7 Ways to Take the Stress Out of the Season

Fill this holiday season with calm and contentment.

Posted Nov 27, 2019

When the days grow shorter, the temperature starts to drop, and the festive lights start going up in town, you know you can no longer avoid it. December is just around the corner which means so is Christmas. Hello, end-of-year stress. Or, this year, you could commit to doing it differently. You could learn to take the stress out of Christmas.

According to the Stress Management Society, one in 20 people see Christmas as more stressful than a burglary. This is driven by an intense social schedule of Christmas get-togethers, a never-ending shopping list for both presents and food, the financial impact of all that shopping, and a hectic row of family visits that you feel obliged to do. Combine this with trying to wrap the year on a good note by working like mad to try and finish all of your work and personal to-dos. Really, it’s a recipe for disaster. But it doesn’t have to be.

With the right mindset and some minor adjustments, you could half your stress and double your contentment. Sure, you will need to be open to some changes and ready to have some difficult conversations, but in the long run, both you and the people around you will be better off for it.

  1. Have a present budget and stick to it.
    Avoid credit cards, payment plans or anything that drives your debt or future expenses up. Don’t spend what you can afford to spend but what you are happy and willing to spend. That doesn’t have to be very much at all. Remind yourself it’s not about the financial value of the gift that matters, but how much thought went into it. In fact, you don’t necessarily have to spend anything if you don’t want to. A handwritten thank you note, a homemade gift, or a joint experience are all priceless.
  2. Schedule “me time” for yourself.
    It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself in busy times but these are the times when you need the most care. Try to take at least ten minutes every day to yourself. A hot bath, a frosty walk, a cup of coffee whilst reading your book in complete solitude - anything goes as long as you’re doing it for yourself to recharge yourself. People will understand. In fact, you should encourage them to do the same.
  3. Say “no” more.
    If you don’t like the dessert on the Christmas table, say, “No thank you, I’m full.” If you don’t want to go to the office party, say you’ve already got plans. If you don’t have the time, money or energy to go visit extended family or a friend living further afield, don’t. If you tell them how you feel, they might be disappointed but their empathy should kick in and they will understand.
  4. Ask for help.
    There is nothing like the generous spirits around this time of the year so if you need help, ask for it. There is no point drowning yourself trying to do it all when tasks can be split and shared and done together. The more the merrier.
  5. Repeat what went well last year rather than trying to come up with something new.
    If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it. If something was a success, repeat it. The decorations, the reusable fake tree, Secret Santa, one dessert, or even your outfit. It was a success for a reason so no point to make it more complicated by trying to change it.
  6. Simplify. Simplify everything.
    Go to fewer parties. Buy less presents. Visit fewer people. Travel less. Cook less dishes. Put less decorations up. Skip the Christmas cards - or do a simpler digital version. Do only the things that matter the most and you will do them better. You’ll also appreciate them more and be more present within them. Wherever you go, you’ll find yourself feeling happier, injecting others with your contentment.
  7. Breathe.
    There’s nothing like deep breathing to calm your body and mind down, and to bring you back into the moment. You could even schedule breathing breaks into your day. Dr Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 method is a great one. Inhale for four counts, hold your breath for seven, and finally exhale for eight. Do this until you find yourself feeling more grounded and calm.

Remind yourself what the holiday season is about. Stay present, say thank you for what you have, and enjoy it.


If you need more help and inspiration with staying calm this December, sign-up for The Happiness Advent Calendar. It’s a 25-day journey of calm and contentment starting on December 1st. Visit for more info.