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7 tips for a healthy, stress-free holiday season

Cropped SingleCare logo By | December 4, 2017
Medically reviewed by Karen Berger, Pharm.D.

The holidays are a time for family, fun, and food. But with the incoming party invitations, family visits, marathon meals, and drink-fueled events, it can strain your body and your wallet. Time seems to move more quickly, with less opportunity to take care of yourself.

From indulging in those “limited-time only” holiday coffee drinks to all of those holiday party hors d’oeuvres, your health may not be a primary focus this season, and neither is your budget. Use these tips to manage all that holiday stress—physically and mentally—through the new year.

1. Make a schedule—and stick to it.

Know your limits ahead of time and set yourself up to succeed. If you were invited to three events in one evening, set realistic expectations of what you can truly do. Don’t overextend yourself to the point where you’re missing out on rest. 

For the events you decide you can do, keep track in a paper or digital calendar so “last-minute events” don’t pop up. Notebook planners are a great way to stay organized, but there are a variety of online and app-based organizers to help you keep track of your time—which will ensure stress-free holidays this year.

2. Set aside time to reset.

Stress can creep up when you least expect it. It can stem from a variety of factors, but one way to help ease your mind is to take a moment for yourself. Allow yourself some “me-time” when you can go outside for a walk, dive into your favorite reading material, or listen to a few of your favorite songs. Giving yourself a moment to mentally relax provides critical time for your brain to catch up, according to the Mayo Clinic

When you are with friends and family, take a break from social media and be present. Try turning off notifications so you’re not reminded every time someone posts a photo on Instagram or sends you a work email. Set time limits for yourself when using your phone. The app Moment can track how much time you spend on your phone—and will notify you when you go over your quota.

No matter how crazy things can get during the holidays, don’t forget to reward yourself with some quiet relaxation.

3. Make a holiday budget.

It’s easy to go overboard with spending during the holidays. It feels awesome to find the perfect gifts for friends and family, but not as awesome when those gifts leave you with an empty bank account. Set a maximum amount of money you want to spend and stick to that budget. Worrying less about money means less holiday stress; and less stress means a happier you! 

Feeling ill during the holidays? Make sure to compare the price of your prescriptions on to get the best savings possible.

4. Stay active.

It’s easy to say goodbye to fitness and health goals until after the new year (and say hello to cookies), but maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the holiday season is key to keeping you feeling balanced. If you need help holding yourself accountable, using apps like MyFitnessPal will help you stay in line with real-time updates. You can set the app to remind you to log in and track your calories or even remind you to take that extra run you said you would.

Even just a brisk walk can help keep you healthier during the cold-weather season. Studies have shown that walking can reduce the risk of stroke in men and women. Try the RunKeeper app, which allows you to track running, walking, and hiking. You can set goals, track progress, and even share workouts with friends. RunKeeper will remind you of your pace and timing and sync with Spotify to play your favorite music as you exercise.

Read next: How to avoid holiday heartburn

5. Stick to routines.

Holiday events tend to disrupt our routines. Dinner get-togethers, office celebrations, and ugly sweater parties are constantly interfering with our good intentions to get enough sleep, eat healthy food, and work out. When your body and mind aren’t used to a change in routine, the buildup of stress can lead to anxiety disorders. That’s why it’s important to honor your regular weekly schedule whenever possible. Prioritize which events are most important to you and RSVP “no” to the others so you can stick to your normal nighttime routine.

6. Avoid germs while traveling.

Family hugs, company handshakes, crowded flights, and tightly-packed shopping malls expose you to more germs than usual. Colds may be more than 100 times more likely to be transmitted on a plane than on the ground, according to a study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research. Protect yourself against those pesky plane germs with these easy tips.


Dehydration combined with the low cabin humidity can cause headaches, fatigue, sore throats, and weaken your immune system. Drink water throughout the flight and try to avoid the temptation of caffeine.


Pack a travel-friendly hand sanitizer to use before and after any in-flight meals. It’s always best to wash hands before eating, but if you don’t want to wake up your seatmate, have your sanitizer on hand for a quick refresh.


When the captain gives you the all-clear sign, get up and take a few laps up and down the cabin. Do a quick stretch to get your blood pumping and your body moving. Simple ankle raises and neck rolls in your seat can help prevent you from feeling aches and cramps when you deplane. Plus, stretching your legs and getting up and walking around the plane when possible helps prevent blood clots; the longer the flight, the higher the risk of blood clots. 

7. Take steps to avoid seasonal depression.

As the days get shorter, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, becomes more common—and for many, the holidays and stressful encounters with family can only make things worse. If you’re prone to the winter blues, be proactive. Before your mood dips low, make sure you’re getting enough light exposure—from a light box, or by getting outside during daylight hours. Some physicians recommend vitamin D therapy, or treatment with antidepressants if symptoms become severe. If you or anyone you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Be mindful of your health during the holiday season. Wash your hands, keep tissues handy, and if you start to get a cold or exhibit anxiety from all of the goings-on, visit your doctor ASAP.