Before we know it, the holidays will be upon us! From decorating the house and getting together with family to enjoying good food and embracing the festive and jolly spirit all around—there’s so much to look forward to during the holiday season.

But for many of us, the holidays might feel like a time of over-commitment and rushing to keep up. In some ways, holiday stress is synonymous with the season itself. “People are overcommitted,” says Marc D. Skelton, PhD, PsyD. “Christmas and other holidays around this time are always supposed to be fun, and you’re supposed to do a good job in terms of entertaining friends and family.” The schedule fills up fast—and it’s easy to let our health slide when we’re at our busiest—amidst the lack of routine, the holiday parties, and the batches of cookies—not to mention being inside more!

If you find yourself fretting about the holidays once you turn the calendar to November, and running yourself ragged throughout the entire season, why not prepare and plan to do things differently this year with your physical health in mind?

There are plenty of ways that you can take control of your health and sanity—before the season gets into full swing!

Let’s take a look a few things you can do now to make for a healthier holiday season.

Eat Nutrient-Dense Food

We often give ourselves a ‘free pass’ to eat whatever we please during the holidays. But while it’s fine to indulge a bit more than usual, the trouble comes when we completely give in and turn Halloween through New Year’s into one long free-for-all!

Instead of adopting a ‘feast or famine’ approach, it’s far better to strive for maximum energy during this busiest time of year. Look for delicious and healthy foods to fuel your body, and stock up on healthy snacks. Eat your fill of fresh produce, protein-dense foods, and healthy grains—and, of course, drink plenty of water.

Take Precautions While Traveling

For many, the holiday season means a time for travel! If you find yourself amongst the other busy travelers this season, you’ll want to reduce your chances of catching a cold. You know the drill, but it’s great to remind your family to wash hands regularly! This time of year especially, keep some sanitizer and surface wipes in your bag to take extra precautions!

Schedule in Downtime

Sure, the holidays are a super busy time for everyone. From shopping and wrapping to cooking and planning—in addition to our usual responsibilities—the chore list more than doubles during the holiday season! While it is okay to be busy, it’s important to ensure that you’re not taking on too much at the expense of sacrificing your health. Avoid the temptation to fill in your downtime with more tasks and events. A dose of downtime could be the very thing that keeps you going strong this season!

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is important for our health and essential for a strong immune system. Many of us are chronically tired, simply because we’re not getting enough rest. Working to establish good sleep patterns is as important during the holidays as it as the rest of the year. Don’t sacrifice your sleep! Make sure you’re getting those recommended 7-9 hours.

Learn to Say No

During the holidays, we’re often pressured into taking on more tasks that we normally would. But don’t let the fear of letting someone down prevent you from saying no to tasks that you’d rather not take on! Instead, learn to say no, and do so without guilt! Turning down unnecessary obligations is your key to keeping holiday stress to a minimum.

Keep Moving

While you still want to prioritize being active each day, try not to place unnecessary pressure on yourself when it comes to fitting all of your workouts in. There are plenty of fun, seasonal activities that you can sub in for your usual workout routine. Shopping and running your errands, for instance, burns a good 130 calories per hour—at least! Activities such as fall hikes and ice skating make exceptional workouts—and you’ll be making memories and having fun at the same time!

At the end of the day, remember, if you’re feeling stressed during the holidays, don’t beat yourself up for it, or try really hard to simply “not stress.” Instead, try to pinpoint your triggers and then take steps to reduce the prevalence of those things in your life—or find a way to outsource or eliminate some of the tasks. Then try to find time in your schedule to enjoy the little things and allow yourself plenty of time to unwind and decompress. Give yourself a chance to truly enjoy the holidays this year. Here’s to a happy, healthy holiday season!


Have you found ways to manage your stress during the holiday season? If not, which tip from the list above will help you the most?