Making the Holiday Season Work for (and Not Kill) You

My dog, Izzy, perched on a pillow and wrapped in a string of blue Chanukah lights.

I’ll tell you a secret. I’m stressed out. Life is not going swimmingly. I have plenty to worry and obsess about. You don’t hear about it on this blog because I want it to be a respite from all of that. To be a place where I can intentionally focus my intention on what brings me joy. Which brings me to the subject of the holidays. I know that for many, this season is challenging. There may be strained family relationships. Money troubles. The recent or distant loss of a loved one. The holidays can magnify all of these things. I’m here to tell you that this doesn’t mean that you have to hide in a bunker until January 2 to avoid holiday stress. I still find enjoyment this time of year, and so can you.

Below is a list of some ideas that you might find helpful to do just that.

  • If you love the holidays, but don’t have a lot of money, make a list of free things to enjoy during the season. For example, holiday music on the radio. Store windows. Free holiday concerts. Festively lit neighborhoods. Holiday cartoons and movies on TV. Check your local paper or for ideas.
  • Host a holiday dinner, open house, or game night. You don’t have to do anything elaborate. Put store-bought spiced cider on the stove, and serve it alone or spiked with rum or whiskey. Serve it with cake. Or make hot cocoa in your slow cooker, and then create a toppings bar with marshmallows, candy canes, and butterscotch and peppermint schnapps. Let your friends bring some warmth to your home.
  • Volunteer your time at a soup kitchen, hospital, or animal shelter.
  • If holiday music brings up difficult memories, listen to music that brings up the best memories for you instead. Create a playlist and listen to it on repeat.
  • Make something, for yourself or someone else. Knit, draw, paint, sew, cook, bake. Using a creative outlet is meditative, relaxing, and in the end you have something that you and/or others can enjoy.
  • Learn something. How to make the perfect scone. How to speak French. Create a Jane Austen syllabus, read her books and watch the movies, and also learn about her life. Find something to focus on that will enrich your life if you feel like the holidays do the opposite.
  • Focus on the little things. I enjoy how hot tea warms me up when I’m chilly, how my dog gives me kisses when I wake up, and how comfy my feet feel in my slippers.
  • Make a plan to do something each week between now and the beginning of next year that you can look forward to: visit a museum, see a movie, have breakfast or brunch with a friend, etc.
  • Create a vision board for the new year, either on a piece of poster board, using photos and words cut out of magazines, or on Pinterest. Think about what you want to manifest and use the board to group the images, ideas and inspirations together.
  • Start a new tradition, with others or just on your own.
  • Revisit the gratitude list you created before Thanksgiving, and continue to add to it.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t put pressure on yourself to feel a certain way just because the media and others are telling you this is a time to be joyous. Acknowledge your feelings. Be kind to yourself. Soon enough the season will pass, and along with it, the holiday stress.

What steps do you take to reduce holiday stress and increase happiness? Do you avoid or lean in to the seasonal activities? Share below!

Robyn Kern is the Tangentier. A long-time writer based in Los Angeles with a degree in screenwriting and an interest in mindfulness, many tangents led her here: a place where people can come to find and share inspiration, dwell in each others' passions, and learn how to surround themselves with what they love on the daily.


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