Adapted from Sue’s recent bestseller Sanity Secrets for Stressed-Out Women


Christmas … the most wonderful time of the year … or so they say. Yet we all know that holiday stress can take its toll, robbing us of the peace and joy we long to experience.

Chances are you’ve discovered some clear-cut ways to handle job stress, relationship hassles, and everyday annoyances. But when it comes to dealing with the tension and pressure of Christmas holidays, if you’re like most of us, you just can’t seem to get control.

With the shopping malls and media promoting the holidays as early as late summer, anxieties begin to form several months ahead of the season. As a result, the stress can be building up without us even realizing it, creating mental, emotional and physical tension that doesn’t miraculously disappear on December 26th.      

So how do you control stress before it controls you? What is the secret to managing the excessive demands and pressures that come with all those added social expectations, shopping trips, seasonal decorating, and excessive eating? Here are 5 stress survival strategies to boost your spirit and put the magic back in the season:   

Be temperate. Holidays can be a time of excess – too many office parties, calorie-laden cocktails, an abundance of sugary treats and chocolates, and an over-scheduled calendar. Being sensible and levelheaded will help you stay sane during the season. Enjoy the food, the goodies, and the hustle and bustle to a degree, but also be disciplined enough to know when to say “no.” Make a list, check it twice, and only say “yes” if it will benefit you. When you enjoy everything in moderation and refrain from going overboard, you can enjoy each experience fully.
Stay flexible. It may mean letting go of some old traditions and starting a few new ones. Don’t be locked into doing things the same old way simply because that’s the way you’ve always done it. Try lowering your expectations. Much of the frustration we experience from the holidays is from setting our expectations too high, with friends, family, coworkers and especially ourselves. When we don’t get what we expect and everything turns out far from perfect, we become frustrated and disappointed. Instead of having huge expectations this holiday season, just take each day as it comes and enjoy all you can. Stop trying for that picture perfect holiday.  When the cat knocks over the tree, see the humour and make it into a funny story to share with guests.

Get rid of impossible standards. This might mean saying “bye bye” to the Martha Stewart method. Give up those unrealistic goals of making fresh wreaths, decorating gingerbread houses, and stringing nuts on garlands. (I’ve decided our place looks just fine with the nuts we already have!) When it comes to the multitude of social opportunities, only say “yes” to what really matters to you. Focusing on events that are important to you will make it easier to say “no thanks” to things that are not high on your priority list.  When it comes to gift-giving, shift your perspective. Draw names instead of buying for everyone.  Set a dollar value and ask for ideas to choose from.  A gift may be time spent together.  Instead of shopping, go for a massage with a special friend and then enjoy a light lunch.  Take the family to a fun resort where you can all enjoy a sleigh ride in the woods, ice-skating on an outdoor rink, and board games by the fireplace in lieu of regular gifts.    

Simplify your shopping.  Choose a theme for everyone on your list. With a leather theme, for example, you might buy a wallet, a briefcase, a purse, or gloves.  A theme of specialty refreshments might include baskets of flavoured coffees and herbal teas, gourmet foods, and unusual jams, spices or oils.  Other themes might include body products (bath gels, soaps, massage oils, lotions, cologne, manicure items), photography products (albums, frames, enlarged photographs, camera carrying case, gift certificates for photo sessions), games, books, music or art. For a bedtime theme, select cozy pajamas, bedroom slippers or a bathrobe.  Choose a different theme each year.      

Take time for yourself. Be sure that no matter how busy you get, make plans to nurture and pamper yourself. Block off time on your calendar and guard it just as you would any important obligation. There are always things that need to be done, but special memories are usually made during the down times. Take time to listen to holiday music and browse through a magazine. Soak in a lavender-scented bubble bath by candlelight. Take a break from shopping to meet a friend for a steamy cup of tea or flavoured coffee. Go for an evening stroll under the stars. Watch old Christmas movies or spend some quiet time in front of a fire. Rushing through the holidays drains all your energy while silent nights can be the most holy nights of all. When you savor each moment, your mind and body will be re-energized. You can turn that blue Christmas around and build memories that last a lifetime!

Three phrases that sum up Christmas:
Peace on Earth
Goodwill to Men
Batteries not included

5 Bonus tips:

1. On Christmas Eve, give yourself a break by serving take-out Chinese food, pizza, a pan of lasagna from the freezer, or a pot of chili, and play some cards or board games.

2. Make gift-wrapping or tree-trimming a family event. Put on some music, make eggnog, and serve shortbread – homemade or from a mix – fresh from the oven.

3. Be prepared by December 23rd and use that extra day to visit a neighbour, wrap that one last gift, bake cookies, or go for a walk to check out lights and out-door decorations in your area.

4. Spread your visiting out over a number of days. Enjoy potluck suppers, exchange gifts, and play board games with friends or family on the days before and after the 25th.

5. Take the whole family to attend some of the many beautiful musicals and dramatic presentations put on by churches and other organizations in your area.

6. Remember why we celebrate.  Everything changed for me the year I realized that “Jesus is the reason for the season.”  Reading the Christmas story from the Bible brings new meaning to the celebration. It eliminates a whole lot of stress and provides a wonderful sense in inner peace.   


Sue Augustine is an international motivational speaker, a frequent media guest, and author of several bestsellers including Sanity Secrets for Stressed-Out Women, Simple Retreats for a Woman’s Soul, Turn Your Dreams into Realities, and When Your Past is Hurting Your Present. She is also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Visit her at

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