Read the first chapter of real food for pregnancy for FREE.

Holiday Stress: 5 Tips to Save Your Sanity

Hold up. Since when is it December?

There’s something about this month – ya know, the last month of the year – that makes me nostalgic. Makes me look back at everything that took place in the last 11 months.

A book, a course, a soon-to-be-baby. <– Did you miss the news?!

It’s crazy how slow everything seems to move while you’re in the moment, but looking back a lot happened in this past year.

It’s funny to think how caught up we can get in the nitty-gritty and lose sight of the big picture. In my virtual business, I sometimes feel like I’m speaking in code.

Pixel-this, clone-that, convert-whatever-the-hell-into-other-whatever-the-hell…

And whether or not you live as heavily in this digi-world as I do, the holidays have a similar way of distracting us from what’s really important.

We’re bombarded with annoyingly repetitive Christmas carols (Can I please burn all copies of the song that goes “simmmm-ply haaaa-ving a wonderful Christmas time?!), flashy decorations, must-have-it-now sales, and dozens of homemade baked goods (well, I can’t really complain about homemade gingerbread…).

All this festivity can get a little, well… stuffy.

So if you find yourself getting overwhelmed by all the holiday stress, here are 5 tips to save your sanity.

Holiday Stress: 5 Tips to Save Your Sanity

1. Write it Out

What’s really important to you right now?

Is it visiting with family and friends?
Taking a break from work to just. do. nothing?
Escaping for a mini vacation?
Treating yourself to a special gift?
Volunteering at a homeless shelter?
Focusing on your health and well-being?
Making holiday crafts or treats?
Getting creative in the kitchen?
Spending time outdoors?

There are no rules on what you have to do. Only you decide what makes you happy.

But if you don’t get clear on what does the trick for you, it’s really easy to get sucked into the land of Mall Santas and Egg Nog Lattes.

Make a list of your priorities and honor it.

2. Maintain a Routine – Sleep, Eat, Move

A big part of holiday overwhelm stems from a sudden change in our routines. You might be staying up later than usual, drinking more, driving more (<– hopefully the last two not at the same time), eating away from home, and moving your body less.

These all add up to us feeling-than-awesome and I suspect this drives the whole detox industry that kicks in come January.

You don’t have to be rigid. Your routine will change a bit over the holidays. But there’s no reason your health and wellness have to take a back seat completely.

Even the simplest commitment to getting in bed before 11pm most nights, having a hearty breakfast each day, and taking a daily walk can go a long way in maintaining your sanity – and your health – throughout this month.

And remember, don’t starve yourself to “save up” for holiday parties. Here’s why that backfires.

What are some non-negotiable parts of your routine?

3. Indulge a Little

Make amends with the fact that you will eat more sugar over the holidays than you usually do. There’s nothing wrong with a little indulgence. Use this as an opportunity to notice how your body feels when you indulge. We all have a threshold of tolerance for sweets and treats – this is a chance to find yours.

It’s better to accept (ahead of time) that you’ll be eating differently for a bit than to go in with an all-or-nothing attitude. That simply sets you up for overeating and guilt – or complete and miserable deprivation.

Remember, eating isn’t just about nutrition. It’s about pleasure, too!

When you allow yourself a taste of Aunt Meg’s homemade egg nog or your co-worker’s (secret family recipe) toffee, you can focus on enjoying the experience rather than shaming yourself.

Over time you’ll find your limits so you can get through the holidays without gaining weight, royally screwing up your digestion, or beating yourself up emotionally. For a step-by-step method to help you tune into these cues, read this.

*Disclaimer: Of course in the case of food allergies, food sensitivities, or food intolerances, you may have to adhere to certain dietary restrictions and that’s 100% ok. Be clear with friends and family so they understand and can accommodate if needed.

4. Zone Out

Despite your middle school teacher yelling at you for this, doing nothing is highly underrated.

Some would call this meditation, but ironically I notice that word stresses people out (what type of meditation is best? how long? I’m bad at meditating!)

So let’s just go with “zoning out.” Ok?

We are so overstimulated on a daily basis and it only intensifies over the holidays, so be sure to block off some time for yourself.

Your priorities, work schedule or family life might mean this is a 10-min meditation first thing in the morning, a 30-min break to color (Yep – coloring is not just for kids. I’m a big fan of this mindfulness coloring book right now. Plus it makes a great gift!), or maybe you can pull off a few days unplugged.

Whatever you can manage, just spend some time doing nothing. It’s ridiculous how much more productive and calm you’ll be when you give yourself some time to unwind.

5. Simplify Gifts

If you find yourself slogging away in search of the “perfect” gift, driving from shopping center to shopping center, and battling crowded stores… just stop for a second. There are other ways to show your love than buying expensive items at big box stores.

You might opt for an “experience gift,” like tickets to a play, an invitation to a nice dinner, or a beach outing together.

But if you still want to give a physical gift, consider checking out a holiday boutique, craft fair, or local shop. Handmade items are usually much more meaningful and supporting your local economy is the warm-and-fuzzy thing to do. Maybe there’s a unique ceramic mug, a custom spice blend, a book, or a piece of artwork you can give.

Perhaps you can make a gift – spiced nuts, homemade chocolate bark, jam? (Last year I gave wild blueberry jam and everyone loved it. This year I’m thinking spiced lingonberry sauce with the Alaskan “low-bush cranberries” I gathered earlier in the season.)

Or if you’re short on time, package up a custom gift basket – you choose an assortment of items your loved one will swoon over.

Maybe a gourmet food basket – wine, hard salami, chocolate?

Or an outdoor gear basket – reuseable camping plates, a flashlight, a nice canteen?

An arts & crafts basket for the kids – colored pencils, paper, stickers?

Whatever your approach, don’t let gift giving become a stressor.

Now I’d love to hear from you:

How do you keep your sanity over the holidays?

Share your tips to beat holiday stress in the comments below.

Until next week,

Veggies: Eat them because you want to, not because you have to

Your guide to making vegetables taste seriously good

You'll also receive Lily Nichols' weekly newsletter.
Unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy

Iodine: Why this mineral is essential for fertility, pregnancy, and lactation
Behind the Scenes of Real Food for Fertility: Insight into the process of writing and researching the book
Can you eat too much fish during pregnancy?
Vitamin B12 & Pregnancy: A nutrient crucial for your baby’s health

Lily Nichols is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, researcher, and author with a passion for evidence-based prenatal nutrition and exercise. Her work is known for being research-focused, thorough, and unapologetically critical of outdated dietary guidelines. She is the author of two bestselling books, Real Food for Pregnancy and Real Food for Gestational Diabetes.


Leave a comment
  1. I remember that it will be over soon, just as last year passed by quickly. I also go for homemade gifts because shopping stresses me out.

    • Homemade gifts rock!

  2. i prefer homemade gifts shoping is really to much lily,i dont know what to get my family sometimes so just being there with them is more then enough

    • The personal touch is always nice. And I agree, sometimes quality time with loved ones is the best gift of all. 🙂

  3. Yes to all the above! I love the “indulge a little” after all we’re all human and chocolate is just so dang delicious!

    I like to plan ahead and get my gifts done early, means i get to relax the week before the holidays while others are stuck in traffic and lines, goodbye anxiety you are not welcome here 🙂

    • I’m so with you, Laura. There’s nothing worse than frantically shopping on Xmas eve! Barf.

Comment Policy