8 Ways to Decompress Before Holiday Stress Strikes

Here it comes—the holiday season. The planning. The parties. The family. The deadlines. The bills. The societally-imposed pressure to be in good cheer for nearly a month and a half!

Let’s be real—it’s exhausting. Wonderful, yes, but the juggling that happens during the holidays is an annual feat tantamount to an Olympic-style marathon. But the holidays can be as fun as you want them to be. It just comes down to getting a handle on your stress (and boy, is there a lot of it this time of year). This year, prepare yourself for the onslaught with the following self-care techniques that support a decrease in stress and an increase in happiness. That way, you can remain relatively stable and in good cheer through even the most chaotic times.

Neck rolls

This is Movement 101. Your neck contains a lot of powerful, spindly muscles. When you get stressed and rigid, these muscles become tight and immobile. Doing a few neck rolls when you wake up can prevent major kinks, reduce pain and tension headaches and loosen trapped fluids. Practice at least 10 slow rolls in each direction.

Open your chest

Your chest, around your sternum, can get tight, compressed and frozen from hours spent hunched over while dealing with your monstrous to-do lists. This is also known as your heart chakra, an area responsible for compassion, openness and love (when functioning properly)—how on theme for the holidays! Sit in a hard chair (or lay on the floor) with a flat back and press your shoulders/upper arms firmly into the back of the chair. Allow your chest to gently arch and open towards the sky. Lift your gaze upwards if it helps. You may hear some creaks and pops if you’ve been particularly congested in this area. Practice an open demeanor and good posture to keep this area loose.

Side bends

How often do you actually allow yourself to bend laterally? It’s not a movement most of us practice in daily life, which means your muscles are probably craving it. Practice a few deep side bends in a seated or standing position and feel the euphoric release. Stretching this vulnerable area can decrease stress levels and increase relaxation in a major way. Just be sure to gently pull your belly button towards your spine to engage your core and protect your delicate lower back.

Get a massage

The fact of the matter is you are going to develop knots. You probably already have some knots. So what are you waiting for? Take care of them! Money doesn’t have to be an issue. Although it is wonderful to be pampered, seeing a professional massage therapist isn’t the only option you have when it comes to seeking relief. You can ask a very generous, firm-handed loved one, for instance. Or you can find a tennis ball and massage yourself! Oftentimes, proper use of a tennis ball for an hour can prove as effective and releasing as an expensive professional massage.

Take a nature walk (as often as possible)

Yes, you’re busy. So busy. But you have time for a walk. You do! If you want to do some more intense exercise, have at it. But, in times of stress, excessive cardio only exacerbates the stress on the body. Practicing slower, more gentle, mindful activities like tai chi, yoga, pilates and long walks is a more effective way of releasing stress from the body. It doesn’t matter if the sun is down or the air is brisk. A walk will do you a lot of good.

Journal regularly

Don’t let your mental toilet get clogged. Unless you’re a mindfulness master, it’s going to be swirling fast with stressful thoughts and anxieties and worries all the way into the new year. But if it gets clogged and those anxieties block up, you’re in real trouble. Those are the makings for a breakdown. Be proactive; flush your greatest fears, worries and even joys out onto a piece of paper every morning so you can start the day with a clean slate. You’ll be amazed at what a release you feel.

Practice open communication

This is a time when you are surrounded by loved ones. If you are upset, stressed or need some alone time, don’t hesitate to say so in a kind but authentic way. They’ll still love you. In fact, they may even respect you more for being so open and honest with them. You have to be true to yourself, otherwise you’ll be a frazzled, miserable puddle of stress. During busy times, it is important to practice respect, both to your loved ones and to yourself.


Practice breathwork throughout the upcoming holiday chaos. Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, meaning it decreases the fight or flight response to stress and promotes relaxation. If you find yourself struggling with anxiety about impending holiday responsibilities, take 10 deep 10-count breaths (5 counts to inhale, 5 counts to exhale). Play with alternating between breathing through your mouth and your nose to see what feels best to you. Here’s a favorite: try inhaling through your nose, then exhaling with an oceanic breath at the back of your throat for immediate stress relief.

The holidays can be tough, but don’t lose sight of the pure joy at their core. Take care of yourself by managing your stress and anxieties and you’ll be better equipped to spread that joy and holiday cheer to others.

What decompressing tactics do you use to get through the holiday bustle? Share your tips with the community in the comments section below! 

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Marie W
Marie W26 days ago

thanks for sharing

joan silaco
joan silaco5 months ago


Diane M
Diane McMahon6 months ago

good article, thanks!

Ellie M
Ellie M6 months ago


W. C
W. C6 months ago


Marge F
Marge F6 months ago

Thank you for posting this informative article.

William C
William C6 months ago

Thank you.

Edgar Zuim
Edgar Zuim6 months ago


Ian Crory
Ian Crory6 months ago


Lisa Zarafonetis
Lisa Zarafonetis6 months ago

Thanks for posting