Holiday Stress Survival: Keep Calm And Holiday On

a survival guide

by elizabeth koke

The holiday season is here. Our calendars are filling up with holiday parties, our work life feels insane as we all strive to meet end-of-year goals, and we are making travel plans to go visit family members we don’t really get along with.

Now more than ever it is important we don’t sacrifice any of our self-care rituals. This is true even if you’re traveling to spend time with family, and even and especially if your family is crazy and you feel like you have no space to be yourself when you are around them. Because the truth is, even if you feel that way, it is just a feeling, not a reality. You can always set boundaries and make space for yourself.  Here are some self-care suggestions to help you get through the holiday season.  


If you are someone who works out regularly, you know how good exercise makes you feel. And the busier and more stressful our schedules are, the more important it is to make time for this.  If you are traveling or visiting with family, make a work out plan.  You might research a nearby yoga studio or gym that offers day passes, or just go for a long walk/jog/bike ride.  The benefits of this are two-fold. Not only will you get blood flowing and endorphins released, but you will also have a few hours of time away from your relatives! If you are in a pinch, find a quiet corner and take a few minutes to stretch.


Yes, you know, we all know. Oprah tells us, along with your vegan friend who wears crytals and drinks tea made from twigs. But have you ever given it a real try? It is amazing how calm and grounded you can feel after 10 minutes.  You can do this in the morning right when you wake up, or midday if you are feeling anxious, or before you go to bed.  There are even apps available with guided meditations, meditation timers, daily mantras, and soothing sounds. 

Identify Family Members Who Are Allies or Bring a Friend Along with You

If you can, identify a family member who is an ally. And by ally, I mean, emotional ally--someone who understands you, who you feel safe around, who is a grounding force. Give them a call before your trip home for the holidays and have a chat in anticipation of whatever brand of disfunction you’re about to experience. If there isn’t anyone like this in your family, consider bringing a friend along to Thanksgiving dinner with you. It will feel good to have a buffer, and it is amazing how well behaved people can be when there is an outsider at the table.

Bring Your Own Food

Personally, I know I get really agitated and uncomfortable when I eat too many of the sugary or processed foods that are around at holiday time. So if I am going to be attending several holiday parties in one week, I pack a healthy snack in my purse, like a piece of fruit and some almonds, or a low-sugar protein bar.  If I am going to be having a holiday meal at the house of a relative who’s idea of a salad is something that involves marshmallows, I bring along a dish to share that is healthy and delicious and that I will feel good about eating.

Lotions and Potions

Keeping some soothing lavender lotion in your purse, or a calming aromatherapy roll-on (shout out to friend Melissa at Morphologically!) can be a life-saver when you are stuck in traffic, standing in a long line during a Black Friday sale, or whatever other fun holiday experience you find yourself in.  You could also bring along a few herbal tea bags to help you with anxiety (kava), indigestion (peppermint or ginger), or insomnia (chamomile or valerian).  There is also always the tried and true Rescue Remedy which is now available in various forms. Or of course, make sure your Xanax prescription is filled. Figure out whatever works best for you and make yourself a little stress-fighting kit to keep with you at all times.

Start a Holiday Survival Group Text with Your BFFS

Get through stressful family interactions by texting your friends the play-by-play. Then they can do the same, and you can all share a secret laugh/cry. 


We can regulate our nervous systems with some deep breathing. When you find yourself particularly freaked out, take some long deep inhales and exhales.  Try to clear your mind and think about just your breath.  The beauty of this trick is that you can do it anywhere at any time, even in the middle of turkey-carving.

Do you have any other tips?  Share them with us! @NYLON #HOLIDAYSURVIVAL