• HS - Manage Holiday Stress

    By Betty Harrison, Department Chair for Health, Wellness, and Nutrition
    School of Health Sciences, Kaplan University

    It's so easy to imagine that everyone else is having just a wonderful time during the holidays. They're baking cookies and decorating the house, going ice skating and singing 'round the piano, roasting chestnuts on an open fire…you know, being perfect families having a swell time.

    And yet you seem to be...well, not doing these things. Or at least not doing them nearly as well or happily as you think you should be. You may start to wonder what you're doing wrong, or why you're feeling so stressed and why it all feels like so much work and not a whole lot of fun.

    Good news! You are not alone. Just judging by the number of articles about holiday stress that are in so many magazines and newspapers this time of year lets you know that this is a real and serious issue for many, many people. So here are some things that could be useful for you to start feeling better about yourself and some ways to make the holidays meaningful and life-affirming, and maybe just a little bit more fun too!

    Fix yourself something warm to drink like your favorite tea or coffee, then grab some paper and a pen, and get started:

    • What do YOU like about this time of the year? The cookies and bell ringing, singing, and decorations? Or are you someone who can't wait to snuggle under a blanket and dive into that stack of books that's been waiting for you?

    Here's the thing: There is no "right" way to have the best holiday—it's about what feels "right" to you. And we are all so different that no one way is best for everyone.

    • Give yourself—and your family too—permission to explore what is meaningful about the holidays for each of you; not what the media is telling you it's about, but how you feel. You may be surprised at what you discover about yourself and each other!

    Of course there may be some larger family obligations, work obligations, or other areas in your life where you need to "go with the flow" and participate in holiday activities that you don't necessarily enjoy as much. But knowing what you do like (and knowing that have given yourself permission to do those things) can make the obligatory gatherings or traditional events much more manageable.

    • The holiday "blues" are a real thing. Kaplan University's Center for Health and Wellness has a wonderful article articulating many of the factors that can contribute to us feeling down during the holidays, and some really helpful strategies on how to manage these feelings.  

    As we know, the holiday season is also "the eating season" so here are some ideas about how to make good choices for feeling your best AND enjoying what's offered this time of year.

    And for those times when stress has gotten the best of us—and we know that will happen occasionally—here are some tips on getting back to yourself…

    Discovering what you like best this time of year can lead to the start of a new tradition, to embracing more of your values, and to experiencing more of your true self. Enjoy this journey of self-discovery—and happy holidays!


    Betty Harrison is a Department Chair at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.


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