, and just wanted to go home – to flee the feeling of painful discomfort.

As time has passed and I’ve prioritized my mental health, I’ve learned why I tend to spiral during this time (shout out to therapy!). I learned why my panic attacks are most frequent before, during or just after the New Year. And I’ve also learned how to minimize these negative feelings.

While I sometimes still get a little triggered during the holidays, I’ve defined how to feel less overwhelmed and more balanced, which allows me to actually enjoy them! So, if you are anything like me and feel a little heightened this season, check out these tips to make it through the holiday season with, hopefully, less stress.

  • Set boundaries with your family and friends. I talk about boundaries a lot, and I dig deep into this topic in my previous blog post, but boundaries are SO. IMPORTANT. this time of year. You don’t have to go to all of the parties. You don’t have to please every family member. Say no when it’s best for you.
  • Simplify gift giving. I love, love, love giving meaningful gifts to my loved ones. I usually can’t even wait until Christmas before spilling the beans on what I got everyone, LOL. Real talk, though – spending loads of money and making sure you get everyone a gift can be seriously stressful. So, here are some thoughtful, affordable options to simplify this part of the season:
    • Frame a picture. Super inexpensive and super meaningful. This is my go-to gift for my parents (especially this year – hello, wedding photos!).
    • Ditch individual gifts for a group gift exchange. This year, my family decided to play a game of White Elephant, a gift exchange that includes the ability to “steal” other’s gifts, since we’re all on a budget. The game assures we all only buy one gift, can set a spending limit, and it’s always a hoot!
    • Get crafty. These DIY tile coasters are easy to make and go great on anyone’s coffee table. Craftier in the kitchen? Make a Christmas cookie box (ya’ll know I would love one of those)! Here’s my all-time favorite cookie recipe.
Recipe by Sirenna Patapis
  • Don’t let all the festive food give you anxiety. Diets bring me down, so I skip them altogether (more on that here). Worrying about every bite I consumed during Thanksgiving and Christmastime used to give me the most anxiety … So, I recommend tuning into your body and fueling up with what it wants – and if that’s pecan pie after dinner, so be it. Basically, what I’m saying is … YES, you can bake your Christmas cookies, and eat them, too!
  • Make sure to move, preferably outside. We all know exercise is good for your body and mind, but I’m here to remind you that you don’t have to plan long, intense workouts. Simply going for a walk after I eat is something I try to prioritize, and I always end up feeling good after! If you’re out of town for the holidays, search for some nearby trails and enjoy the different surroundings. It’s good for the soul.
I try to take Charlie for a walk after dinner every night! Outfit by Fabletics. Photo by Brittany Lemire Photography.
  • With all of that being said, try not to stray too far from your routine. Traveling for the holidays? Remember to pack your vitamins and/or medication, headphones, favorite leggings, and reusable water bottle. Exercise when you can. Be as mindful as possible. Try your best to balance out the extra sweet treats with protein, greens and healthy fats. Stay hydrated. Establishing even just a morning routine keeps me grounded during this busy time, especially when I’m away from home.

I love this time of year – I really do! I love all of the homemade, feel-good Thanksgiving foods. I love Black Friday, as my husband and I dedicate it to putting up our Christmas tree and stockings, and Charlie always has a special bandana for the holidays – and he looks so cute!

But my reality is this: the holiday season hasn’t always been the most wonderful time for me. I’ve put in the time and effort to define how I can make them more enjoyable. I’m hopeful these tips can guide some of you, too!

Are you excited for the holidays or feelin’ stressed? Tell me below!



Please note that I am not a professional in mental health, fitness or nutrition. Always seek the advice of your qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have.

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