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Stress Proofing the Holidays


Discussion of simple, easy things we can all do to reduce overall stress while enhancing the magic of the holiday season, in this time of Covid-19.

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health.

Have you been able to stress-proof your holidays during COVID-19?

Stress Proofing the Holidays

Celebrating the Holidays During the Pandemic

The holidays can be a wonderful time to enjoy and celebrate friends and family. They can also be hectic, stressful, and exhausting. This year that is doubly so as many of us continue to remain socially distant due to the ongoing public health crisis. The familiar warmth and magic of the holiday season has served as a beacon of hope and joy at the end of each year. Normal life has been upended by the pandemic, and as hospitalizations continue to record highs, the draining effects of pandemic fatigue are casting a grim shadow over our cherished traditions.

Even with many celebrations being conducted virtually, the ever present drive to go all out with decorating and getting a sleigh’s worth of gifts can easily elevate our stress. This is all the more reason for us to be mindful, as we prepare for the season, of engaging in stress relieving acts of self- care. It can be helpful to take a self-inventory, and decide how we would like to experience the season. Below are a number of tested, proven, and cost-effective ways that can help us take control, insuring that the holidays will carry us into the New Year renewed and fulfilled rather than stressed-out, exhausted and in debt. This can be the best gift we can give ourselves, our friends and loved ones.

Ways to Take Control and be Stress-Free

1 - Set Realistic Expectations

We can start by not avoiding the trap of setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others. It may be all the more tempting to overcompensate this year and crank the holiday cheer to 11 by feeling the need to create a perfect celebration, buying the perfect gifts, and not forgetting anyone that you would normally buy a present for. We can avoid this pitfall by identifying very clearly how we want to celebrate and then setting parameters on our gifting in this challenging this year.  By setting boundaries for our gathering and gifting we can greatly reduce the concerns and stress of the season which must take a backseat to the safety and well being of those we love, including ourselves.

If we are feeling uncomfortable with gatherings outside of our immediate pod members, we can let go of the guilt and simply share with others our concerns for our and their well-being.

If we elect to have modest gatherings with trusted members of our pods, we can set clear boundaries on behaviors like mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing, etc. Rather than draining ourselves by chasing perfection or trying to create a story book holiday as we have in the past, or buying perfect presents that can create financial stress, limiting activities and defining a budget for gift giving can shift our holiday experiences from stressful to joyful and put a greater emphasis on the meaning of our giving.

2 - Gift-giving? Be Creative

Another great way to simplify the season is to be creative with our giving by making gifts with a personal touch. For example, rather going the store bought route, my daughter in law will be using her baking talents to gift us delicious treats that I love and can freeze to enjoy during the new year, as well. Whether it’s through baking, cooking, knitting, crafting, or scrap booking, such gifts not only provide a customized feel, but can also help us avoid spending a lot more than we might want to.

3 - Staying Debt-Free

In a recent survey conducted by the National Retail Foundation, shoppers plan to spend on average around $998 on gifts this season, with the bulk of it being placed on credit cards. Here are a few simple but effective tips on how to stay debt free during the holidays, highlighted in a November 17th, 2020 article for Forbes by Bill Hardekopf.

  1. Draft a firm budget for holiday shopping and stick to it
  2. Use cash rather than credit
  3. Set clear expectations for gift giving with friends and family

The BEST Gift for the Holiday Celebration ...

As mentioned above, keeping up with our self-care is perhaps the best gift we can give ourselves and those who love us. Making sure to give ourselves time for exercise, meditation/prayer/relaxation, vitamins, good nutrition, and getting enough sleep is wonderfully effective at minimizing the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol, and producing feel good hormones like oxytocin.

All of these practices, as well as the ones listed below, can help us stay centered and positive during both a pandemic and the crunch of the holiday season:

  • Giving ourselves permission and space to slow down when things get hectic
  • Taking time to mindfully enjoy our favorite beverage or food
  • Wrapping gifts as they are purchased rather than all at one time
  • Prepping meals and freezing them for planned events
  • Keeping social commitments to a safe and enjoyable number

Wishing you joyful and safe holidays!


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Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD, is the Director of the National Institute of Whole Health, and a health care visionary who pioneered the integration of Whole Health and Whole Person Healthcare within medical and holistic health organizations. Georgianna is one of only six Florence Nightingale Scholars in the U.S., an MNA award-winning Nurse Advocate and widely published Integrative Health expert and healthcare provider. Named “Best Integrative Healthcare Practitioner” in Boston, for 20 years she hosted the nationally syndicated, regionally Emmy nominated women’s TV programming, Woman-to-Woman®. She is currently the host of iHeart radio’s Living above the Drama which is heard globally, and an Amazon #1 Bestselling award winning author. She has been a regular contributor/writer for the Huffington Post, Dr Oz’s Share Care, Daily Strength and other national blogs.

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