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Stress-free holiday guide

Your Stress-Free Holiday Guide | UPMC Health Plan

It’s nearing that time of year again, the holiday rush. And while the holiday season is supposed to be one of joy and relaxation with your closest friends and family, nearly a quarter of Americans report extreme stress during the holiday season. Between families, work, social, and other obligations fighting for your attention, stress can come in many forms.

The great news is that you can make peace with the holiday season before it begins and loosen expectations, simplify projects, and celebrate with a little extra room to breathe. Here’s our stress-free holiday tip guide!

  1. Stick to Your Physical Activity Routine: Making time for your physical activity routine can help manage stress and weight during the busy holiday season. Even if the day gets hectic, aim for a brisk half-hour walk most, if not every, day.
  2. Make a List and Check it Twice: Getting organized can help prevent miscommunication and feeling strained over the holidays. Start each week with a “to do” list and make sure the most important tasks are on there. That way as you cross them off, you can feel accomplished and ready to tackle the next item.
  3. Practice Positivity: Negative thinking can actually add to feeling stresses, so ditch the attitude and focus on an optimistic outlook as challenges and frustrations come your way! Ask yourself one thing you can do each day to have a positive outlook.
  4. Make Cuts to Your “To Do List”: Before the hustle and bustle of the season begins, sit down and make a list of all the things that you would like to be able to accomplish. Then prioritize the list to reflect what’s most important, such as the things that you want to do, feel, be, and experience. Cut the rest.
  5. Celebrate Tech-Free: The constant reminders from ringing cell phones and puzzling emails can keep you from feeling relaxed and stress-free. This year ask the family to turn off the gadgets and enjoy really tuning into the family and holiday moments.
  6. Try Online Ordering: If you have gifts to buy and are strapped for time, consider ordering online to save the trip and stress of heading to the packed malls.
  7. Organize and Share the Family Calendar: If the family has a lot of social gatherings during the holiday season, ask everyone to compile their list and add to a master calendar. Assign colors for each family member and one color for the entire family.
  8. Wrap Gifts as You Buy: Are you that person wrapping gifts until the wee hours of the morning right before the holiday party? The more realistic approach is to wrap gifts as you purchase them to avoid a backup.
  9. Do Less and Enjoy More: It’s common to go overboard to please others during the holiday season, but it’s not realistic to actually fit it all in. So instead, be sure to make time for the things you really enjoy and would be disappointed if you missed, and forget the rest.
  10. Learn to Say No: It’s important to know when you can and can’t realistically accomplish something, so it’s also OK to say no to things that aren’t important to you or as important as something else. For every event or request you say no to, you can then say yes to another.
  11. Stick to a Daily Routine: By sticking to your daily routine you can avoid squeezing in extras that can add stress. Routines include eating, sleeping, exercise, and others that you do on a regular or typical day.
  12. Ditch Perfection: It’s not the end of the world if dinner is on the table a few minutes late or the liners aren’t neatly pressed. Focus on taking care of what you can and know that everything else doesn’t have to be perfect to enjoy time with the family. Remember not to sweat the small stuff, and the rest will fall into place.
  13. Set a Budget: Finances are one of the leading causes of stress during the holidays. By setting a spending limit ahead of time, you can avoid going into debt over the holiday season. It’s OK to tell family that the gifts they are asking for are too expensive. If so, set up a saving plan and talk about when that will be a realistic purchase.
  14. Make It Personal: Gifts don’t have to cost an arm and a leg to be meaningful. Instead of stressing about a purchase, think of something DIY to let the special people in your life know how important they are to you.
  15. Do Something For Yourself: The holidays involve so many group activities that it can be hard to find some time for yourself. Try to spend time doing one thing a day that you enjoy just for you. It can be as simple as a long bath or walk at lunch.



  16. Stick With Your Sleep Schedule: Sleep is a necessity because it allows our brains to recharge and our bodies to rest. Research has shown that most Americans would be happier, healthier, and safer if they were to sleep an extra 60 to 90 minutes per night. So instead of cutting into sleep time to do more, take care of yourself and head to bed as usual.
  17. Kick Kitchen Duty: Instead of stressing about preparing the perfect holiday meal, get creative in how it all pulls together. Ideas include asking family members to bring favorite side dishes, cook and freeze some parts of the meal ahead of time, or ask for additional help in the hours before the big meal.
  18. Beat or Cope With Holiday Blues: For some the holidays can be a time of sadness, anger, or loneliness due to association with death or other past life events. If you or a family member experiences depression during the holidays, ask for help and talk to your doctor about options.
  19. Practice Acceptance and Forgiveness: Sometimes life’s not about the number of bumps in the road but how we can navigate those bumps. When faced with a challenge, try not to look at it as a problem but an opportunity to improve what’s happening. The same thing for family members. Try to accept them for the way that they are and if you have any negative feelings, try to practice forgiveness and set aside grievances and start the new year with a renewed perspective.
  20. Practice Practical Time Management: Realize that malls, restaurants, and other public places will be packed during the eight weeks of the holiday season. For that reason, try to plan some extra time when going to these places so that you aren’t rushed or feel stressed when waiting.