Surviving the holidays

Don’t let holiday stress wear you down.   Photo: evgenyatamanenko

The holidays seem to start earlier and earlier each year. We barely got through Halloween and already there were signs of Christmas. This time of year can be filled with so much joy and excitement, but it also can be hectic and stressful. Between sending holiday cards, buying gifts, and attending holiday parties, we can easily run ourselves down. In the midst of taking care of everyone else, we can easily forget it is equally important that as parents we remember to take care of ourselves, physically and emotionally. With a little thought, planning, and these tips, you can ensure yourself this truly is the most wonderful time of the year.


When life gets hectic and busy usually the first thing to go is my exercise routine, even though it is the one thing I do for myself that makes me feel good. Not only does exercise reduce stress and improve your mood, it also gives you more energy to get through that long to-do list. With all the eating and drinking of the holidays, it can be easy to put on some unwanted weight and then not feel good about how your clothes fit. Make sure to carve out time to exercise, make it a priority, and schedule it just like you would any other event. Even if you don’t have time for a full workout, go for a 10-minute walk to do some stretching, rather than skipping your workout altogether.

Sleep is also an important part of self-care and exercise can play a big role in how well you sleep. I always find I sleep better after a good workout. Getting enough sleep is also key. Several late nights can catch up with you quickly and have a big impact, and not in a positive way, on your energy and your mood.


Sometimes the best thing we can do when we start to feel overwhelmed is to take a time-out. As parents, we know how effective it is when we put our kids in a time-out — they are able to cool off, regroup, and refocus. We need to give ourselves permission to do the same thing. What does that look like? It can be anything from treating yourself to a massage or facial, taking a yoga class, or just sitting in a quiet room by yourself with no devices for a few minutes.

I recently tried Modern Acupuncture on Fillmore Street in Cow Hollow. I had never tried acupuncture before but was intrigued by the science of how it can restore balance and reduce stress and anxiety. It was pure relaxation despite the fact you have needles sticking out of you. The whole experience was 30 minutes, which was enough to feel completely relaxed and refreshed but didn’t take up a huge part of my day.


Part of the stress of the season is feeling like we have to do everything. From the hosting, to the baking, to the shopping, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. I challenge you this season to try saying no to one thing. Skip a party, or ask someone else to host or help with the cooking. You may feel selfish, you may feel guilty, you may even feel like a slacker, but just try it. At first it may be hard, but you may also find it gets easier and it can be very freeing.

Ask yourself what is important and what do you value most during the holidays? Then, pick the traditions that mean the most to you and your family and just do those. Planning those out on a calendar can help reduce stress so you aren’t trying to cram everything in at the end. Don’t be afraid to keep things simple — buy fewer gifts and spend more time enjoying the company of your family and friends. Enjoy the moments and be present for them. Sometimes we get so caught up in what didn’t go right or what didn’t get done that we miss the opportunity to feel grateful for all that we have and the joy for those around us.

The holidays are a time for giving to others and to ourselves, so don’t forget to give yourself the gift of time to take care of you. If we love and take care of ourselves, we are better equipped to love and take care of others. This can be tough to remember as a parent especially around the holidays, and it is not always easy to do. However, it is probably one of the most important lessons I have learned as a parent. Have a wonderful and peace-filled holiday season.

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Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children and the founder of TechTalks, a consulting group to help schools and families have productive and healthy conversations around social media and technology. Email: [email protected]