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Self-Care for the Holidays: How to Manage Holiday Stress

Holiday stress is real when you're juggling many activities at once. Take a deep breath and learn self-care for the holidays to reconnect with your family.

Holidays are rarely short on events to prepare for, whether that’s at home, in your child’s classroom, or at the workplace. Oh, and throw in the challenge to create a magical experience for your child that they’ll treasure for years to come.

Is it any wonder that once the calendar hits November, adults find themselves standing at the crossroads of festive cheer and mounting holiday stress?

The reality is that a season meant for joy and togetherness can become a source of exhaustion. Balancing family obligations, gift shopping, meal planning, and more can leave you feeling overwhelmed. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With a few simple strategies (and a little extra self-care for the holidays), we can help you rediscover the holiday magic and enjoy your time with loved ones. 

Why Is Self-Care Important During the Holidays?

If you feel like your stress level gets turned up to 11 starting mid-November, you’re not imagining it. Surveys by the American Psychological Association and the National Alliance on Mental Illness find that people stress out around the holidays for many reasons:

  • 46% of people worry about affording gifts1
  • 46% of parents worry about working too much during the holidays2
  • 64% of people struggling with mental health find that the holidays make them feel worse3

Practicing self-care for parents can help manage burnout and anxiety that carries on past the holidays. 

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How to Manage Holiday Stress

Try these strategies to lessen the stress while still enjoying the deeper meaning of the holidays.

#1 Dedicate Family Time and Go Unplugged

These days, we’re in the habit of documenting every moment. And once you’ve got those precious pics and videos, you can’t not share them, right? While it’s completely understandable, spending the holidays constantly on your mobile devices can put a barrier between you and your child. 

Instead, try being intentional about phone usage and set times for the family to completely unplug to be more present. You can set guidelines like:

  • Recording the first 5 minutes of present-opening, then setting the phone down
  • Snapping just one pic with each present
  • Limiting your social media sharing—one post per day, only for family, etc.
  • Planning specific no-screens-allowed times like family game night, a nature walk, or a special meal

#2 Accept Imperfections and Bumps While Planning

Oftentimes, added stress can come from aiming for a picture-perfect ideal. You know the ones: the gorgeous turkey dinner with all the fixings. The spotless house. The glittering decorations indoors and out. 

Learning to accept it when things don’t go as planned is one of the best things we can do for our mental health.4 How do you apply the power of acceptance to holiday planning? Here are a few reminders you can adopt to set realistic expectations:

  • Imperfection makes space for surprises – When dinner isn’t ready on time, maybe your guests can play an impromptu round of charades. Beauty happens in unplanned moments.
  • No one is expecting perfection – From your child to your guests to your significant other, the truth is, no one minds those little hitches in your plans.
  • Imperfection is natural – From your child’s favorite Snuggler with most of its fur worn off to your lop-sided latkes, nothing is perfect. Embrace the normal imperfections throughout each day—similar to how we teach young children self-acceptance comes from deep inside of us. 

#3 Meditate to Stay Mindful

We know—you’ve heard all about why you should meditate, but maybe you just can’t find the time, or your brain doesn’t quiet down, or it’s a bit difficult with screaming children running around in the next room over.

But the science is in: Meditation is incredibly effective at helping us manage stress.5

It can be hard to find time or space to meditate during the holidays, but even just a few minutes each day can do wonders. Whether it’s in the few quiet moments in the early morning or right before you go to bed, set these healthy boundaries for a quick meditation session: 

  1. Find a quiet place to sit comfortably.
  2. Bring your awareness to your body. Focus on your breath, or the sensations in one body part at a time, slowly moving from your toes to the top of your head.
  3. When your attention wanders, notice what thoughts come to mind. Accept the thought without judgment, then let it go and return to the present. 
  4. Do this for as much or as little time as you like. Even a one-minute meditation helps you slow down and reconnect with yourself.

#4 Share Holiday Tasks Among Family and Friends

Bringing friends and family into your holiday prep not only eases the load but also helps people feel needed and useful. 

A few work-sharing ideas to try:

  • Invite an older family member over to help you with cooking or baking.
  • Make the main holiday meal a potluck, with each guest bringing a signature dish.
  • Have the adults in the family do a gift exchange, so no one has to worry about buying gifts for every family member.
  • Give the kids the job of crafting or coloring holiday cards for extended family and friends. 

From Holiday Stress to Holiday Bliss: Let Slumberkins Be Your Guide

We hope these stress-busting strategies will help you navigate the season with a little less worry and a lot more cheer. When the stress starts to build, remind yourself that years down the road your children won’t remember the number of presents or how tidy the house was—they’ll remember the time they spent with you.

So take a deep breath, embrace the imperfect, and make some time to care for you. And if you’d like more ideas and activities to bring more togetherness to your celebrations this year, dive into the full Caregiver Resources library from Slumberkins


  1. "Holiday stress." American Psychological Association.  https://www.psychiatry.org/File%20Library/Unassigned/APA_Holiday-Stress_PPT-REPORT_November-2021_update.pdf 
  2. "Mental health and the holidays." National Alliance on Mental Illness. 19  November, 2014. https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2014/Mental-health-and-the-holiday-blues 
  3. Bordieri, Michael J. “Acceptance: A Research Overview and Application of This Core ACT Process in ABA.” Behavior analysis in practice vol. 15,1 90-103. 12 Aug. 2021, doi:10.1007/s40617-021-00575-7
  4. "Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress." American Psychological Association. 30 October, 2019. https://www.apa.org/topics/mindfulness/meditation 

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