Holiday cake

Surviving the Holidays

The holidays are always a stressful and crazy time of year. Even under the best of circumstances, there are get-togethers to plan, meals to make, and gifts to wrestle out of someone else’s hands in the mile-long line at the mall on Black Friday (kidding! Play nice!). Worst case scenarios bring crazy relatives, stress eating and emotional breakdowns during what should be a time for fun and celebration with loved ones. Studies have shown that the incidence of deadly heart attacks spikes during the holidays, especially around Christmas and New Years Day. Surviving the holidays becomes a difficulty no matter what we do! So how do we manage to avoid, or at least minimize, the stress? How do we keep holidays fun and relaxed?

May your walls know joy, may every room hold laughter, and every window open to great possibility.

Mary Anne Radmacher

After my mother passed a few years ago, it was a huge challenge to keep the holidays alive. She was the glue that held our families together, and without her it felt like there wasn’t any meaning in any of it. Even a small family get-together felt strained and painful, a reminder of loss. The grief lingered, but I finally realized that forcing myself to engage in uncomfortable situations wasn’t the answer. I had to find my own meaning, make new traditions. So now, I do what feels comfortable. I’m gentle with myself. I’ve learned how to say no (although it’s still a struggle at times). And I’ve found a few things that really help when it comes to dealing with stress during this time of year that I hope you will find useful.

Holiday Puppy

Acknowledge Feelings.

This isn’t always easy, especially if relationships are strained or someone is going through grief. But simply letting others know how you feel can relieve stress. Don’t feel that you have to force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holidays.

Reach Out.

I learned this one the hard way. As an introvert who’d rather hide in my bathtub with a book than host a dinner party, it isn’t always easy for me to reach out, especially during the holidays. It’s even harder when I’m admitting I need help or I’m feeling isolated. By talking with a friend or seeking out a community support group, we can lift our spirits during this stressful time.

Winter leaves, Surviving the Holidays

Do Relaxation Exercises.

Finding a quiet place is often difficult during a bustling holiday season, but even just a few minutes of meditation or deep breathing can do wonders for surviving the holidays and calming a stressed-out mind and body.

Say No!

I don’t mean it’s necessary to avoid every uncomfortable situation at all costs, but learning to say no is crucial for keeping stress at bay. Saying yes when you’re already overwhelmed only creates resentment and frustration. If it’s not possible to say no, such as working overtime or an emergency situation, give yourself a break later on to make up for it.

Holiday cake, Surviving the Holidays

Keep it Healthy.

It’s easy to over-indulge this time of year given all the sweets and parties. Surviving the holidays is about keeping the food as simple (read: quick and easy) and healthy as possible. Despite their quick burst of energy, sweets make us feel worse over time, not to mention adding weight-gain into the line-up of potential stressors. Certainly don’t beat yourself up for indulging, but try to tune in to your body and ask what will make you feel best before diving mindlessly into the sweets. During the month of December, I’ll be sharing lots of healthy vegan versions of holiday recipes to help lighten the calorie load and give you ideas for holiday get-togethers!

Plan and Budget.

Nothing is worse during the holidays than having to scramble last minute for gifts and meals. So give yourself some extra time to plan ahead – you’ll keep things healthier that way too. As for gifts and parties, decide how much you can spend and then stick to it. Make homemade gifts, donate to charity, or start a new holiday tradition that doesn’t involve spending so much!

Give yourself a Break.

Be realistic about the holidays. They don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. After my mother’s death this was the hardest thing for me. I felt as if I had to swoop in and re-create exactly how it was when she orchestrated Christmas parties. Everything had to be perfect down to the carefully crafted hors-d’oeuvres and the mountains of gifts. I drove myself crazy trying to do all that, and it turned into a nightmare because I couldn’t replace what I really wanted – my mother. Once I learned that being realistic and giving myself a break from all that was the best thing, the holidays got a whole lot simpler and less stressful.

Winter Sunset


Whether you have a crazy relative who drinks too much and causes a ruckus, or some simmering disagreement with a family member, relationship stress can be difficult during a time of year when families come together. So remember to have some empathy. They’re probably just as stressed as you are! Be understanding and forgive each other. And don’t forget to forgive yourself.


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