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Make the most of your holiday break

Stress-busting tips for the season

December 18, 2023 — 

The holiday break (December 23, 2023-January 3, 2024) can be a wonderful time to relax, hang out with family and friends, and catch up on sleep. However, with competing demands and increased interactions, it can also be a recipe for stress. Get what you need most this holiday season by keeping these stress-busting tips in mind.

Give yourself permission to set boundaries

Setting boundaries is a necessary component for self-care to help us avoid feeling depleted, taken for granted or taken advantage of. Our responsibilities often increase during the holiday season and because of this, it is even more important to ensure you have given yourself permission to set boundaries.

An example of healthy boundary setting is allowing yourself to say no and practicing difficult responses ahead of time. For example, “thank you for thinking of me but I already have something else going on. I would love to get together after the holidays to catch up.”

Other examples of healthy boundary setting over the holidays include:

  • opting out of gifting (office secret Santa’s, friends, and family etc.).
  • leaving an event at the time of your choosing, regardless of who is asking you to stay longer.
  • declining alcoholic beverages (if this is your choice).
  • celebrating (or not) in a style that works for you or your family regardless of “expected” traditions.

The goal of boundary setting is to give yourself permission to care for you by communicating with others in a clear, concise and respectful manner.

Honour your feelings and take part in self care

First and foremost, it is important to acknowledge that the holidays can be exciting but also uncomfortable or stressful. Whether you are feeling excited, sad or overwhelmed, all emotions are valid.

In taking care of yourself, you can better manage stress. Self-care can include:

  • scheduling in frequent breaks. Whether this be a day at a time, or various 10-minute blocks, allow yourself the time to rest and reset.
  • managing expectations. Often times, we can expect to feel fully relaxed, present, and engaged over the holidays… after all, it’s the break we have been waiting for. But this can be challenging. Allow yourself to remove expectations and feel each day as it comes.
  • alone time to enjoy an activity of your choosing such as taking a bath, going for a walk (if it’s not -50!) or reading a book.

It is normal to feel overstimulated during the holiday season so it is important to take the time to listen and honor what you need. Our cellphones cannot operate at 1% and neither can we!

Plan ahead

The holidays seem to go by faster each year. To maintain your stress levels, it may be helpful to plan ahead:

  • think about what you want to budget, when you want to do your shopping, what meals you may be making, who you are making time to see and where you may want to drop off donations.
  • prepare for your emotions. Stress, loneliness, guilt, excitement, appreciation – remind yourself you may experience a multitude of feelings and have a list of go-to coping strategies for this season. For instance, if you’re overwhelmed, try removing yourself from a busy room for 5 minutes to gather your thoughts.

With that being said, I can understand some people love the chaos holidays may bring and in that case, scrap your to do list and see where the season takes you!

Don’t abandon all normal routines and healthy habits

During the holidays, it is all too normal to get into that “go, go, go” lifestyle without even realizing it. All of a sudden, your normal routine has been put on hold. Though the holidays can be exciting and a time where we indulge in activities or items we usually don’t, it is important to stick to as much of your routine as you can or feel comfortable with.

When you are considering your routine, think of:

  • your sleep patterns
  • eating habits
  • exercise goals
  • efforts spent on connecting with loved ones
  • time spent for self care

Though it is completely realistic some of these will give over the holidays, trying to stick to your normal routine as best as possible will help manage your stress levels.

Use resources

If you Google “stress during the holidays,” you aren’t going to come up empty handed. Though it can be a joyful time for many, it can also be a challenging time for others. Feelings of isolation or loneliness, financial fears, increased stress, colder weather and shorter days… it is not always easy.

  • have a list of resources available on your phone or in your desk. Somewhere where if you feel stuck, you don’t have to think – the list is already there.
  • consider saving resources for yourself or others such as stress management apps on your smart phone or the number to crisis services.
  • have a list of family or friends that you can talk too. We can’t always see those we love over the holiday season, so maybe instead of managing the stress of busyness over the season, you are managing the feelings of loneliness. Planning a virtual date, phone call, or time to write a letter can help establish a sense of connection.

Having a list prepared doesn’t mean you’re going to need it. It does mean that should you or someone close to you need support, you have an idea of where to start. Some resources you can use this year are:

  • Crisis Line: dial 9-8-8
  • Crisis Response Centre: 817 Bannatyne Ave
  • Hope for Wellness (First Nations and Inuit Counselling and Crisis Support available in Cree, Ojibway, Inuktitut): 1 855 242 3310
  • Trans Lifeline: 1 877 330 6366
  • Manitoba Suicide Prevention Line: 1 877 435 7170

Don’t forget safety

As exciting as this time of year may be, it is still important to remember that as the holidays approach and parties are planned, gatherings increase and travel spikes, COVID-19 and other illnesses are still hovering. A priority this holiday season, just as last, will be a focus on safety. Along with following public health guidelines, here are some additional strategies you can try to keep yourself and others safer:

  • write names on cups so you don’t mix them up.
  • have fun with seating and have multiple tables set up to maintain distancing – perhaps your tables could even have themes!
  • stay home because you’re sick. Missing the event isn’t ideal–trust me, I get it, but you’re doing your part in safeguarding your recovery and the health of others. So, this year, consider using virtual platforms for those who cannot or do not feel comfortable attending in person.
  • while you are decorating, decorate a holiday themed sanitization station (a hand sanitizer bottle can make a pretty cute snowman)!
  • stay up to date with vaccines.


Wishing you and your loved ones a safer and happy holiday season!

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