5 Secrets to Keep Your Sanity Intact Through the Holidays

I’d always suspected it, but now I know it’s true.

The American Psychological Association states that almost half of all women experience a serious jump in their stress levels during the holidays. And what are the men doing? According to the APA, roughly the same number of them are RELAXING!

This is just not fair. So what do we do about it? When we’re crazy-out-of-our-heads-stressed, our answer might be to shoot our men…but don’t do that, too many consequences. Hire a maid, a cook, a personal shopper? Nah!



As strong women (oh, yes, you are!), let’s opt to promise ourselves we won’t miss out on the joys of the holidays and we will stay healthy (even if it’s just to spite the men!). When we stress, we lower our immunity and get sick. When we don’t get enough sleep, we overeat, we get depressed, we’re too tired to do what’s needs to be done.

When you’re trying to create a memorable holiday for your family, you add dozens of extra activities that have to be squeezed into your regularly packed-full schedule. Obviously, that’s going to make you a little crazed.


There’s no avoiding the holiday hustle and bustle, but there are ways to keep your sanity and stress levels in check:

1) Laugh – Do you remember last year when you were standing in the checkout line for-ev-er, while a customer ahead of you picked up an item with no tag and the cashier had to call her manager, (who was on the other side of the store amidst another crisis), because this was the last one and she had no idea what it cost, and the manager came over and had to call for permission to make up a price and a ticket number for the computer, so the cashier stood by doing noth-ing while he figured it out? *deep breath* Huh, remember that day?

If that happens this year, laugh-out-loud! Commiserate with someone in line behind you and relieve the stress – for yourself and everyone else. Laughing out loud regulates blood pressure and helps your circulation,  i.e. it keeps you healthy.


2) Bake – Whenever we get our heads into an activity that takes concentration and a flow of thoughts, we de-stress. Baking can do that for us – and we get some goodies to enjoy in the bargain.

When you bake cookies, for example, you follow steps that create energized focus. Stress takes a backseat. At holiday time, you’re likely baking cookies with ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg. Bonus! The scent of those spices soothes and cheers your mood.


3) Breathe – The dishes are washed, the kids are in bed, your list for tomorrow is written. You have an hour before bed, so turn off the TV, stereo, computer and bright lights. Pour yourself some hot cocoa and spend a few minutes sitting by the fire, or in the glow of Christmas lights or candles and take a deep breath.

Clear your head of stressful ‘to-dos’. Do nothing. Relaxation will prepare you for a tranquil tomorrow. The hot cocoa has a calming effect due to a plant compound that lowers your blood pressure when you’re stressed. And, it’s chocolate! Drink up and breathe easy.


4) Give – You may think you can’t fit one more activity into an already over-loaded schedule, but do this. Even the smallest act of kindness can ease your stress.

If time allows, volunteer at a hospital. If not, then take in the mail for an elderly person, call a relative who lives alone, slow down on a busy street and let another motorist turn, leave a dozen of those hundreds of cookies you baked on the doorstep for the postman AND it can’t hurt to sing a Christmas carol, like Here Comes Santa Claus, while you do it. Instead of just signing your Christmas cards, take a minute more to add a personal note. Heartfelt sentiments create a connection to those in your social circle and family, reducing stress.

For lots more  ideas on how to give, read this.


5) Sleep – Keep a pad of paper and a pen next to your bed, so that when your mind is racing to remember all that needs to be done tomorrow, or when you’re angry with miserable Aunt Biddy, write it down and let it go.

Turn on some white noise. It will drown out other sounds that can keep you awake. Turn out any night lights or wear eye shades to keep your brain from being aroused by the light, allowing for deeper sleep. Don’t watch intense movies, play video games or have a phone conversation right before bed – they’ll only stimulate your brain making it resist peaceful sleep.

There are more tips I could add, but these are the most important. Besides, don’t you already have too much to remember?


Feel free to add to this list. What do you do to keep your mood balanced, the stress at bay and a smile on your face through the holidays?

(I’m willing to bet your man is the type who pitches in so the burden is not on you alone. My husband is, too. *big smile*)



  1. Diana Douglas  December 3, 2012

    I have one less stress this year! My son & daughter-in-law just bought a bigger house and Christmas dinner wil be at their place. Splitting up the holidays will make life so much easier!
    Diana Douglas recently posted..It’s Thursday! Time to Light Up the Blogosphere! 11/29/12My Profile

  2. Jess Witkins  November 30, 2012

    I love these tips, especially since I work in retail. But you know I’m no good at baking, so let’s adapt that to wine and cheese! Cutting up fine cheeses and refilling my glass can have a lovely and methodical relaxation to it.
    Jess Witkins recently posted..Announcing the 2013 TBR Pile Challenge and other ROW NewsMy Profile

    • Marcia Richards  November 30, 2012

      Ah, wine and cheese…a great substitute. The tannins in the wine will mellow you out while the cheese will provide the combo of fats, protein and carbs to help you feel sated…and, to keep you from getting tipsy before you’ve had your fill of the wine. 😉
      Marcia Richards recently posted..5 Secrets to Keep Your Sanity Intact Through the HolidaysMy Profile

  3. Angela Orlowski-Pear  November 28, 2012

    Ah, laugh and bake. I like that! I have to say – my husband helps with all the holidays’ activities and preparation, so I must be the lucky one, haha. We try to plan ahead and get things done before too much is scheduled at once. We already have our Christmas Eve menu (we are hosting this year), the grocery shopping list for that day, and the gift shopping list. Many of the gifts have been already ordered, so we are plugging along. I think the most important way in reducing the holiday-related stress is good planning. Pen and paper can do wonders 🙂
    Angela Orlowski-Pear recently posted..Black Friday and Cyber Monday YA Indie Deals!My Profile

    • Marcia Richards  November 28, 2012

      Oh, I so agree! I’ve always been a list maker! Don’t know how I could get anything done without my lists! Glad to hear you two are organized and knocking one task after another off your list! Have a great holiday, Angela!

  4. Inion N. Mathair  November 28, 2012

    Chanting: “Must live by these tips! Must live by these tips!” Great post, Marcia. I used to thoroughly enjoy the holidays when I was younger, but since my mother was hurt in a car accident in 2008, I’ve taken over a lot of her duties. I’ve gotten a healthy dose of respect for her now, but it seems I’m dreading what should be the funnest part of the year. I’ll remember to keep these in mind and thank you! 🙂
    Inion N. Mathair recently posted..Let’s Get Ready To Rumble: Battle One: Killing CharactersMy Profile

  5. Natalie Hartford  November 28, 2012

    Great list of tips and tricks to keep your head on straight during the holiday insanity Marcia! Luv it. I also plan to shop early and to shop LESS. For me, it’s the gift of time together that matters most so I’ve trimmed my shopping list back considerably so I can spend more time laughing, baking,breathing, giving and sleeping!!

    Ohhhh…and don’t forget August McLaughlin’s advice to de-stress…have lots of SEX!

    BAM…I am up for that!!!
    Natalie Hartford recently posted..Urban Word Wednesday: Walk BlockerMy Profile

    • Marcia Richards  November 28, 2012

      I don’t know how I could have forgotten SEX! Thanks so much for reminding me, Nat! Yes, time together is more important and I’m cutting back in lots of ways this year myself, which will be my post for next week. Have a great holiday!

  6. Nancy J Nicholson  November 28, 2012

    Marcia, you’ve lined up some great advice for the holidays. I’d only add, making sure you don’t eat all those cookies you bake, but you did suggest giving them away. I’ll try to remember that. 😉

    I’ll add one more (yes, there are a million, but one more won’t hurt), go sailing. No one cares out here whether you have your tree decorated, or the holiday parties planned. They definitely don’t care whether you’ve shopped or not. When it’s time to socialize, everyone brings a little something.


    6) Go sailing.

    • Marcia Richards  November 28, 2012

      Ahh, sailing! Yes, Nancy, that’s definitely a low-stress way to celebrate the holidays! On a sailboat, there isn’t room for all the paraphernalia that can be part of the holiday. Simplifying is the way to go! Thanks for sailing in!


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