Give Yourself the Gift of Calm this Holiday Season

the gift of calm

Navigating the winter season and holidays right

“It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” So goes the Andy Williams tune that’s seemingly everywhere during the winter holiday season. With such an endless soundtrack of cheer, the pressure to be perpetually jolly can feel overwhelming. Plus, the realities of so-so soirees and awkward small talk often don’t meet expectations. Add in more items on the to-do list and lifestyle interruptions—like more alcohol and rich meals—and you have a recipe for serious stress. To help you and your loved ones navigate the winter holiday season, try these simple and nourishing strategies. 

Take a break from social media

Once the winter holidays are here, cue the flattering selfies and family photos in front of roaring fires. Since we know that reading others’ posts on social media can worsen anxiety and depression, resist the urge to check your accounts. Give yourself the gift of a break to focus on your self care at a time of the year that’s often challenging. If you’re concerned that your network will wonder why you’ve gone quiet, post a note letting everyone know that you’ll be offline for a few days or weeks. 

Make fewer commitments

Especially if you’re an introvert—or someone who gets tired out from excessive amounts of socializing—turn down some invitations. Say “yes” only to events that you cannot avoid (like certain family gatherings) or that will bring you joy. For out-of-town get-togethers that you would have felt compelled to attend in the past, find out if you can instead drop in via Zoom or FaceTime.


Likewise, to reduce your workload and expenses, consider winnowing down the gift recipients on your holiday shopping list. Even if you’ve shipped your second cousin a present for the past five years, you don’t necessarily have to repeat the process this year. To cut down on holiday shopping overload, you can also discuss the gifting plan with your list. One idea: suggest that instead of buying each other presents, you pool your funds to splurge on a celebratory dinner or group vacation. 

Party potluck-style

To simplify your life when you’re hosting an event, go the potluck route. Pick a theme (like favorite foods or most memorable trips) and ask guests to bring a relevant food item. Think: avocado and persimmon salad to represent California or toasted macadamia nuts to conjure up Hawaii. To make sure you don’t end up with five cheese balls, set up an online sign-up sheet. Along with reducing your labor, you’ll be offering an icebreaker to your guests. Instead of awkwardly asking each other how they know you, they can talk about what they brought and maybe even connect over a shared love of rice pudding. Then, if you plan on serving alcohol, keep things basic with Cava or Prosecco or one featured cocktail, such as spiked hot cider or cranberry-orange punch. 

Stick to healthful habits 

If you go for a walk or eat a protein-rich salad at lunch each day, try to continue with your routine during the holidays. The same goes for bedtimes and other daily practices, like morning stretches or evening meditations. Since the hectic holidays will bring some interruptions, keeping most of your lifestyle constant will help you maintain your health and calm. That way, when you inevitably overindulge on your aunt’s famous pecan pie, the effects should be lessened. 

Sync up with the season

Savor this time of year in ways other than parties and rich meals. Hang a wreath on your front door and clip some evergreen branches to arrange on your kitchen table. Channel your childhood and build a snowman after the first snowstorm, unearthing some old clothing to dress it up. Afterward, take a brisk walk, appreciating the winter wonderland that is your neighborhood, from sparkling white snow to the dramatic, stark forms of barren trees. When you get home, simmer some local apple cider on the stovetop, adding whole cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks for a hint of intrigue. Then, find your slow cooker and Dutch oven and put them to work, as you craft stick-to-your-ribs braises and stews (like short ribs and veggie chili). 

Indulge in self care

Pamper yourself to combat the effects of harsh, dry weather and to fight viruses, which spread more easily in the dry winter air. Use a cool mist humidifier to keep the air in your house moist (your skin will benefit, too). Open your sinuses with eucalyptus oil, either via a diffuser or fresh eucalyptus branches hung in your shower. While you rinse, slough off dead skin using an exfoliating body scrub with a wintery fragrance (like rosemary). Then slather on rich body and facial moisturizers to keep your skin smooth and glowing. In general, load up on Vitamin C-rich citrus, whether blood oranges, red grapefruits, or tangerines; and warm, soothing broths and soups, like gingery carrot or chicken noodle.