Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Eight Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress and Find Peace

Identify negativity and toxic people, then focus on gratitude and blessings.

Copyright Rita Watson 2019
Take time to enjoy Nature's beauty.
Source: Copyright Rita Watson 2019

Stores, town squares, and music—which is blaring even in pharmacies—have been preparing us for the holidays. It seems that when these days arrive we are exhausted and depleted. Cleveland Clinic researchers suggest a solution: Ask yourself if your holiday expectations are realistic. Then “make a list of what you expect from yourself and your family during the holidays.”

Oftentimes seeing on paper what you expect and what you can reasonably accomplish can help you redefine what is possible and what is essentially impossible to accomplish. Next, think of ways that you can satisfy yourself and people who depend on you. It may be helpful to focus on the meaning of the holidays and perhaps discuss this with family and friends.

Here are eight thoughts that may help alleviate stress by changing the focus from holiday frenzy to patience, gratitude, love, and yes, even avoidance. Watch for the triggers that can weigh you down such as toxic behavior, negative thoughts, exhaustion, and overload.

What you should try to avoid

Toxic behavior: In terms of avoidance, it is important to be protective of yourself. Toxic people use the holidays as a way to insinuate themselves into your life. For example, a toxic person will approach a group of people who regularly have lunch together. Wishing to insert herself in the group, she will target one person and invite the targeted person to dinner while ignoring the others. She knows this annoys those who do not wish to associate with her. But she rationalizes: "It's a holiday, I can intrude and get away with this."

For your own sense of peace, know that this is a somewhat sinister and manipulative intrusion. (Six Thoughts for Dealing with Toxic Behavior).

Can someone whom you see as toxic be perceived as good to others? The answer is "Yes." But it is often a misperception, and this is why. Those who see the sweet side of a two-faced personality are simply not around often enough to see the unkind way he or she harasses or mistreats others.

Negative thoughts:- Clear your mind of negative thoughts that weigh you down, especially past hurts, these are millstones around your neck. Replace the thoughts with images that make you smile.

Depressive cognitions, for instance, include thoughts of hopelessness, helplessness, and diminished self-worth. Anxiety is a negative affective state or trait that is accompanied and perpetuated by worry and rumination. (The Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine, 2013)

Exhaustion: Reporting on the "Impact of fatigue and insufficient sleep on physician and patient outcomes: a systematic review" researchers pointed out that “Fatigue and insufficient sleep may be associated with negative physician health outcomes.” (British Medical Journal, 2018).

However, we are all aware of the side effects of sleeplessness: Anger, impaired thinking, and careless behavior.

Overload: Practice time management realistically and remember that very little takes a minute or even an hour. Set priorities. Make a list and put a time estimate next to each task. Decide what is most important for you to accomplish in an eight-hour period.

Stay balanced

Take minute vacations: Stop throughout the day to smell the roses, take a walk, or gaze at the sunshine and clouds or winter's natural creations.

Express gratitude: Be grateful for yourself. Think of one person who deserves to hear from you and send a note or make a call. If you decide to send an e-mail follow it up with a note in the mail.

Wish blessings: Think about someone you love and wish that person blessings and happiness. It will help to build up a reserve of joy. You might also think of someone whom you dislike and send a blessing.

Practice creative visualization:Try training your mind to create positive images. It can be an exercise for physical healing or the healing of memories. Or you can use this experiment as a way of seeing wishes and dreams. Create scenarios. In reality they may not play out as your wish, but it is a tool to help you focus on possibilities.

Treasure sollitude and alone times

In the holiday hustle and bustle, we can choose to sit out some of the parties and festivities that draw us in. Saying “no” can be protective. In spending time alone, you can take a journey inward to a new place where the inner workings of your heart will come in touch with a world beyond your vision, a world where your heart’s desire may begin to unfold.

Copyright 2019 Rita Watson


Ellison, J., et al, (1994) The Psychotherapist's Guide to Neuropsychiatry: Diagnostic and Treatment Issues 1st Edition, Washington, DC, and London, England, American Psychiatric Press. 1994

Anjum, A et al, (2018) An Empirical Study Analyzing Job Productivity in Toxic Workplace Environments, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2018 May; 15(5): 1035

More from Rita Watson MPH
More from Psychology Today