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How To Take The Stress Out Of The Holidays

It's OK to say "no" to that fifth Christmas party invitation.

With the holidays fast approaching, many of us feel over-extended, stressed, and just plain worn out.

Even if we’re able to remain moderately mindful the rest of the year, late nights, holiday parties, work stressors, and the various pressures associated with visiting and hosting friends and family can be a lot to manage.

But not to worry, we’ve come up with several simple ways to stay mindful and enjoy the holidays. Here’s to a peaceful season!

Say “no”

While we don’t suggest you bah-humbug every holiday invitation, we do think setting yourself up to succeed is easier when you acknowledge your limits and stick to them.

If you know you’re likely to feel exhausted taking on one more bake sale/holiday party/family dinner/skating outing, then honour your personal capacity for extracurriculars and say “no, thank you” when necessary.

Already have a girl’s night booked, a family dinner, and your child’s school pageant in the same week? Feel confident politely turning down an additional weekend gathering so that you can save some down time for yourself — at this time of year in particular it’s important for you to recharge.

Take the time to thank the host for the invite; if they’re someone in your inner circle, try verbalizing how much their friendship means to you and offer to schedule some time together in lieu of the initial gathering.

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Get organized

Organize your your gift-giving, holiday plans and “me” time and you’ll find yourself fulfilling each task much more mindfully.

Standing in line at the mall on Christmas Eve with armloads of overpriced items that you feel pressured to purchase defeats the purpose of mindful gifting. So, make like the bearded guy and jot down a list, check it twice, and start to accumulate thoughtful items you can actually afford in advance of Christmas Day.

Slotting your holiday gatherings into the calendar will also start to give you an overview of your time and indicate where you need to be careful about overextending yourself. Notice that you’ve accepted several invitations in a row? Book yourself a solo date the following evening — order a new audio book, arrange a sitter or sign up for that restorative yoga class you’ve been eyeing and prioritize self-care and self-kindness as much as your other holiday priorities.


We can easily get caught up in extravagant wish lists and shopping this time of year, and volunteering is a great way to circle back to the true meaning of the holidays. (And of course, this can be true all year ’round, not just during December.)

Whether you choose to volunteer your time at a local shelter or soup kitchen (a quick online search for ”[your city] volunteer” will yield dozens of results), donate money or give gifts, giving back is sure to make you feel grounded and connected to your community — something we can all benefit from.

Between 150,000 to 300,000 people experience homeless in Canada every year.
SolStock via Getty Images
Between 150,000 to 300,000 people experience homeless in Canada every year.

Homelessness is an ongoing problem across Canada (Homeless Hub estimates between 150,000 - 300,000 people experience homeless in Canada each year) and as temperatures drop, take the opportunity to find out what people living on the streets need.

Fred Victor, a Toronto-based organization that helps low-income individuals and people who are homeless, has tips on how to help the homeless during the cold months, including buying them a hot meal, making and handing out care packages, donating warm clothing, and simply smiling and saying hello.

Even small gestures can have a big impact and help shift our perspective away from the frenetic energy that can often be associated with this time of year, to a more connected one.

Practice Mindfulness

You probably get preached this all the time, but starting your day with a few moments of mindfulness can help set the tone for the hours ahead.

Instead of jolting awake and letting the commitments, responsibilities, party planning, cooking, and the cleaning (you get the idea), come rushing in, take those first few moments for yourself.

Start by taking 10 breaths to sit in silence (parents, you may need to set the alarm a little earlier to accomplish this one), and consciously fill your mind with thoughts of gratitude. It’s incredible how letting the glow of a crisp winter sunrise fill the room while you simply sit and breathe can help set the tone for a more present day.

At the end of the work day, if you find yourself on a packed train sandwiched in between grumpy commuters, take those moments to breathe and come back to a focus on gratitude, and encourage yourself to be mindful of your own energy, maintaining your inner peace despite the chaos.

Create a holiday budget

Holiday expenses can cause a lot of stress — the pressure to give the perfect gift, make the perfect meal, or host the perfect gathering can often result in unnecessary overspending.

Creating a budget to cover your travel, gifts, meals, and entertainment costs is a great way of being mindful with your money. In addition, choosing economical ways of showing you care, like making homemade presents, or gifting home baked goodies can be a fun way to celebrate and share the spirit of the season without spending a lot of cash.

Have a large family or significant friend group? Set up a secret Santa with a set budget that everyone adheres to. With only a single gift to be responsible for, you can focus on the joy of carefully choosing a special treat that your lucky someone is sure to love.

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