10 Tips for Managing
By Daphne Lurie, Ph.D.
of the Counseling and Psychological Services Department
at The Scripps Research Institute
The holiday season is upon us, bringing with it varied hopes and expectations. While the holidays are
meant to be a time of good cheer, good food and goodwill to all, the reality for many is more complicated.
All too often, the season signals the return of something we’d much rather avoid—holiday stress. Some
people worry about how they will interact with family members; some anticipate the holiday “blues;” still
others are concerned (particularly this year), about making it through this gift-giving time in one financial
piece. Here are some tips to help you reduce stress during this holiday season and afterwards.
1) Sleep. Do not underestimate the restorative power of a good night’s sleep. Over the holidays, while
you may be tempted to stay up late with friends and family, make sure to get the seven or eight hours
of sleep recent research indicates most of us need. If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying
asleep, make sure to avoid naps, go to sleep at the same time every night and set your alarm for the
same time every morning (yes, even on your days off). This helps your body to regulate your sleep
cycle in a consistent way.
2) Exercise. Research on exercise has repeatedly demonstrated the value of a good work-out regimen
for stress reduction. If you have a good exercise routine going, keep it going. If you have fallen out
of the habit of exercising regularly, use the holiday season to gear yourself back up again. Start out
slow with daily walks or participation in a gentle yoga class, and focus on consistency rather than
3) Eat healthfully. While we all enjoy the rich pleasure of holiday foods, make sure to consume the
treats (heavy sauces, sweets, etc.) in moderation, and work in healthy snacks (raw veggies, fruit
plates, whole grains and nuts) when you can.
4) Limit alcohol/caffeine. If you like to imbibe over the holidays (or at any time of year), moderate how
much you drink and exercise caution. While it can help you to feel more relaxed in the short run,
alcohol is actually a depressant and, once the positive effects wear off, can result in a “rebound”
effect that spikes your stress level even higher. Similarly, if you enjoy your beverages caffeinated,
take note of how many cups of coffee or cans of Pepsi you drink and consider cutting back. While
caffeine may give you the “buzz” you feel you need to get up and go in the morning, it can also
contribute significantly to feelings of stress if ingested steadily over the course of a day.
5) Delegate. If you find yourself burdened with responsibilities over the holidays, work on delegating
some of the tasks at hand. Oftentimes, it’s the same two or three people in a group of ten who do
most (if not all of) the work. Whether that means cooking, cleaning or running the errands, make
sure that you do not carry the brunt of the labor; otherwise you’ll experience as much resentment as
you do stress.
6) Make time for yourself. If you plan to spend time with family over the holidays, build breaks into your
schedule so that you can have some time to yourself. This may mean going for a walk alone,
offering to run an errand for the group, or calling a friend and (privately) venting.
7) Set realistic expectations. Work on setting realistic expectations for yourself. While some people are
exacting to begin with, the holidays can bring out the perfectionist in all of us. We all want to think
that we’ve done our best to make the festivities, as well as our interactions with friends and family, as
joyous as possible. Realistically, however, mistakes will be made, feelings will be hurt and toys will
be broken. Once we accept these inevitabilities, we can relax our standards to a more human (and
8) Set limits. Whether you have a 6-year-old niece who wants you to play magic tricks with her all
afternoon or a 64-year-old parent who wants you to spend your holiday break fixing the carburetor on
his old vehicle, give yourself permission to say “no” or, at the very least, “not right now.” Remember
that these are your holidays, too. You can connect with family and friends, you can even help them
at times, while taking time for yourself, too.
9) Treat yourself. If you anticipate being alone during the holidays, whether due to responsibilities in
the lab, your distance from home, or conscious choice, make some clear plans for yourself ahead of
time. See this as an opportunity to take care of yourself, perhaps even indulging in some ways you
don’t do the rest of the year (e.g. setting up a “movie marathon” for yourself one day; calling dear
friends long-distance, taking yourself out for a good meal). Consider participating in local community
events, such as volunteering to serve a holiday meal to the needy, taking yourself to see a holiday
show or taking a drive to see the holiday lights at night. Keep in mind that even hardworking TSRI
employees need to take breaks from their professional responsibilities in order to rest, “recharge” and
be ready for work again.
10) Have fun. Remember, when it comes down to it, the holidays are in fact, about good cheer, good
food and goodwill to all. Include yourself, as well as those you love, in this plan and you will be more
likely to enjoy yourself and keep the stress to a minimum. Take time to laugh, to love, to rest and to
Happy holidays, everyone!
Daphne Lurie, Ph.D. is a psychologist in TSRI’s Counseling and Psychological Services Department.
TSRI benefits-eligible employees may schedule an appointment at no cost with a counselor
at TSRI by contacting Holly Wheeler at x4-7297 or email@example.com.