Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Balance

Font Size

12 Ways to Destress Amidst Holiday Madness

WebMD Feature from Woman's Day

By Melody Warnick
woman's day
Employ these easy reenergizing techniques when you need them most this season


The most wonderful time of the year, huh? So why do the holidays sometimes feel like a month-long panic attack? "During the holidays, people have such high expectations for things to be perfect," says Jon Abramowitz, PhD, professor of psychology and director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Clinic at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In other words, we take on too much, then feel anxious and stressed out when reality doesn't measure up to the flawless fantasy in our heads.

The best way to dodge holiday stress: Take a time-out. A break from the hubbub re-energizes and refocuses you, making you able to avoid holiday stress (or at least handle it better). Plus, it doesn't take much time. Whether you have 15 minutes or just one, here's how to catch a break that will restore your sanity and your ability to savor the season.

15 Minutes

Be a uni-tasker Even if you're a veteran multitasker, taking on too much at once can make you feel frenzied over time. So when you hit the next semi-enjoyable item on your to-do list—mixing up a batch of cookie dough, say, or stringing popcorn for the tree—drop everything else and focus your attention on the task at hand: what it feels, smells, sounds and/or tastes like. "You’re still getting something done, but by giving yourself permission to be fully immersed in the experience, you're mentally recharging yourself," says Kate Hanley, author of The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide: 77 Simple Strategies for Serenity. "It's like meditation in motion."

Create a holiday playlist Nothing makes you feel merry and bright faster than seasonal songs, from "Winter Wonderland" to "Silent Night," and with good reason: Research shows that listening to music can crank down stress hormones, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and kick your anxiety to the curb. So make it easy to listen to holiday songs by creating a playlist of your favorites in iTunes, then playing it in the background while you wrap gifts. Or go to and tune into one of their holiday stations, like Peaceful Holidays or Swingin' Christmas.

Make friends with Frosty Maybe you haven't built a snowman since you were a kid, but making a miniature Frosty not only gives you an instant creative outlet, it provides enough pulse-quickening activity to make you feel good. "When you exercise, your body produces endorphins, which are the 'happy' chemicals in your brain," says Dr. Abramowitz. "You'll come back inside with a different mindset." Plus, that snow sentinel on your front walk will be a season-long reminder to loosen up and have fun before the holidays melt away.

Today on WebMD

Hands breaking pencil in frustration
Dark chocolate bars
teen napping with book over face
concentration killers
man reading sticky notes
worried kid
Hungover man
Woman opening window
Woman yawning
Health Check
Happy and sad faces
brain food
laughing family