Holiday Stress Tips

Between work and friends and family festivities, it’s no surprise we often find our health, both physical and mental, left waiting in the wings until New Year’s Day.

If you’re feeling the pressure during this time of year, you’re not alone— studies show that 63% percent of people feel stressed during the holiday season. That’s why this year we’ve compiled easy and applicable tips for prioritizing wellness and combatting stress this holiday season. From managing a healthy diet while still enjoying all of your favorite holiday desserts to creating space for your mental health amid the festive chaos, a healthy holiday season can be easier than you think.

Tip 1: Tis the season to get moving

Considering the tasty treats, the interruption of the daily exercise routine, and the hectic schedule that comes with shopping, cooking, and preparing for the holidays — it’s no wonder that many of us associate this time of year with lack of movement and weight gain. The good news is that fitting physical activity into your holiday schedule might be easier than you think! Here are 3 tips on how to stay active during the holidays.

Include the family – Instead of piling on the couch and watching your favorite holiday films with the family, bundle up and make a new tradition this year. Start going on walks, runs, or hikes, and include the whole family so you’re not tempted to skip out when the relatives are visiting. If you’re traveling, research hiking trails in your destination.

  • Try DIY exercises – Household activities like cleaning, raking leaves, or shovelling snow can work muscles and get your heart rate going. Take on these tasks yourself this year—it’s a win-win situation!
  • Turn Cooking Time into mini-workouts – While the casserole is cooking or the cookies are baking, use that time to exercise. You may set a goal to make time for a 10-minute session three times a day.
  • Remember to cut yourself some slack this holiday season. Tuning in to what your body wants is key – some days that really might be sitting on the beach or at home all day, and that’s totally fine.

Tip 2: It’s beginning to look a lot like breakfast

In anticipation of a delicious festive feast, many of us may believe that skipping breakfast or lunch is an effective way to keep calories in check and prevent ourselves from “overdoing it”.


However, research shows that skipping breakfast doesn’t translate into lower daily calorie intake. In fact, people that skip breakfast tend to compensate for their lack of morning intake with larger intakes at lunch and dinner. The same is true on a holiday feast day, only that the foods that you will be compensating with are very likely to be much higher in calories and loaded with sugars and added fats.


Instead of trying to diet in the morning and overly enjoy it in the evening, start the day with a normal, balanced breakfast that’s complete with protein, complex carbohydrates, and unsaturated fats. If you are having a feast dinner instead of a lunch, have a smaller meal or snack 3-4 hours before the feast so you do not head into the meal with uncontrollable urges for everything on the table. A solid breakfast containing eggs or turkey, oats or whole wheat bread, yoghurt or cheese, a handful of nuts or seeds, and some fruits will do the trick!

Tip 3: Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

There is nothing like hearing a favorite old song to brighten up the spirit and it’s no scientific breakthrough that listening to holiday classics can work wonders on your mood. But listening to your favorite music may have more health benefits than you realize!

Music has been widely studied and revered throughout human history for its ability to both entertain AND heal. Modern research confirms the therapeutic benefits of listening to music which include improving mood, memory, stress, anxiety, sleep, and cognitive performance, and even endurance and power during exercise!

Music’s unique action in the brain has also been proven to act as an extremely useful tool for coping with pain even in the most intense clinical settings, including during labor and surgery!

A 2020 overview of research into music and stress suggests that listening to music can:
– lower our heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels.
– release endorphins and increase emotional arousal.
– distract us from outside stressors and reduce physical and emotional stress levels. 

Not only can holiday music make you healthier, but it can also put you in the holiday spirit and bring people together. So what are you waiting for? Sit back, turn the music on, and reap the benefits of your favorite holiday playlist.

Tip 4: All I Want For Christmas Is Everything

Eat that cookie! Yes, this is a straight up recommendation to eat a cookie.
Many of us spend most of the holiday time struggling with what to eat and what not to eat that we find ourselves wrapped up in the push and pull of it. The truth is there is a sweet middle spot where you can continue eating healthy and still enjoy your indulgences – as long as you are indulging with intentions.

This means allowing good quality treats – such as a healthy cookie or a piece of dark chocolate- as part of your holiday regime. This might not be only justifiable but also necessary!

You may have heard that deprivation almost always leads to backlash. When it comes to food, the all-or-nothing mindset doesn’t really work. Giving yourself the conscious permission to eat that cookie will help you: 

–          Enjoy the food – Eating is meant to produce feelings of joy. If we remove the element of joy from eating, we encourage disconnection with food which in return encourages poor eating practices such as over-eating, fast eating, and mindless eating. The more disconnected we are, the less likely we are to feel feelings of satiation, fullness, and satisfaction which are necessary for a positive food relationship.

–          Reduce feelings of guilt & shame – Allowing occasional indulgences can reduce negative feelings around food. Instead of telling yourself that you have done something “bad” by eating a delicious chocolate chip cookie, allowing yourself to indulge turns on the signal in your brain that tells you to simply enjoy the experience and relax into it with joy and purpose.

Indulging with intention brings you into your body, turns on your senses, and turns down the volume on the negative voices in your head. So, go ahead and enjoy that cookie. It really is okay!

Tip 5: Don’t run Rudolph, don’t

It’s not hard to tally up a substantial calorie intake during the holidays when you consider the appetizers, side dishes, second helpings, and desserts that usually accompany the holiday feast. A typical 3 course holiday meal can range from a modest 1,000 calories up to 7,000 calories for the hungriest of eaters. But one reason to treat holiday feasts like any other meal is that our bodies are wonderfully built and can adjust for the rare high-calorie meal.

If you are familiar with calories, you may know that half a kilo of body weight is equivalent to 3,500 calories. Working up the math, it follows that a person consuming a 7,000-calorie meal would, theoretically, be expected to gain 1 kilo after such a feast. This isn’t actually what happens though, and most people don’t gain weight after a single high-calorie meal.

HOW COME? One reason is that the body regulates the irregular calorie intake via a process called “thermogenesis”, which is the body’s production of heat.

Thermogenesis can contribute to roughly 10% of the calories that our body burns each day! Thermogenesis is also an adaptive process, which means that it can increase or decrease heat production depending on how much food we eat to control the number of calories burned during the day and ultimately our body weight. Ever noticed how you feel especially hot or start sweating after a big meal? 

So, back to that holiday feast, your body is most likely increasing heat production to cover the excess calories consumed. So, no need to rush to the gym the day after your holiday feast. Your body can easily handle this.

Tip 6: It’s the most wonderful time to create new traditions

Holiday traditions like shopping, gathering, and cooking can be fun and deeply rewarding, and can provide a sense of grounding, relief, and familiarity, and count as self-care for many people. But for some of us, certain traditions can also be stress inducing – emotionally, physically, and financially. Life is stressful enough this year and so it is important to take care of yourself, so you don’t get an overdose of holiday fever with fatigue and bouts of anxiety.

Here are some tips on how to prioritize self-care this holiday season:

–         Set goals and boundaries – Setting healthy boundaries might mean turning down an invitation when you have too much going on, or saying “yes, but” and only engaging with one part of a tradition. It may also mean limiting the gatherings to your inner circle to avoid clashing personalities and general chaos (let’s not forget that COVID is still alive and kicking). For many people, this translates to less stress and anxiety and more intimacy and quality time.

–          Aim for what works for this year – Some holiday traditions can be difficult to let go of – such as family gatherings – but may not be possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to let go of perfectionism and embrace gratefulness this year – You may not be with your family this year, but what’s important is that they’re all safe and healthy.

–          Aim for non-stressful activities – Don’t be afraid to say no to activities that you don’t want to attend. Before accepting an invitation, think about how much time or energy it will require from you. Instead, you may choose to stay home, do nothing, and take a vacation from the holidays, or opt for simple relaxing activities – like reading a book, practising yoga, or listening to soothing music – that can help lower your cortisol levels (a stress hormone), increase oxytocin levels (a feel-good hormone that promotes feelings of emotional security), and improve your overall well-being.

2021 may be the perfect year to start prioritizing self-care and create new holiday traditions.