Managing Holiday Stress: How to Stay Jolly and Healthy During the Holiday Season

managing holiday stress, How to Stay Jolly and Healthy During the Holiday Season, image of a family during the holidays setting up a tree

Holiday season is about to begin. Most of us are looking forward to spending time with family and making great memories. But before that, there’s always a lot of planning to do. Needless to say, a lot of us love this time of year, but also feel overwhelmed. This blog will go over managing holiday stress, and hopefully make it a merrier time.


How do holidays affect health?

It’s easy to get stressed trying to finish holiday shopping and figure out how to manage your time as the year comes to a close. According to the world health organization,”stress is defined as being any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain.” 

We all know that stress is not healthy. According to some studies, stress affects the human nervous system in a variety of ways and can lead to structural alterations to your brain. People under stress are more likely to have a compromised immune system and, as a result, get sick more frequently. This is due to the release of a variety of hormones that are essential for your immune system’s proper operation. It also impacts GI inflammation, intestinal permeability, mucus and stomach acid release, pathway activity, and how you absorb nutrients. Stress also modifies your appetite, triggering food cravings. 

Many folks reach for sugary treats when feeling worried and stressed. This is because eating foods high in sugar makes it harder for the body to react to stress by inhibiting the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis in your brain. This important neuroendocrine system governs how your body responds to stress. Scientists found that sugar temporarily reduced feelings of anxiety and tension by blocking the release of the stress hormone cortisol. The human body uses cortisol for a variety of purposes, including regulating metabolism, inflammatory responses, immunological response, and modulating the stress response.


Anxiety from sugar

It is important to take note that too much sugar can cause anxiety and depression. After the energy and mood surge has peaked, blood sugar levels drop fast, which causes tiredness, depression, and further cravings. Blood sugar levels that are constantly rising and falling can cause the release of adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream, which can lead to anxiety and even panic attacks.

Additionally, frequent consumption of high-dose sugar has been associated with cellular aging, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease; just to name a few. The more you rely on sugar to soothe your emotions, the higher your risk of developing long term illness is. 


How do I stop sugar induced anxiety?

The simple answer is to reduce your sugar intake. While this may seem straightforward, cutting processed sugar can be more difficult than you think. Common withdrawal symptoms include more anxiety, irritability, confusion, fatigue, headaches and cravings. 

People who regularly consume large amounts of sugar in their diets may also feel the physiological effects of withdrawal if they abruptly cease doing so.

For someone who also has anxiety, quitting sugar abruptly may not be the best course of action.

The key to success is mindfulness and opting for alternatives. You’re probably wondering how to avoid sugar on the holidays, especially when there always seems to be tempting treats around this time of year. 

For example, try making a keto or sugar-free dessert instead of a traditional recipe. There are so many recipes available online, and most retailers offer low sugar options that you can buy. Remember to aim for healthier sweet choices, such as dark chocolate and fresh fruit. Moderation is key- if you don’t have an alternative and cannot resist, keep your serving small. 


Coping with holiday stress

While food can trigger anxiety, your brain plays an even bigger role when you start feeling stressed. 

It could be connected to having unrealistic expectations, like everything working out flawlessly. Perhaps it has to do with your finances, either because you don’t have enough, you’re spending too much, or you feel pressured to buy things you don’t find important. Even interacting with loved ones can sometimes cause stress. Here are few tips that can help with these feelings:

  1. Keep your focus on what really matters. As the holidays approach, we frequently have unrealistically high standards for ourselves and become disappointed when we fall short of them. Accept imperfection and recognize that things may not go as planned before you begin to prepare. When you start feeling overwhelmed, consider these questions:
    • What role does this play in the overall picture?
    • Can I make this situation enjoyable even though it looks unpleasant at the moment?
  2. Take time to rest. Although it seems obvious, time off is easy to overlook this time of year. Bouncing from party to party, shopping, and lengthy workdays can all result in tiredness, which exacerbates worry. Rest and sleep are therapeutic and vital to lowering stress and anxiety.
  3. Organize your budget. Spend within your means. Do not feel compelled to undertake additional tasks or take part in activities that do not complement your financial plan.
  4. Establish boundaries. Although it might be challenging, this is an essential component of handling holiday stress. Invitations that conflict with your schedule or that you don’t find pleasurable and relaxing should be declined. Plan family gatherings so you have time to bond with one another rather than rushing from house to house. To make it more manageable for everyone, consider spreading out the celebration across several days rather than just one. Be prepared for solutions that don’t work for everyone and communicate your plans frequently and early. Ask for flexibility while being flexible yourself.
  5. Eat sensibly. The lure of good food and rich desserts, changes to your routine, and the addition of mental stress can all lead to overeating, emotional eating, and other unhealthy eating behaviors. Be proactive this year by anticipating your triggers, doing all you can to keep some nutritious food around for each meal, and being cautious of your intake. Don’t indulge in a bunch of sugar, as we know causes inflammation and increases anxiety, depression, and fatigue.
  6. Plan accordingly. You can see how practical your plans truly are by writing them down. With a time management planner, you can fill in the hours with your scheduled events. By being realistic, adding travel and downtime, you’ll be able to tell if you’re trying to cram too much into your calendar. Start with your highest priorities in order to eliminate the less important activities.

Remember to pencil in at least one thing for yourself during this time. Give yourself a break that is all yours, whether you choose to spend it reading, baking, or watching tv. Make sure it provides you with joy, whether it be for an hour or two per week.

Don’t forget to add in de-stress methods that are most effective for you, such as taking a quick walk outside, a music break, or deep breathing. Take breaks throughout the day to recharge. Permit yourself to prioritize you.



While it’s customary to focus on others around the holidays, it’s even more crucial to make time for yourself during periods of high stress. Instead of asking yourself “Why do I get stressed when I’m on holiday?”, try finding the root of this anxiety and address that. Avoid making things worse by eating too much sugar and remember to focus on the grand scheme of things, rather than minute inconveniences. I hope you have a wonderful start to the new year! May this holiday season bring you happiness, health, and hope.