Holiday Guide to Self Care: How to Reduce Stress During the Holiday Season

Holiday Guide to Self Care: How To Reduce Stress During the Holiday Season

The holiday season regardless of who and how you celebrate is to put it nicely extremely stressful. Everything from finding the perfect gift to spending time with our families tends to leave us worn out and stressed. So what can we do to help us sleigh the holidays? The answer is simply to engage in self-care.  Self-care if you are unfamiliar with the term simply means doing nice things for yourself. It is easy to get caught up in the chaos of our lives to neglect ourselves and our mental health. By engaging in self-care you are making a conscious decision to push pause on your life and take a break from the stress. This means different things to different people so here are some general ideas about what could be included in your daily self-care routine.

Daily Self Care Ideas

  • Cooking

  • Doing a face mask

  • Exercising

  • Listening to your favorite music or podcast

  • Journaling

5 Rules about Self Care

  1. It should not stress you out more

  2. It does not have to cost a lot of money

  3. It should be realistic for you

  4. It is not selfish

  5. It takes time to find what works for you

That is all fine and dandy but with multiple holidays crammed in from November January how could you possibly find the time to do another thing on your to-do list? It’s the little things, self-care does not have to derail your holiday plans.  Scale it back a little and allow yourself a moment to sneak away to indulge in one of grandma’s sugar cookies while the fam debates which news network is the “best”.

Holiday Music

Make a playlist of your favorite holiday songs and really sit and listen. By disconnecting and really paying attention to the melody or words you are engaging in “active listening”. This just means you are listening with a clear mind and allowing the song to evoke an emotional response from your brain. This could bring back memories from when you were a kid caroling or remember this is a loved one who is past favorite song. The music is all around us during the holidays but it is changing the way we listen to help change the way we feel.


A special time of year means special traditions around food. Push pause here by really focusing on the taste of granny’s fudge or making a special recipe with your kids. Food also has a connection to the brain where tastes and smells can change our moods. These parts of our brains are connected to memory so focus on the positive and enjoy the love and connection that food brings.

Take a break

You might need to take a break from the festivities, and that is OKAY. Take a walk, remove yourself if you feel like the conversation heading where you are uncomfortable, or play with the kids. The holidays can be fast-paced and exhausting so if you need to sneak off for a quick nap or leave a tense situation to run to the store to get cranberry sauce do it. Some situations we cannot avoid but we do have power about how we deal with the negativity and stress.

Holiday drinks

Warm drinks at a cold time of year are just comforting, and often the conversations and connections over coffee or cider are ones we treasure. Push pause on the holiday stress and grab a glass of your favorite holiday beverage. For that five minutes remind yourself the world is not going to come crashing down while you take a break


Serving other people during the season of giving is a great way to push pause on the tension of holidays and give back. You could collect coats or canned good and donate them or “adopt” a child for Christmas from a local school. Volunteering allows us to reclaim the joy of the season and allows us to take a step back and realize the holidays are about love and connection to people.

Jennifer Roberts, CSW, is a therapist at Compass Counseling in Paducah.  If you or a loved one needs help learning skills for self care give us a call at 270-777-4490 in Paducah or 270-215-4000 in Owensboro.

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