How Not to Get Burned Out by Holiday Stress This Year

As the weather changes, it sure is nice to have a fireplace. While that orange glow warms the house on cold winter nights, those flames can quickly get out of control if left unattended. Stress is similar. While some can be good, too much holiday stress can be disastrous.

The goal isn’t to eliminate stress; believe it or not, we need it. Good stress motivates us to exercise, socialize, and get out of bed each morning. The right amount helps us maintain a warrior’s edge and keeps us engaged, productive, and sharp. But with increased demands and hectic schedules, holiday stress can quickly become overwhelming. Like a fire burning out of control, excess stress can wreak havoc and consume everything it touches.

Since this is a time to give thanks, spend time with loved ones, and enjoy the season, here are 5 simple ways to keep your stress contained.

1. Don’t let the perfection bug bite

Many of us go into the holiday season expecting to experience a real-life Hallmark movie. The gap between what we hope for and what happens can cause frustration and stress. Why can’t we have the perfect holidays we remember from our childhood? Sadly, the holidays of our youth weren’t perfect either. We only remember them that way.

Ask an older relative, and you’re likely to hear a very different story than the one you remember. Your memory is beautiful because, as an innocent child, you had the luxury of focusing on the purity of the moment instead of the frustrating details. Create the moments you remember by freeing yourself from the illusion of perfection.

2. Calm minds deal with crazy times

It’s easier to deal with adversity when you’re centered and balanced. I recently read an article about a wildland firefighter who said he sat down and took a break when the flames began surrounding his team. Why? Because his calmness allows the team to focus on their job instead of getting overwhelmed by fear.

Each morning, spend 5 to 10 minutes doing an activity that centers you. While in this calm state, commit yourself to focus on solutions, not problems, regardless of what the day brings. This way, the dirt settles in the mud puddle before your day even begins. Now, you can operate with clarity.

3. Address your stress

We’ve established that stress can be dangerous – so don’t ignore it. Even in the face of a hectic holiday schedule, make time for yourself and provide an emotional, physical, and spiritual outlet for the building stress. Take a walk, meditate, work out, spend quiet time in a bookstore, or take a nap. Do something to reward yourself and release pressure. Those who don’t do this during the holidays will need another holiday to recover.

4. Don’t break the bank

This time of year, debt can pile up faster than a plate at a holiday party. If you want to start the new year off right, start with something other than the burden of unnecessary holiday debt. Your kids may say they need that new expensive toy, but your time and undivided attention are what they really need. While it may sound cliche, the best gifts come from the heart, and it’s not the number of zeros that makes them valuable. Besides, children are sensitive to parents’ stress, and nothing is as crushing as debt. Keep it simple and resist overspending; you’ll enjoy the holidays far more, and so will your loved ones.

5. Learn how to say no

During this time of year, it’s natural to want to do everything and make everyone happy. Fight that temptation. With all the party planning, social engagements, and charity drives, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and overcommit your time. Get this under control by scaling back and choosing the activities that matter most. Fewer obligations give you a chance to focus on quality over quantity. Learn to say no and enjoy the holidays rather than getting burned out by them.

D.J. Vanas is an enrolled member of the Ottawa Tribe and a former U.S. Air Force officer. He’s a thought leader, producer, and author; his most recent book, The Warrior Within, is published by Penguin Random House. As an in-demand speaker, D.J. has addressed more than 500 tribal nations, corporations, and organizations, including Intel, NASA, Subaru, Disney, the Mayo Clinic, and the U.S. military. He teaches audiences of all sizes how to employ traditional warrior principles to remain strong and resilient, lead with courage, and perform at their best regardless of the circumstances. D.J. hosted the PBS special, Discovering Your Warrior Spirit. If you have a question or would like D.J. to speak with your team, please visit

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