Four Ways to Overcome Holiday Stress

Overcome holiday stress this year by choosing what gets your attention. When I wrote my Christmas letter this year I celebrated five wonderful highlights of 2020. From this year of pandemic, I want to remember the hilarity (and terror) of being a cross-country truck driver for two days,

The truck I drove to Denver

the incomparable joy of holding a new grandchild, the laughter and cuteness of hosting other grandchildren in my home, the thrill of gliding over glassy surfaces on Rocky Mountain lakes,

Kayaking on Lake Dillon

and the poignant warmth of cycling through air as heavy with history as it is with humidity on bicycle trails in the east.

Salisbury Viaduct on the Great Allegheny Passage

It has been a tough year. In its records I also find fear, anxiety, desperation, loneliness, loss, and boredom. I know you can too. Yet we all get to choose our focus. As you approach the holidays, I offer these four tips to banish holiday stress.

Healthy Holidays Stress Relief

In a marvelous twist of nature, when you give or show kindness to another person, the amount of serotonin in your blood increases. Serotonin is a hormone that interacts with your brain, muscles, and organs to generate calm, promote healing, and increase your sense of self esteem and optimism. It’s said that others do not remember what we say as much as they remember how we make them feel.

Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Set aside time for small acts of kindness that cost no money and are safely socially distant. 

  • Call an elder or family member who is lonely. Ask about their favorite holiday memories, and listen.
  • Read a book to a child for the fifteenth time.
  • Scratch behind the dog’s ears in the place she loves so much.
  • Thank the grocery store clerk for his work.

Remember that gifts don’t always cost money. This year, people need kindness and connection more than ever.

Healthy Habits

Start one step of health TODAY, and scrap resolutions to diet in the New Year

A strict diet or harsh exercise regime just adds stress. Your brain creates resistance to protect against massive changes, because in general our marvelous human organism is geared toward providing us with homeostasis, or a steady state. For example, during a strict calorie restriction your body adapts by slowing your metabolic rate, so that you expend fewer calories on basic life functions. That’s why weight loss often tapers off or may even stop as a diet progresses.

Take a small step toward health, in contrast, and you will gain confidence. As you feel better, you’ll want to add another small step. For examples of small steps of health you can start TODAY, take a look at my holiday hacks checklist:



Adequate sleep is important for the health of your brain, heart, blood vessels, and emotions. It also affects how much you eat. With sleep deprivation, levels of a hormone that increases hunger rise, and levels of a hormone the give feelings of fullness fall. A 2020 study found that women who had poor sleep quality consumed more calories. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32063123/

  Sugar cravings are worsened by lack of sleep, and even one night of sleep deprivation alters the body’s blood sugar control. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20371664/

For a reminder of foods that promote restful sleep, go back to my book review video https://deborahrankinrd.com/eat-to-sleep-by-Karman-Meyer/

Quality of Life

Add joy to your holiday with music and art. 

Did you know that listening to music decreases anxiety, and reduces pain? Depression and fear related to chronic diseases like cancer and kidney failure are lightened when people engage in crafts and visual arts. Creative writing and journaling lessens the pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia, according to three studies I’ve read.

One day last week my granddaughter turned the volume on my stereo to head-pounding loudness. The rest of us danced–to Amy Grant’s Christmas, to James Taylor’s Christmas, to Charlie Brown’s Christmas! We laughed, we pranced, we hopped. We beat stress.

Healthy Holidays

This year, whether you are stuck in a small apartment with too many people for the space, or stuck by yourself far from home, banish holiday stress by giving acts of kindness every day. Care for yourself with one small step of health TODAY, and sleep long, restful hours. Saturate your senses with the beauty of art and music.

Open your heart and hands to the peace on earth, good will to men that was given to all people that first Christmas. Which, as I recall, was also a time of disruption, separation, loneliness., and anxiety.

©️ 2020 Healthy Habits Communications LLC


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