18 Self-Care Ideas to Ease Holiday Stress

Learn to balance holiday stress with self-care to slow down and enjoy the season with less bother.

A close up shot of a woman with her ankles crossed, relaxing in a bubble bath. Taking a bath is a good way to ease holiday stress.
Sabrina Tillman
— Signos
Health & Fitness Writer
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Reviewed by

Sabrina Tillman
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

May 17, 2024
December 2, 2021
— Updated:
May 6, 2024

Table of Contents

The pandemic shifted how many of us view the relationship between our mental and physical health. We saw first-hand how changes in our mental well-being can manifest physically, highlighting the importance of taking care of our mental health. The significance of regular self-care took on a new meaning, especially during difficult periods of life. 

While celebrations and time with loved ones usually characterize the holidays, we can’t overlook the emotional toll they may bring. Holiday stress is on another level. But if you plan to board a plane or invite people into your home this year during the holidays, you don’t have to sacrifice self-compassion to make room and time for everyone else. They say you can’t pour from an empty cup, and leaning into different types of self-care is an excellent way to fill our own cups.

Consider these self-care tips to enjoy a less stressed, more chill approach to this season’s festivities.


Self-Care Explained

Self-care is more than scheduling a spa day or taking a bubble bath every now and then. It requires intentional actions and practices that promote physical, emotional, and mental health. Many forms of self-care help nurture well-being and maintain balance in daily life, but true self-love requires a holistic approach. 

This includes simple everyday habits, like getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, and staying hydrated. But it may also call for more involved practices like writing in a gratitude journal, listening to an audiobook, spending time in nature, engaging in physical activity, and developing a new hobby. Self-care also involves setting boundaries when necessary to avoid burnout and maintain balance in all aspects of life, including work, leisure, and rest. 

Self-care is about honoring your needs and taking proactive steps to pursue and maintain inner peace. 

Why Is Self-Care Important?

a woman wearing a face mask and holding a half of an avocado on each hand

Self-care may sound like a buzzword in the wellness industry, but it is the foundation for many aspects of emotional, physical, and mental balance. It is paramount for overall health and wellness, offering many physical and mental benefits. In fact, prioritizing self-care can help you develop the tools to manage chronic stress and prevent burnout, a significant contributor to mental and physical health conditions. 

Incorporating self-care practices into your daily life can boost your resilience to many challenges, support your immune system, and reduce the risk of developing chronic stress-related illnesses.1 Moreover, self-care nurtures a positive relationship with yourself, developing self-compassion, self-awareness, and self-esteem. Investing time and energy into caring for yourself emphasizes your worth and contributes to your quality of life. 

Plus, the benefits of self-care extend far beyond your own well-being to encompass a broader social impact. When our “cups are full,” we have more to share with the world around us. We become more productive, creative, and engaged with those around us. We’re better equipped to handle challenges and contribute positively to our communities. Embracing self-care empowers us to honor our autonomy while fostering healthy connections with the world.

Best Self-Care Practices to Relieve Stress

If being the life of the party is your thing and you want to embrace the social events this holiday season, it’s possible to celebrate without going overboard. And suppose you’re introverted by nature and traveling away from the sanctuary of home this holiday season. In that case, you can and should implement boundaries when you feel zapped and need to recharge. 

These self-care strategies can help both personality types avoid unnecessary holiday stress: 

  1. Schedule “You Time” Each Day: Life is busy, especially around the holidays. Try to prioritize time each day to do something you enjoy. That might involve making time for a quick bodyweight HIIT workout in the morning or a face mask in the evening.
  2. Declutter Your Social Media: It’s no secret that social media can aggravate mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression.2 One of the most compassionate things we can do for ourselves is to declutter our social media apps. Be mindful of the accounts you follow and consider their effects on your self-image. If they don’t inspire growth or self-love, it may be time to unfollow them.
  3. Unplug From Social Media Entirely: Science has found that increased time on social media platforms is directly linked with various aspects of mental health. For example, researchers found that those who spent more time on social media were at an increased risk of developing depression.3 Plus, passive scrolling takes our focus off the world around us. So, if decluttering your feeds isn’t cutting it, consider unplugging entirely during the holidays and taking a break from screens.
  4. Sleep in or Go to Bed Early: Getting enough sleep is essential to overall health, but research has also found that it can impact your ability to engage in self-care routines.4 If you feel run down and want to hit the hay early but have people around for the holidays, welcome them to fend for themselves. Ditto for sleeping in later in the morning.
  5. Create Something: Approaching a task with creativity can do wonders for your spirit. People often marvel at children's imaginations, but we all have the ability to dream and visualize vividly. Pick a craft that suits your strengths and temperament, and don’t be afraid to make a mess.
  6. Spend Time in Nature: A deep breath of fresh air can do wonders for your physical and mental health. Spending time in nature can help you feel more present and connected with yourself. However, if the weather is frightful where you are, be sure to layer up to keep heat close to your body!
  7. Embrace Coloring Books: Adult coloring books have been linked to lower anxiety levels in various settings.5 They are an effective and fun way to practice mindfulness and relaxation. Plus, they’re easy to travel with over the holidays—just pop one in your suitcase to pull out when needed!
  8. Practice DIY Manicures: Hand massages are a simple way to reduce anxiety, but you don’t have to make an appointment at the nail salon to reap the benefits of a manicure.6 Doing your own manicures at home promotes relaxation and stress relief. Plus, a fresh coat of paint on your nails can definitely boost your self-confidence!
  9. Practice Yoga Breathing: Deep breathing gets a lot of hype in the world of self-care, and rightfully so. Yoga breathing can help connect mind and body, along with many other health benefits like stress relief, improved cardiovascular health, improved respiratory function, and enhanced cognition.7
  10. Discover New Podcasts: Podcasts are more than just background noise. They keep you engaged mentally and can inspire growth in many ways. They help you develop your listening skills, improve comprehension and vocabulary, and keep you abreast of interesting topics in the world. 
  11. Practice Skincare: We all have unique skin, so no two skincare routines are the same. However, practicing skincare in any fashion is good for your health. Our skin is our largest organ, so it only makes sense to prioritize it in our daily routines. 

You don’t have to practice all of these self-care ideas daily, but keep them in mind when your batteries need to recharge or when you want a little alone time during the holidays. If you tend to feel tapped out or on edge around certain people, rely on one or more of these strategies to keep your cool. If someone says or does something that you find triggering and you need an escape, tell that person you’re taking a break to practice self-care. 

Here are some ways to do that:

  • “I’d love to talk to you more about this, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now. I’ll come back to you in 10 minutes after I’ve had a chance to take a quick break.”
  • “Hey, I could really use 15 minutes to take a break. Would you mind doing this task for me while I tap out for a few?”

And if you want to encourage self-care in others who might need it, try this:

  • “Hey, you’re doing such an amazing job at this task. Would you like me to finish it so you can take a break for a little while?”

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn More: </strong><a href=”how-to-wake-yourself-up">How to Wake Yourself Up: 11 Natural and Science-based Ways</a>.</p>

Self-Care Activities to Avoid Burnout During the Holidays

We typically associate self-care with quiet time spent reading, meditating, and practicing breathing exercises. However, these worthwhile de-stress activities might be forced to take a back seat during the holiday season, when family meals, traveling, cocktail parties, and keeping the out-of-school activities flowing for the kids sap your energy. Trying to do it all is a recipe for burnout.

What if you combined spending time with family and friends with fun self-care activities to avoid burnout this holiday season? If you pair the partner with the right activity, you can easily make time for both.

Consider this list of suggestions:

  • Snow Fun With the Kids: If it’s a winter wonderland where you are, layer up and take the antsy, overactive kids outside for a snowball fight, sledding, cross-country skiing, snowman building, or a competition to see who can shovel strips of the driveway faster. You’ll all get a workout in the frosty fresh air and lift your spirits with laughter.
  • At-Home Cooking Challenge: The holidays call for many shared meals with friends and family. Why not combine your need for nourishment with some healthy competition? Scour your pantry and fridge for two everyday ingredients and two oddball ingredients. Give the same ingredients to each cook, and let them use anything else in the kitchen they need to create a dish. Put a time limit of 30 minutes to complete the dish, and pick a panel of judges to taste each cuisine. The winner gets bragging rights and to sit back while everyone else cleans up.
  • Meet Friends for Hikes or Fitness Classes: We tend to imbibe more heavily during the holidays, but instead of warming your belly with a hot toddy or mulled wine, why not meet up for some physical activity? Get the girls together for a Pilates class, meet your best mate at a rock climbing gym, or take a long hilly walk.
  • Game Night: Invite family and friends of all ages for a potluck dinner and a mix of board games and physical challenges. Who can run 400 meters the fastest? How long can everyone hold a plank? How many push-ups does the losing team of Pictionary need to perform? Who can build the contraption that launches marshmallows the farthest in the backyard? Keep everyone on their toes with physical, mental, and creative challenges. Hysterical fits of laughter are like an ab workout, right?
  • Organize a Holiday Gift-Making Party: Homemade gifts are always a hit, but the memories made making them last a lifetime. Consider inviting friends and family to craft together, or make it a date night with your loved one. After a leisurely dinner of roast chicken and root vegetables or cashew-crusted cod with roasted cauliflower, light a fire and settle in with your boo to make DIY candles, cookie mix in mason jars, and scented body scrub. You can enjoy being creative while gifting friends and family unique homemade gifts.
  • Starting a Gratitude Journal: Journaling is an excellent way to practice self-care. It can be relaxing, and it’s an opportunity for you to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and fears. Bringing order to what may feel like chaos inside can be beneficial to developing good emotional health, especially during the holidays. 
  • Enjoy Doing Nothing: Sometimes, doing nothing is just what you need to avoid burnout. Somehow, the American dream turned into all of us hustling nonstop. Don’t beat yourself up if you need to rest and do nothing, especially during the holiday season. Be kind to yourself.

Self-Care Gift Ideas

a flower on a jar and three candles with a scented oil next to them

Do you know a frazzled father or mom to multiple children, an overworked uncle, a neglected neighbor, a busy best friend, or a comfortless cousin who could benefit from a self-care gift? Sure, gift cards to the spa are appreciated, and Doordash dollars can help, but why not make something more heartfelt and unique? 

These self-care gift ideas are sure to please:

  • Light the way to a relaxing night at home with the twinkle from homemade olive oil candles. All you need are small mason jars, wire, candle wicks, a wire cutter, olive oil, and fragrant bits like rosemary or lavender.
  • Aromatherapy with essential oils can be an excellent form of self-care. This easy-as-pie potpourri smells and looks divine in clear glass containers.
  • The classic cookie mix in a jar makes holiday treats easy and fills a friend’s kitchen with warm, sugary smells. This vegan and paleo-friendly version uses almond flour instead of bleached, all-purpose flour and only requires adding melted coconut oil and water to form the dough. Substitute coconut sugar for allulose or monk fruit if you prefer a low-glycemic recipe. 
  • Who says you need overpriced creams and serums to make your skin glow? These homemade face mask ideas include recipes for every skin type. 
  • Enough quality sleep tends to be in short supply for nearly all of us these days. Make your own sleep masks with this included printable template.
  • Homemade spice blends make tasty gifts for those who love to cook or grill. These homemade seasoning blends include spices and dried herbs for maximum flavor without sugar or additives.
  • Bath time isn’t just for kids to relax and unwind before bed. Encourage adults to soak in a tub filled with warm water and homemade bath salts. Add appropriate essential oils, dried flowers, or rose petals for a soothing fragrance.
  • Spread an attitude of gratitude with this printable template for easy-to-make gratitude jars. This writing practice takes less than five minutes, and the jar is a great visual reminder to get into the daily habit of giving thanks.

Even if it’s just 5-10 minutes daily, self-care around the holidays can help you stay sane during this potentially stressful time of year when you’re out of your regular routine. Spread the self-care message to others, too, with creative do-it-yourself self-care gifts that encourage self-love in their lives.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Also Read: </strong><a href=”homemade-food-gifts-for-christmas">12 Best Homemade Healthy Food Gifts For Christmas</a>.</p>

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Topics discussed in this article:


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  2. Karim F, Oyewande AA, Abdalla LF, Chaudhry Ehsanullah R, Khan S. Social Media Use and Its Connection to Mental Health: A Systematic Review. Cureus. 2020;12(6):e8627. Published 2020 Jun 15. doi:10.7759/cureus.8627
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About the author

Sabrina has more than 20 years of experience writing, editing, and leading content teams in health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. She is the former managing editor at MyFitnessPal.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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