Ho Ho Ommmm: How to Master The Art of Holiday Zen

One more day and the holidays will be officially upon us! (At least for us Americans.) And while I am all about carols, cocoa and Love Actually (*heart eyes*), the holiday season is often more complicated than many of us realize. Ads for diets will bombard us at the same time that we’re being offered seconds of everything at our tables, holiday parties will “demand” that we shell out for cocktail attire just as we’re spending whatever we can on gifts, and there will be an omnipresent pressure to buy, buy, BUY! … all the while somehow feeling happy! It’s no wonder so many people struggle with feelings of depression around this time of year. Want to learn ways to navigate some of the top stress offenders this holiday season? Read on.

When Diet Talks Comes Up At The Table

No one wants to hear about diets, even in small ways (“I’ll walk it off tomorrow”, “I’m starting up at the gym again in January”, etc.), during the holidays (or ever, if we’re honest). Rarely do we make so much time to spend with one another – why waste it on talk about calories?! If you’re in the habit of speaking about your own diet, try and leave that at the door when you visit your friends and family. Instead, focus on hearing about them and sharing things that are going well in your life that are non-weight-related. When we all use our brains and energy on more engaging topics we not only make our events more fun, but we also create a safe environment for everyone to enjoy, whether they’re on a diet or not!

When Seconds (or thirds!) Are Being Pushed At You

A bit of holiday indulgence can be one of the highlights of the season, but if you’re stuffed  – or not in the mood to be stuffed – it really is okay to say no. It’s also great to be strategic. If you know that a relative or friend will be particularly disappointed if don’t try their baked Alaska finale, for example, opt for smaller portions of the main and, if pressed, be honest that you are saving room for the REAL main event! People love when you’re attentive and will usually respond well to this. However, every now and then the anxiety of others around their own eating pours out onto the rest of us. When this happens, it’s best to just stay firm and then change the subject.

When You’re Flooded With Holiday Invites

While it’s a great thing to have family and friends that want to spend time with you during the holidays, it’s can also be overwhelming. Depending on what life stage you’re in, you may find yourself juggling between the office holiday party, your S.O.’s family events, your family events, your friends’ events, perhaps even school events for your kids! The holidays can lead to a frenzy of social activity – and that, in turn, can result in more than a bit of holiday burnout! To prevent that from happening, ask yourself how long it takes you to recover emotionally and/or physically from social events. If you’re an extreme extrovert, this might not apply to you at all. But for my introverts out there, being super social can be really draining. Think about your history and how long it’s taken to recover from your “introvert hangover” after past events and apply the appropriate downtime to your calendar to prevent over-exhaustion. It might mean that you have to pass on a few things, but it’s best to attend festivities feeling your best rather than drag yourself out only to spend a miserable hour or two before heading home early!

When You’re Feeling Left Out

Just as many people feel pressure to be overly-social during the holidays, many of us feel left out. Whether you’re lacking friends or family (or both) to spend the holidays with, know that the feeling is common – there are a lot of people flying solo this and every holiday season! Maybe you hate it and wish you could hibernate from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Maybe you don’t mind it. Maybe you’re a little of both. If you’re looking to be a bit more social this season, try volunteering. It’s a great way to meet supportive, giving individuals. Plus, volunteer work has a built-in structure which can be helpful for meeting people and building relationships. Programs where you work in teams are the best for this, as you’ll automatically be assigned buddies/peers to work with.

Not sure where to start? Check out to get inspiration and see what’s available in your area. For my super-introverts out there: VolunteerMatch has physical volunteer work (on site) as well as virtual volunteer work that can be done from your home! If you want to meet folks outside of volunteering, is another great site – you can join clubs of all types, from fitness to language swaps, and are sure to meet some cool people along the way!

 When You’re Overwhelmed

Whether you’re standing in a long shop line (sweating in all your many winter layers!), are on a delayed plane surrounded by screaming children or just at the table with your in-laws once too many this holiday season, we’ve all been there. I promise you – you are not alone! Feeling of overwhelm aren’t unique to the holidays, of course, but the festivities and demands of the season do tend to lend themselves to an abundance of feeling, both positive and negative. Not sure how to snap out of it? Try one of the following:

  • Do an internal body check: starting with the toes on your left foot, try and notice what sensations you’re feeling. Warmth? Tingling? Numbness? Don’t worry about what you’re feeling, just see what’s there. Then work your way up your leg, your left hand and arm, and your torso, ending by going back down the right side and finishing with your right side toes.
  • Play internal iSpy – choose a random color or item and see how many of that item/color you can see in your immediate surroundings. It could be as basic as “the color red”, or as specific as “families of three”. Typically, general picks (such as a color), work best when you just need to change the mind a bit and get out of yourself in the moment.
  • 7-4-8 breathing – breathe in for 7 seconds, hold it for four seconds, then exhale for fight seconds and repeat the process. The exact numbers aren’t important (there are many versions of this). Instead, focus on the process of breathing, closing your mind to other thoughts and sticking to your breathing and the moment.

And, as always, ask for help when you need it! Whether it’s a chat with a friend or a professional, definitely seek out others if you’re not feeling good. Self-care is important!

When It’s All Just Costing Too Much

Before you start buying gifts, take a look at your bank account and be honest with yourself about what you can really afford – not necessarily what you can “pay off” in the future, but what you can really pay for, right here, right now. Make a budget and break it down by individuals that you want to give gifts to, then plan accordingly. Having trouble sticking with it? If you know you’re someone who easily gets carried away, take out cash in the amount you’d like to spend and set it aside in an envelope to pay for gifts. If you’re uncomfortable carrying around cash, only bring a set amount at a time. Use it wisely, and tell yourself that when it runs out, so do the gifts!

Looking for a way to reduce your overall spending or to be less commercial? Opt for homemade, DIY gifts such as baked goods instead. If you’re not a talented baker, opt for easy holiday switch ups of classic faves, such as these holiday rice krispie treats or these candy cane Muddy Buddies (both of which can be made gluten free!). You can also consider giving out experiences instead of gifts. For example, if you think a friend might really like an art exhibit that’s in town or a tour of a greenhouse nearby, write a thoughtful card and offer to foot the bill for the outing together. Not only will you make new memories, but you’ll also be giving them something thoughtful and out of the box.

How do you stay sane during the holidays? I’d love to hear your top tips for staying happy and healthy this season!


Featured Image: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash


  • Heidi

    My favorite blog post by far…this is all so very true! Thank you for the refresher!

    • Vivian Bonino

      My pleasure! Thanks so much for reading and for letting me know you like it! 🙂


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