The stress and demands of the holiday season start early and typically build as the weeks wear on.  Some stress is inevitable. Some stress is actually helpful because it motivates us to be productive.  But too much stress is overwhelming, unhealthy and makes the holiday season unpleasant instead of enjoyable.  But the good news is...Each of us can exert some control over our stress levels. We can do this by adopting good strategies to cope with high levels of stress and "letting go" of some of our (and other's) expectations so we can actually avoid creating stress in the first place. 

Here are some helpful tips to cope with seasonal stress.  Don't try to adopt every strategy; doing so would probably add to your stress rather than reduce it!  Instead, focus on two or three items you know will help you the most. 

Take care of yourself physically, spiritually and emotionally. Don’t spend all your time worrying about what you didn’t do. Focus on accomplishments.
Be assertive about getting your needs met. Don’t waste time reflecting on where to start - just start.
Arrange for privacy. Everyone needs some time alone. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
Make decisions based on your own needs, not what others expect your needs to be. Don’t make excuses. When you offer excuses, you open the door to argument.
Ask for help when you need it. Don’t rely on your memory. Write down important things.
Breathe slowly and deeply when feeling stressed. Don’t let insignificant events upset you.
Be human, not perfect. Don’t do what you don’t want to do.
Get enough sleep. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Be prepared for life to let you down. It will never meet all your expectations. Don’t waste time responding to your critics.
See the humor in situations.

Don’t take your troubles to bed with you.

Do unpleasant tasks early in the day. Don’t put yourself down.
Plan ahead. Don’t forget to visit Santa.
Be flexible. Don’t be afraid to deal with your family. They are only people.
Be willing to walk away from a situation you don’t want to deal with.

Don’t forget that the holidays are just days like any other in which you have choices to respond with your best interests in mind.

Say “no” if you don’t wish to visit someone or attend a particular function. Don't worry if everything doesn't meet someone else's idea of perfection.


Regardless of one's religious, cultural, social or familial background, special holidays throughout the year have the potential to create additional stress. Here are a few suggestions to help you keep perspective, relax and enjoy the day or season of celebration. 
  • Accept the fact that holidays, like people, are not perfect.
  • Remember: Happiness is wanting what you have, not having what you want.
  • Assess your expectations of yourself and others. Then, lower them.
  • Live every moment and cherish it.
  • Understand that only you can make yourself less busy.
  • Spend an evening recalling your favorite holiday memories.
  • Be spiritual.
  • Resolve to set time aside for yourself.
  • Seek rest.
  • Bake cookies, breads and treats only as long as you enjoy the process.
  • Eliminate the word “should” from what you expect of others and yourself.
  • Stop and smell the spices.
  • Wrap no more than five gifts at a time.
  • Smile anyway.
  • Ring bells.
  • Try to recall the magic of childhood.
  • Give of yourself. But don't give up your self.
  • Don't shop for friends on your lunch hour. Go to lunch with your friends.
  • Adopt a larger perspective.
  • Try to enjoy your guests, not impress them.
  • Telephone someone you haven't spoken to all year.
  • Appreciate the humor in every situation.
  • Know that good friends are better than big packages.
  • Think about your three best accomplishments this year.

(Excerpted from How to have a perfect Christmas by Helen Isolde, NY, NY, Penguin Books USA Inc.)