Holiday survival guide: 7 stress-busting hacks to reclaim joy

Learn to prioritize self-care, set smart goals, and let go of the holiday chaos. Your stress-free season starts here!

Holiday survival guide: 7 stress-busting hacks to reclaim joy

Saturday December 23, 2023,

6 min Read

The holiday bell is ringing, but are we actually in the holiday mood in our comfiest pyjamas with a glass of wine and our favourite ice cream? It feels like we’re rushing to complete the finish line of 2023 and hastily begin the book of 2024. 

While the Christmas and New Year break should’ve been all about sugar plums, hot chocolate and cosy fires, the vibe feels stressful, diverting attention from the moment. Reality check, folks!

But, why do holidays become unimaginably stressful?

a man sitting all lonely and stressed

Workload skyrockets to reach that pre-decided goal, and worries about bonuses or pay hikes add to the strain. Beyond work, Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and Travel Tuesday deals flood our senses. 

To add to that, we are swamped under the weight of gift hunts, holiday parties, intricate meal prep, and family gatherings. A recent survey found that 40% of people are more stressed than a Thanksgiving turkey.

However, setting these aspects aside, holidays often usher in a wave of loneliness for individuals healing from trauma, navigating life changes like divorce, or being away from their families. The reason is they don't have any work to keep themselves occupied, unlike the rest of the year.

But my dearies, rather than succumbing to a sense of victimhood and overwhelming yourself with commitments, consider this holiday season an opportunity to embark on a journey of healing and self-growth. To foster an ‘anti-hustle holiday’ this time, here are some hacks to keep you stress-free.

Avoid overcommitting to dinners

In the holiday season, we often find ourselves in the family-dinner trap. As November and December roll around, the urge to socialise and attend multiple dinners and events becomes irresistible. However, this leads to exhaustion by mid-December, leaving us drained.

This time, let’s opt for a change. Host your closest pals featuring board games and a potluck in December. This consolidated gathering allows everyone to have that long-lost bond together, eliminating the need for exhausting one-off plans.

Don’t forget to get yourself a gift

Treat yourself this season—you've had a year, and it's been a ride. 

You've travelled and faced losses, health scares, and a spectrum of experiences. Self-care is vital, and for you, it's about movement, therapy, rest, and lots of laughter. This year, it’s time to gift yourself a well-deserved staycation. Take that precious time alone to unwind, savour a fantastic meal, and indulge in a full day at the spa. Schedule this intentionally before the family arrives and you switch to host mode. Nothing beats the feeling of being present and relaxed like an evening just for yourself.

Make your alone time a gala time

Amidst the challenges of personal trauma, the fear of being alone often looms large. However, learning to cherish your own company becomes crucial in nurturing self-love and healing. Until you find that love within yourself, it's challenging to extend it to others (and that's worth repeating).

Discover the joy in solo activities—take a hike along a breathtaking trail, watch a movie, immerse yourself in a book by a serene lakeside, or simply let loose and dance to your favourite tunes.

Also, just as you schedule your important commitments, block off moments in your calendar dedicated solely to yourself. 

Craft your holiday checklist strategically

Holidays overflow with tasks, often more than you can tackle. That's why mastering an effective to-do list becomes your stress-reducing ally. 

You can start by capturing, organising, and prioritising.

Firstly, capture thoughts swirling in your mind onto paper or digital notes—anything to externalise your to-dos. Segment your list into ‘need to do’ and ‘would like to do.’ Prioritise the 'need to do' by importance and deadlines. As you check off completed tasks, feel the stress subside. 

Manage your holiday hustle with a focused list, and watch your productivity soar.

Also Read
An introverts’ guide to surviving the holiday season

Get your body rollin’

While The Rolling Stones might be on your daily playlist, making time for daily movement is crucial, and it doesn't necessarily mean hitting the gym. 

Walking, for instance, is a simple yet potent way to stay active and clear your mind. Plus, the endorphins work wonders for lifting your spirits. And, if coupled with a wholesome diet, it’s a recipe for feeling incredible.

When life gets hectic, staying active becomes more vital. Research consistently shows how exercise reduces stress, making it non-negotiable. If evenings are too packed, consider an early morning workout or a lunch break session. Even during the holiday rush, staying motivated might be tough, especially for outdoor enthusiasts. But with proper gear, outdoor workouts remain feasible.

Set smart goals, not stressful

Year-end stress often peaks due to the pressure of meeting annual targets. To counter the decline in employee morale and its effect on business outcomes, organisation authorities must champion SMART goals—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.

Establishing achievable goals acts as a motivational driver, encouraging sustained dedication year-round. This approach prevents the imposition of unachievable expectations at year-end.

Let it go!

Letting go during the holiday rush might feel challenging, but there are ways to ease the burden. A personal favourite method of the author involves journaling. Start by questioning, ‘How does my worry serve me negatively?’ By jotting it down, you’ll realise that you can't change the outcome and need to release it.

Next, you can explore what you can do to positively influence yourself. For many, this may involve engaging in a breathing exercise known as ‘alternate nostril breathing’ or ‘Anulom Vilom’. 

If this technique doesn’t soothe your mind, you may opt for a run or exercise, which can help elevate mood, reduce tension, improve sleep, and enhance self-esteem. Even a brief session of aerobic activity can kickstart anti-anxiety effects!

Lyndsay Volpe-Bertram, Psy.D., suggests– “Do what is enjoyable, and don’t participate in the holidays out of guilt or thinking, ‘I should do this or that.’” Instead, focus on activities fostering meaningful connections and joy. 

Sometimes, in pursuit of perfection, we overload ourselves with responsibilities. Sending heaps of holiday cards, enduring long grocery lines for lavish meals, or striving to create the ‘perfect’ holiday ambience. So, as Elsa said, just Let It Go!

Hopefully, these hacks bring a bit of peace to your holiday and make it anti-hustle. Happy Holidays, folks!