Stress-Free Holiday Season is Possible

Some people dread the holidays. Instead of seeing it as a time to enjoy special time with family and friends, they see a massive to-do list and days full of stress. It doesn’t have to be that way. I’ll admit getting ready for the holidays will keep you busy – there are gifts to buy and wrap, people to visit, and trees to decorate, but there are steps you can take to make the experience a lot less stressful.

Dial back expectations: So many of us have unrealistic expectations of the holiday season, which creates stress. Try to remember that no holiday or family get-together is going to be perfect and you don’t have to do everything – there’s no reason to bake a dozen different kinds of cookies or try out every décor or craft idea you saw on Pinterest or Facebook. Think about the holiday and what traditions and experiences matter most to you and focus on those. By setting realistic expectations about the holiday, you’ll have less stress beforehand and less of a letdown afterwards if the experience didn’t live up to what you hoped.

Get moving: Exercise is a natural stress buster so keep up your daily exercise routine if you have one. If you don’t, find time for a walk or another sweat-breaking activity you enjoy. Exercise releases endorphins, which improves your mood. Another bonus is that it’s a little harder to focus on your to-do list and daily worries when you’re running, walking or biking.

Eat healthy: When you’re stressed, it’s easy to grab comfort food that’s high in fat or sugar (and we’re definitely surrounded by that at the holidays!). While those treats make you feel momentarily better, they’re not good for your overall health and you may end up feeling guilty later for indulging – another stressor.

Get enough sleep. If you’re burning the candle at both ends as you try to get in every last activity, you’re going to be tired and irritable. That’s no fun. Maintaining your regular sleeping schedule will keep you well rested and ready to tackle whatever the day throws your way.  

Limit alcohol. Alcohol not only contains empty calories – who needs those at this time of year? – but can also affect our sleeping habits. Alcohol is also not a good stress reducer and in many cases just make the situation worse.

Do something you enjoy: What’s your favorite thing about the holidays? Whether it’s driving around to look at lights or curling up to watch your favorite Christmas special, make sure you find time in your schedule to spend time doing something you really enjoy. It will recharge your batteries and help you relax.

As 2014 comes to a close, I want to wish all of you safe, stress-free and happy holiday season and a healthy new year!

Scott Schuldes is a certified family nurse practitioner and associate medical director at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert. He can be reached at