How to stay calm through the Christmas season

Dec 8, 2011 at 5:46 a.m. ET

The holidays are here, which means there is likely more to do than you have time for. Since you can’t clone yourself (yet) and Santa seems to have the monopoly on elves (how selfish), staying calm amid never-ending to-dos can be tough. Before you have a meltdown and vow to skip Christmas next season, it’s time to introduce some stay-calm strategies. We put together some of our easiest and most effective seasonal stress-busters to keep you calm this holiday season.

Family walking dog in the snow

Get outside

It may be cold outside but that doesn't mean you're allowed to hibernate until June. Fresh air can make a huge difference in how you feel, especially when stress starts creeping up on you. And no, walking from the car to the mall doesn't cut it. This season, make time to get outside once a day, even if it's just for 10 to 15 minutes. Walk the dog, head to a nearby park and back again, or bundle up as a family and wander through the neighborhood to check out the Christmas lights on display. The more you can get outdoors amid the holiday chaos the better you'll feel

Fit in fitness

You might not feel like you have time to shower on a regular basis during the holidays, let alone exercise, but, as with getting outdoors, fitting in some form of fitness is key for keeping stress at bay. No time to hit the gym for an hour? No problem.

  • Go for three brisk 10-minute walks at different times throughout the day. By the evening you'll have fit in 30 minutes.
  • Do squats and lunges as you wait for something to finish roasting in the oven.
  • Keep a yoga or exercise mat ready on the living room floor. Whenever you have five minutes, do crunches, push-ups or your favorite yoga poses to tone, in between holiday chores.
  • Park as far away from the mall as possible. While you shop, walk briskly rather than stroll from store to store.

Eat for energy

Eating well despite the abundance of sugar (or lack of time) is important if you want to maintain a sense of calm as you work your way through your list of holiday must-dos. Nibbling on Christmas treats may seem like a (tasty) time-saver but the sugar will only give you a temporary boost. Your energy level will soon nosedive, taking your festive mood with it. Instead, make sure you eat small meals consisting of lean protein and lots of colorful fruit and vegetables. Snack on whole fruits, cut vegetables with hummus, raw nuts and low-fat yogurt. The healthier you eat while you're on the go, the more stable your mood will be.

Schedule breaks

You may have 1,000 things on your holiday to-do list but we suggest adding one more: breaks. This may seem counterproductive to your Christmas plans but if you don't schedule your breaks, you likely won't take them. Every day (ideally twice a day), make sure you take a 20-minute timeout. Read a chapter in the book you have going, sip a cup of tea, listen to music – anything that isn't related to your holiday to-do list. Breaks will help keep you refreshed and ensure you don't get too bogged down with everything you need to accomplish.

Don't do it all

Santa has his elves (he'd likely be stressed without them) and you should enlist some holiday help of your own. You might be tempted to do everything on your own, but that's a recipe for stress. Ask for help. Your husband can hit the mall, your kids can start getting the house organized for guests, your mother can handle the dessert portion of holiday dinner – let other people shoulder some of the responsibility so you stress less and actually have time to enjoy the holiday season.

More stress-management tips

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Our best tips for stress-free holiday travel
5 Stress less tips for the holidays