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Better Not Pout: 7 Tips for a Stress-Free Season

Thanksgiving is over, and Christmas is right around the corner. While it’s a joyful time of year, it’s also stressful, as we try to make time for family and friends, find the perfect present, and be present in each moment. We turned to local experts to explain why the holidays can feel overwhelming, as well as share tips on how to manage stress during the most wonderful time of the year.

Gretta Smith, yoga teacher and owner of Ohana Moon Yoga (, says the holidays tend to be a stressful time because we defy the natural rhythms of nature. “Winter is a season of hibernation with fewer hours of sunlight and more hours of night, which should be devoted to more sleep,” she says. “People fight these primal instincts with caffeine and overstimulation, including overeating, overspending, and overexerting. A lack of sleep plus over-stimulation equals stress.”

A lot of the pressures we feel around the holidays stem from our own internal expectations. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do it all,” says Joy Arnold, a 500 E-RYT yoga teacher, reiki master, and holistic health coach ( “We need to let go of the image we have in our heads of what the ‘perfect’ holiday is and what we ‘should’ be doing during this time. Instead, we need to allow ourselves to be in the moment and enjoy the true meaning of the holidays: spending time with those you love and appreciating all we have.”

Here are seven suggestions on ways to minimize holiday stress and put the focus back on feeling grateful and enjoying each moment.

Amitis Pourarian, owner of THE STUDIO Martial Arts & Fitness, says exercise is a huge stress reducer.


“Stress starts in the mind; however, we feel it everywhere,” Smith says. “Yoga is a practice that helps connect mind, body, and spirit. When we go into active and passive yoga poses to feel sensation in the body with conscious breath, we’re able to quiet the busy, loud, anxious mind and relieve stress. As we close out an especially stressful year, I recommend practicing yin or gentle yoga to help ground your nervous system and calm your mind. The combination of stillness and slow, mindful breathing helps relieve physical, mental, and emotional tension.”

Amitis Pourarian, owner of THE STUDIO Martial Arts & Fitness (, says exercise is a huge stress reducer, as it provides a break from having to deal with issues and an outlet for stress. “What’s more, there are endorphins released in the brain as a by-product of exercise, which uplift our mood and our sense of well-being,” she shares.

“Make a budget and stay within it,” Arnold recommends. “No one enjoys giving or can relish the holiday season when they know they’ve overspent and will have to face it come January. The gift of giving is not about a dollar amount; it’s the intention and energy behind what we give.” Homemade presents never go out of style. Who wouldn’t be grateful to open a framed family picture, recipe book filled with time-tested dishes, or a calendar of birthdays with photos?

No one enjoys giving or can relish the holiday season when they know they’ve overspent.


“Take time for yourself during the holidays to break off and do things that ground you and bring you joy,” Pourarian says. “Creating space to be of service to others who are less fortunate is a great stress reliever.” Turn to page 22 for a list of ways you can be of service this season.

“Take some quiet time to choose a word or sentence for the holiday experience you want and let it drive your commitment to a stress-free holiday,” suggests Jenifer Novak Landers, a professional certified coach at Fully Expressed Potential ( “For example, my word is ‘resilience.’ I visualize myself in ease and joy, being fully present to the magic of every single holiday moment. When things get messy or off track, (because they WILL!) I can return to my word, resilience, and remember to allow myself to practice it, rather than pushing on my stress or fear, which only makes it worse.”

“When we’re stressed, our breath tends to be shallow, erratic, and in the chest. This actually causes the body to release more stressor hormones, ultimately causing us to be more stressed,” Arnold says. “No matter where you are, try this. Close your eyes, sit up tall, relax your shoulders, take a deep breath in through your nose and sigh it out your mouth, emptying your lungs completely. Now, bring awareness to the belly, begin to sip the air in through your nose to a count of five, pause the breath, then exhale through the nose slowly to a count of five.”

Creating space to be of service to others who are less fortunate is a great stress reliever.


“Being aware of what thoughts or stories you’re telling yourself about the holidays will give you the option to choose a different thought—or to at least think yourself into a neutral place,” Novak Landers says. “You can shift how you feel by choosing thoughts that are more positive. In your mind, change an anxious story into a relaxed one. When the feeling of stress creeps in, ask yourself: ‘What do I need right now to feel loving about myself?’ Or, ‘How can I be loving to ME right now?’ And then do it. You’ll notice a big shift in your energy. For example, old thought: I won’t have time or energy for everything I want to do. New thought: Even though my time is short, I’m excited to be fully present with all I can do. This is also a great opportunity to schedule follow up time with people in 2021.” As you navigate the extra stresses of COVID-19 during the holidays, remember this. “Even though the negativity of surrounding the pandemic completely changes this year's holiday season, choose to look for love in the smallest, simplest things, especially within yourself. Love is something you can focus on.” 

“It can be 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at night, or both! Better yet, make it 30 minutes,” Arnold says. “What you do during this time is your choice, so long as it helps you to feel at ease, calm, and grounded. Maybe you go for a run, jump on your yoga mat, or sip a cup of coffee outside and just be. The important thing is that you take the time to nourish and recharge yourself. Then, you’ll have the energy and stamina to be present for family, friends, and all the hustle and bustle of the season.”

by Kourtney Jason
Header photo ©elnariz - Santa photo ©deagreez - Bank photo © Suchada Toemkraisri - Mask photo ©Halfpoint -