We Asked a Wellness Expert How to Tackle Holiday Stress

For many, holiday stress is almost inevitable.

But how you respond to the stress can make all of the difference.

We asked Jesse Hanson, co-founder and clinical director of holistic wellness destination Helix Healthcare Group (with locations in Yorkville and Midtown), how we can enjoy the holiday season and manage stress with ease and cheer. Hanson identifies the main stress points affecting all of us in December and shares tips for tackling them.


Money can cause stress to individuals and families throughout the year, and that’s only multiplied during the holidays. At this busy time of year, sometimes it seems as though there are endless events, gifts, outfits, and more that we need to buy, each adding up to one large credit card bill. How you choose to spend not only affects your stress levels now, but can contribute to added stress later if you overcharge on your credit card or go into any other kind of debt. Before you even begin making all of your purchases, create a budget and stick to it.

Make gifting fun by organizing a secret Santa or gift-exchange game among co-workers or family, setting a budget of only $25. There’s no need for a new outfit for each holiday party. Re-wear outfits from last year or shop vintage for a new holiday look. Overall, prioritizing quality time spent with family and friends over material gifts will make it easier to stick to your budget.

Speaking of family and friends, make sure to reach out for help and support or tell your friends honestly when you can’t participate in an event. Don’t have the time to bake cookies? Opt out of the cookie exchange at work this year. Double booked for two holiday parties? Choose the one you RSVP’d to first, and make it up to your other friend in the New Year. Planning an event yourself? Set reasonable expectations for your hosting and decorating so you’re not disappointed with your efforts.

On the other hand, if you’re feeling isolated this time of year because you don’t live in the same city as your family, or because this time of year brings back traumatic memories, don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends. No matter how busy, a good friend can always make the time to chat with you about how you feel. Even better, reach out in advance to ask your closest friends how they’re spending the holidays and see if you can spend it with them instead of completely opting out of the festivities.

Completely abandoning your regular diet and exercise routine is likely to cause stress for you in the New Year – something you want to avoid when you’re trying to make a fresh start. Plus, over-eating indulgent foods can only contribute to stress, exhaustion, and sadness. Try to maintain your regular diet, focusing on greens, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains day-to-day, so when a holiday party comes up, you can partake in one or two treats or alcoholic beverages. And just because there’s an open bar at your work party, doesn’t mean you have to have more than usual. Set a limit of one or two drinks at the beginning of the evening and arrange a pact with a friend that you’ll maintain. Pre-schedule your regular yoga, exercise, or psychotherapy appointments to ensure you take time for your own well-being and happiness.

It’s hard not to feel a crunch of time as you aim to make all of your deadlines, completing deliverables and reports before the holidays. Your to-do list and calendar is your best friend at this time, helping you to prioritize everything that is absolutely important to complete before December 31st rolls around, and what you can hold off doing until the New Year (with the sign-off from your boss, of course). Don’t be afraid to ask for help and delegate tasks to your team, ensuring everyone has an equal number of tasks to get through.

When you’re feeling stress come on, there are multiple ways to reduce anxiety at your desk.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
EFT is a psychological acupressure technique used to reduce negative emotions. A combination of tapping energy points on your body and voicing positive affirmation clears any emotional block and restores the mind and body’s balance.

Tap five times on each of the following points while repeating your belief that you can get everything done in time:
– The end of your eyebrows, closest to your nose
– The corners of your eyes closest to your ears
– Underneath the eyes
– Between the nose and lips
– On the chin
Combined with steady and deep breaths, you’ll feel better in no time.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but when you’re stressed, it can be easy to forget to eat or even go to the bathroom. Schedule times for breaks, standing, stretching, and taking a quick walk (even just down the hall) before you begin your next task. You’ll feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle the next point on your list.

It’s a myth that you have to be completely still or alone in a room to meditate. Meditation is possible even at busy open-concept office. There are several apps available to help guide your meditation, or you can try this guided waking meditation track from Helix.

Notable has also given you every reason meditation is right for you, right now.

The important thing to remember is that the holiday season is stressful for many, and you’re not alone or weak for feeling it. But every year you get through it and this year is no different. Armed with these renewed priorities and tips, you’ll be enjoying the holidays and celebrating the New Year before you know it.