How To Combat Holiday Stress Without Turning To Booze

For some of us, hearing the low murmur of “Jingle Bells” while doing our grocery shopping may put us in a cheerful mood. For others, the holidays are just another stressor—a season of stressors, if you will.

From scrounging up money to buy the perfect gifts for loved ones, to dealing with the relatives you consistently butt heads with it can be easy to want to grab a glass of eggnog, douse it with bourbon and keep sipping until things feel more tolerable.

The plethora of memes like the one below certainly furthers our association of festively over-drinking with the holidays.

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a decadent pastry stout or cute peppermint martini at your office Christmas party, you don’t want the holiday stress to have you hitting the tinsel-trimmed bottle more than usual. While alcohol may seem like a nice way to dull your stress, it usually ends up contributing to it further—or worse, causing new problems. Besides, do you really want your New Years’ resolution to be “drink less” for the third year in a row?

Here are some ways to de-stress during the holiday season, plus some ways to nip stress in the bud before it even starts.

Tips For Avoiding Stress

We all have certain relatives that we dread getting into conversations with. Maybe it’s your grandmother who consistently asks when she’s getting grand kids, or your uncle who thinks the #metoo movement is good fodder for his awful jokes. Whoever it is, I bet they say the same problematic sh!t every year, so why not prepare for it?

By having a planned response to your great aunt who wants to ask whatever happened to that “nice boy” you dated in high school, it’ll help you to stress less about coming up with something on the fly that’s appropriate, yet will shut the conversation down.

An easy response is simply, “Can we talk about X instead?” Chances are your family member doesn’t realize how much they’re actually upsetting (or annoying) you. Unless they’re truly awful, they’ll take the hint.

Work in “alone” time to your daily plan

Ever had an introvert hangover? Our bodies sometimes feel stressed and tired after feeling like we need to be “on” so much—something that occurs plenty during the holidays. It’s sort of like after a photo shoot where your mouth feels sore from smiling, except it’s your brain and body.

To combat this phenomenon, plan your days out ahead of time. Even if you’re on break from work/school/etc. You’re likely not on break from your family and social events. Ensure you have at least some 30 minute periods throughout the day to rest, recuperate, listen to podcasts, or chill.

Break Up Big Tasks Into Bite-Sized Chunks (And Don’t Feel Bad Asking For Help)

On the other hand, sometimes being too alone and self-reliant can contribute to stress. If you’re wondering how you’re supposed to bake a carrot cake, wrap 10 gifts, and get ready for that evening’s party in two hours—it’s time to call in for help.

Don’t ever be afraid to use your “phone a friend” feature IRL. Chances are, there are more people than you realize who care about you and want to help.

Another option to fight procrastination is by breaking down big tasks into bite-sized chunks. For example, instead of trying to wrap 10 gifts the night before Christmas, why not wrap two gifts a night that week? It’s an easy task that doesn't require (too much) brainpower—it just takes time.

Activities To Soothe Stress

I know I just listed baking carrot cake as something on your to-do list, but baking is actually a great stress reliever. It’s even been proven to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Why not kill to birds with one stone by alleviating stress and becoming the awesome friend who brings over holiday cookies?

Try cozy yoga (in the comfort of your own home). We all know by now that meditation is a great stress reliever, but meditation isn’t for everyone. If you tried it and couldn’t sit still, try some low-key yoga instead. I love watching Yoga With Adrienne’s YouTube channel and doing yoga in the comfort of my own home (or whoever’s home I’m visiting for the holidays). May I recommend this video, aptly titled “cozy yoga” or this playlist with 18 yoga videos for stress management?

It’s not always slow, gentle movements that can make you calm. Strangely enough, going hard in the gym can also be a great stress reliever (and way healthier than hitting the peppermint schnapps harder than Bad Santa). As an added bonus, exercising will help reduce any stress you have about eating less healthy than usual during the holidays.

It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re listening to “Feliz Navidad” (unless you work in retail and have been listening to Christmas songs all month, sorry).

A nice, long drive with no destination in mind can be a simple way to clear your head and relax. Perhaps you can throw on a holiday Spotify station and DIY your own light-show by simply driving through the fanciest neighborhood nearby and checking out all their decorations.

Roads too icy in your hometown? Try bundling up, putting your earbuds in, and walking around the nearest outdoor shopping center. Chances are they’ll also have nice Christmas decorations for you to take in!

Get warm. The whole “spa treatment” brand of self-care might not work for everyone, but in combination with my daily yoga, it does sometimes work for me. If you’ve got a tub at home you can stretch out in, take a bath like in the movies: light some candles and disconnect. Or, carve out an extra half-hour for the sauna at the gym.

Get your rocks off. My mind isn’t in the gutter, it’s just science. Orgasms are proven to decrease stress in both males and females, and it’s the perfect activity for a cold day when you just want to lay in bed. Whether you have a holiday bae or are rolling solo through the New Year, this is one stress-buster that is simple, quick, and free! And besides, when the last time you regretted an orgasm?

Whatever your stress-relief (or premeditated stress-avoidance) method of choice is, it’s always good to have a plan of action in place for combating holiday season stress.

Take comfort in knowing that whatever work stress, gift stress, or family stress comes at you—you can handle it. And you can handle it even better without a drink in your hand, I promise.


About the Author

Ashley Uzer is an artist, writer, and digital consultant. She is currently based in Washington DC, but is frequently traveling. Her happy place is somewhere warm, eating chocolate chip cookies for breakfast, and listening to pop-punk music from 2006. You can follow along with her adventures on Instagram @ashleyuzer or on her website where she blogs about food and fashion,

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