How to stay sane during the holidays

Avoid the exploding cocktail and other useful advice

Dec 2019

Debra Jones


Add these to your already busy life:

  • A very long to-do list
  • Time and financial constraints
  • Social and family pressures

...and mix well.

Add a dash or three of perfectionism, et voila! 

You’ve made an explosive holiday cocktail!

If holidays in the past have caused you stress, you owe it to yourself to make this holiday different. You are wiser now than you’ve ever been, and so, before the holidays arrive, use your wisdom to plan a workable strategy that will save your nerves from being frayed. 

No one knows you better than yourself. Your past experiences have the clues you need to identify where you need the most help. What were the things that caused the most stress last year? Get pen and paper and write them down (in no particular order).

When you think you’ve thought of everything, review your list.

Place a star next to the most stressful. That’s the one we’ll focus on avoiding first. Being realistic, you may not be able to avoid ALL of the stressful things on your list, but consider the holiday a SUCCESS if you can eliminate this primary stressor. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you were to reduce or remove it? Could you live with that? What is likely to occur if you don’t eliminate it? Could you live with that, and if not, what CAN you change to reduce its effect?

Next, make a list of the warning signs that indicate you’re starting to feel overwhelmed and stressed.  Do you withdraw, do you snap at your loved ones, do you get depression, or anxiety symptoms like breathing issues, stomach bloating or skipped heartbeats? Becoming aware of your triggers helps you move towards defusing the issue that causes them. Be gentle with yourself. Remember, the best present of all is a calm and happy you!

Now, here’s the most important list – write down ideas, activities and tools available to you that, when you apply them, will help you avoid the unwanted results of the past.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Perfection is a mental illusion, but the pursuit of it is real and can have damaging consequences. You create additional stress for yourself with an all-or-nothing approach, workaholism, and fear of failure and judgement.  Be kind to yourself and reduce your expectations.  What are the most important things for you this holiday? What can you remove from your to-do list that doesn’t support what you want to achieve? Instead of condemning yourself for not achieving self-imposed ‘perfection,’ commend yourself for learning new survival techniques.


Even if your to-do list is a mile long, know when to put it down and rest.  Don’t work through your lunch break. Keep your regular sleep routine. Don’t neglect healthy nutrition. Maintain your spiritual practices. Taking care of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health will help support you in your quest for balance.


Take advantage of daylight and the mood-boosting vitamin D - a gift from the sun. A short walk will activate natural dopamine, the feel-good hormone. Add to that a hug or cuddle from a loved one or fur baby, and you’ll add a dose of oxytocin that lowers stress. Your body needs these hormones in order to feel good.


Where is the dividing line between what is, and what isn’t, acceptable? There are four steps to setting healthy boundaries: 1. Choose what needs a boundary. 2. Set the position of your boundary line. 3. Communicate the boundary rules. 4. Maintain the boundary.  

'Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.’ – ANNA TAYLOR

(More details on p. 232 of THE SUCCESSFUL HEALER)


Volunteering offers a valuable new perspective. Research shows that you can rewire your brain and boost your mental health when you become more thankful. There is a direct link to receiving, and it comes through appreciation. What are you grateful for? List five things you’re thankful for today - add more as you think of them.

If you still need some ideas, activities and tools to help you with your new strategy, choose one of these to take action on:

  • Eat a healthy meal
  • Move your body (walk, dance, exercise)
  • Take a nap
  • Go to bed early
  • Practice relaxation (meditation, breathing, yoga)
  • Read a book
  • Listen to music
  • Connect with a friend
  • Watch a comedy
  • Seek a professional counsellor or therapist

Also, check out p. 238 of THE SUCCESSFUL HEALER for a useful STRESS SYMPTOM CHECKLIST and other powerful tools to help re-balance you when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Have the best holiday EVER!