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Stress and the Holidays! Tips on How to Cope

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Author: Dr. Laura Grant, ND
Orillia ON

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Stress and the Holidays! Tips on how to Cope!

Are your holidays full of snowmen, good cheer, gingerbread, and sleigh bells? If so, it may be time to turn off the television special and wake up to reality. For most people, the holidays include too much time standing in lines, heavy traffic, excessive credit card spending, entertaining relatives, and not enough fun. It's the season when you're expected to cram office parties, shopping, and family gatherings into your already busy life. In short, the holidays often mean STRESS! But don't despair: It's never too late to put a little sanity back into the holiday season!  

Here are some tips to help you cope with and maybe even avoid this year’s holiday stress:

  • Be realistic. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Hold on to those you can and want to. But accept that you may have to let go of others.
  • Keep moving. Exercise is always a great stress reliever.
  • Avoid a relative meltdown. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all your expectations. Practice forgiveness.
  • Stick to a budget. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items. Then be sure to stick to your budget. Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.
  • Make a shopping list, and check it twice. Staying organized will help you avoid any oversights or last-minute panic.
  • Plan ahead specific days for shopping, baking, visiting.
  • Learn to say no.
  • Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a dietary free-for-all. Some indulgence is OK, but overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on holiday treats. (See our article “Avoid Overeating at Holiday Parties”)
  • Don't get too ambitious. Planning on an elaborate craft project with the kids? Keep in mind that a gingerbread mansion would be just as much fun in January. Are you in charge of making a seven-course holiday meal? Ask for lots of help, and don't hesitate to cut it down to four courses. If you're wrapping presents, ask your kids to help out.
  • Forget about perfection. Accept imperfections in yourself and in others.
  • Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do.


Avoid Overeating at Holiday Parties

  • Eat the veggies and the lowfat cheeses from the party tray, your body won't crave the sugar so much if you eat healthfully
  • Do a pre-party workout, this helps you to feel good, and encourages you to choose healthier options
  • Eat before you go out, best not to approach a party with an empty stomach
  • Use a small plate, or a napkin, this really does decrease your intake
  • Fill up on fibre and protein before even looking at the dessert table, these keep you feel full and leave less room for nutrient poor sweets
  • Take it slow, take small bites and chew slowly, it takes 20 minutes before your brain registers that you are full, so give it time before digging in to second helpings 
  • Eat up before you drink, alcohol decreases inhibitions and increases food cravings
  • Plan ahead if you know you always eat too much, eat a little less throughout the day so that your overall calorie intake is not overboard


Cocoa-Almond Balls Recipe:

A relatively healthy holiday cookie.

2 cups finely ground almonds

6 oz bittersweet fair-trade chocolate

3 Tbsp butter

½ cup unpasteurized honey

2 eggs

Fair-trade cocoa for rolling

Melt chocolate with butter in a double boiler, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with honey until frothy. Fold in ground almonds until smooth. Fold in chocolate gradually. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll into Tbsp sized balls, dust with cocoa. Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet, and freeze for 15 minutes. Bake at 345F for 8 mins on top rack, and then  move to bottom rack for 8 additional minutes. Remove from oven and cool on sheet for 5 minutes then remove to cooling rack. Enjoy!

For more information on Dr. Laura Grant, ND visit:

20 Holly Street, Suite 200, Toronto, ON M4S 3B1
Tel: (416) 496-8633   Toll Free: 1-800-551-4381