Eat, Play, Love: Three Tips for a Stress-Less Holiday


There is nothing quite like holiday stress. Between the packed calendars, strained budgets, and family dynamic dances, it’s a good thing December only comes once a year. Here are a few tips for making it through the holidays these next couple of weeks (that are cheaper than your therapist’s co-pay).

holiday stress

1. Eat

When our schedules max out, it can be easy to brush past things like breakfast or lunch. We’re running from school drop-off to work, to holiday parties, and it’s a win if everyone leaves with matching shoes, much less, mom getting food. The kicker is, when we don’t feed ourselves, our brains start to freak out. We need glucose for our brains to function at 100%. When we’re trying to get by on a cup of coffee alone, our blood sugar starts to tank, and we feel less-than-jolly. The increased irritability is often accompanied by a nice release of stress hormones and, pretty soon, we’re acting less like Buddy the Elf, and more like the Grinch.

The tendency to skip meals is easily overcome by packing some snacks in your purse. Grab a few handfuls of almonds and a banana before heading out the door. Throw some peanut butter into a small Tupperware bowl and chop up some apples to dip later. Foods with protein and fiber are your best bet, and don’t forget a water bottle!

2. Play

We moms work really hard to make the holidays special for the people we love. It’s not unusual for us to get so focused on the to-do list, we forget to look up and enjoy the festivities ourselves. Research has shown that playing (think child-like) can do wonders for a stressed-out brain. When we’re running around with a million things on our minds and not enough time in the day to accomplish them, we are engaging our left brain at high-speed. The fear that we’re not going to be able to get it all done brings those same holiday stress hormones right back to the party.

Candy Land, freeze tag, or snow sledding play invites your right brain into the mix and actually calms down the left brain. When we play with others, our body releases oxytocin which helps us feel compassion and empathy towards those around us. In short, the more we play, the nicer and more relaxed we become. 

3. Love (Yourself)

Self-care is definitely a trending buzzword, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing, especially during the holiday stress season. Motherhood doesn’t have to equal martyrdom. The airlines get it right when they tell us to don our oxygen masks first, and then help our children. If we stop breathing, so do they. Taking time to care for our mental and physical health is of utmost importance when it comes to having a stress-less holiday season. And it doesn’t have to cut into the monthly budget, either:

  • Bundle up and go for a walk during lunch. This is a great way to get a boost of endorphins to get you through the afternoon and evening.
  • Take five minutes and practice deep breathing techniques at your desk or on your couch. It will do wonders for that tension in your shoulders.
  • Soak in the bath, paint your nails, hit the gym, read a book, watch an episode of that funny sitcom you love, or sing along to the radio on your way to the grocery store. Any of these will help you to move out of survival mode and get into the holiday spirit. 

YOU are a gift to your family this season. Be generous in caring for your needs, minimize the holiday stress, and those you love with benefit as well. Happy Holidays!

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Amber is wife to her elementary school crush and mother to three kiddos, ages 10, 7, and 4. Having recently moved to Portland from California, Amber is embracing her “new normal” as she navigates parks in the rain (bring a towel), the line outside Pip’s Donuts (it’s worth it), and where to find good Mexican food (still searching). As bio mom to her two oldest and adoptive mom to her youngest, special needs child, Amber understands and appreciates the importance of “mommy-time." Amber is also a grad student and soon-to-be Marriage, Couple, and Family Therapist. She shares the highlights and gems of what she's learning on her Instagram: @learnandliveproject.