The Holiday Season Can Be a Magical Time

I love the holiday season. The lights, the decorations, the togetherness. The holiday memories from my childhood drive me to create lasting memories for the ones that I love. However, for a time of year that supposedly brings lots of joy and wonderful memories, the holiday season is a ridiculously stressful time. And when you’re stressed out, you’re not at your best and for many of us, we want to be at our best when spending time with the ones that we love. Or at least have the patience to tolerate those we struggle to love.

But why would we be stressed during a season that has the potential to bring such delight?

Well, where do I start…?

  • Family. While I am fortunate enough to actually enjoy the company of mine and my spouse’s families, not everyone is that lucky. Either way, the idea that you need to dedicate already precious time and mental bandwidth to traveling (sometimes long distances) and cater to more than just those in your immediate vicinity, can be exhausting. Or if you love your family and you want to be near them but can’t because of distance or loss, that can bring its own set of issues. And some people are not fortunate enough to have any family or friends to love or hate during the holiday season.

  • Elf on the Shelf (which I lovingly refer to as “the damn elf”). While this one seems small, it also seems to be a very common source of stress for those with kids that have made the fateful choice to bring this small creature into their lives. Even for those of us that forgo the fancy and elaborate elf scenarios and simply move the elf to a different location every night, it is yet another source of stress.

  • Gift giving. Who do you give gifts to and what do you get them? And once you have them you have to get them wrapped and if your gift worthy people aren’t close in proximity, you then need to make sure that you have everything gathered up in time to get it boxed up and shipped out in time for the actual day.

  • And how do you afford all of it? Kids always need to get the bestest and greatest right? Heaven forbid my kids walk around with an inferior product compared to their peers. Shit is expensive!

  • How about the influx of social gatherings? If you’re one that has a lot of friends and acquaintances, these can definitely add up. Suddenly your calendar is packed and free evenings are a precious commodity.

  • And what about all of the decadent food offerings that abound at every turn? If you say no then you feel like you’re depriving yourself but if you say yes, then the wonders of sugar and processed food start to take their toll on our psyche as well.

  • Not to mention flus and other random illnesses floating around our petri dish lives. Does anyone else’s kid cough or get a headache and just assume it’s COVID every time?

  • Or how about stress at work as we feel the pressure to finish off the year strong?

  • For those of us who prioritize meat moving (aka exercise) as a means to handle stress, available time gets pretty thin and self care often gets downgraded to a pretty low status on our priority list.


All of this takes us out of our routines and patterns and those are important for our mental well being as well, especially if they were relatively healthy patterns to begin with.


Now that you’ve gotten here and I’ve turned you into a ball of stress, let’s talk about a few small simple ways to gain a little more ground in your holiday mental health and relieve that holiday stress. The great thing here is that just like most things in the world of health and wellness, big changes are often not necessary to make a difference. Even choosing one small thing, starting one new habit, can be life changing. All of the following ideas take no more than 10 minutes and I know we can all find at least 10 minutes in the day for ourselves. 


  • Speed journaling! While journaling is great for mental health, who has the time? Instead, just grab a notebook and write one sentence about your day. It can be full of gratitude or a good vent about how you forgot to move the elf and now your kid has lost all faith in the holiday season. Just as long as you’re embracing whatever state you happen to be in at the time. Although I will say that choosing to write a sentence of gratitude can rewire your brain to think more positively in the future.

  • Five minute “get to know your senses” moment. Grab the bowl of fruit that your elf hid in last night and truly taste and savor every bite or step outside and take a few moments to notice some of the little things in your backyard that you’ve never seen. Or light that pine scented candle and close your eyes, picturing yourself wandering through a pine tree forest. This allows you to step out of the pressures of what you didn’t do or what you need to do and just be in the present moment for at least a few minutes.


  • Play a breathing game. This can get you to sit in the present moment as well. Not to mention it can lower your blood pressure and heart rate and reduce the levels of stress hormones in your blood. Try box breathing.

           1. Inhale your breath as you count to
           2. Hold your breath for 4 counts.
3. Exhale your breath slowly as you count to 4.
4. Hold your breath for 4 counts.
5. Repeat for a few minutes until you feel calm.


  • Call or text a friend for a distraction or to unwind. Depending on the kind of friendship you have this can be anything from a phone call to vent or laugh about how you couldn’t find the elf in storage and had to buy a new one but it turned out to be a different elf all together and then you had to come up with a story as to why your same elf did not show up this year (thank you Vicki!) or as simple as a quick meme/gif to get a good healthy laugh for you and a friend.

  • Sit and play one of your favorite songs with some headphones on and really listen to it, the beat, the rhythm, the words… Or dance it out!

  • Make a better choice with food. Food has way more of an effect on our psyche than most people realize. So instead of reaching for that pretty sugar laden christmas cookie sitting in the tin in your kitchen, grab an apple. Or even better, take a few sips of water instead and then reevaluate your desire for that cookie. And if you do eat the cookie, take a moment to savor every bite instead of mindlessly shoving it into your mouth.

  • Just say no! You don’t need to do ALL the things (see my post from 10/20/2023).

  • Sleep!!! Sleep makes everything better. A well rested body and mind mean being more on top of your game. Not to mention that when you’re tired, self control when it comes to healthy decisions in life, like food, become much more difficult.

  • Go for a 10 minute walk. Meat movement does not have to be a long and structured event. Even a few minutes of fresh air and walking can give you a whole new outlook on life, and maybe you can come up with some creative places to put the elf in future days.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list and not all of these small activities are going to be your jam so pick one or more that sound the most appealing or beneficial and set an alarm at one or more “convenient” times throughout the day. I challenge you to try it out for the next couple of weeks and see what happens. Because remember, even a little can go a long way when it comes to health and wellness. Take care of you so you can take care of the rest.