3 Ways to Decrease Stress During the Holidays

Dec 15, 2023

Ahh, bliss. December is here, conjuring up pleasant memories: the gentle falling of snow (admittedly, not here in Northern California yet), the cheerful greetings of friends and family, and the enticing aroma of holiday food. And then there’s the energy-depleting feeling of… being overwhelmed. According to the American Psychological Association, nearly nine in ten people (89%) say they feel stressed leading up to the holidays, and almost half say the stress of the holidays interferes with their ability to enjoy them. How is your stress-oh-meter? I know mine is ratcheting up as I add more and more to my master list that includes decorating, gift buying, party planning…need I go on?

Generative Questions for Decreasing Holiday Stress 

What to do? Tune in: pause, breathe and get curious, and ask yourself a few generative questions. Choose the ones that resonate most with you.

  1. Look back
  • When has there been a time when I felt both joy and accomplishment when preparing for the holidays? What made that happen?
  • When I have enjoyed preparing for the holidays before, what was I doing?
  • What does the holiday spirit mean to me? 
  1. Focus on now
  • What activities give me the most energy? How might they be prioritized?
  • What is one step I can take today that will allow me to feel I have accomplished something and that adds to my joy?
  • What is one small step I can take to manage the feeling of being overloaded?
  • What will I do today to focus on the joy of the season?
  • How does joyful feel to me?
  • What am I doing to ignite the holiday spirit for myself and others? 
  1. Look forward
  • What do I want to get out of the upcoming holiday season?
  • What do I want to remember about these holidays?
  • Who else might I engage with to deepen my sense of joy?
  • What do I need to let go of to be able to enjoy the holidays?
  • Are there things related to the holidays that I can eliminate because I feel social pressure to do them, rather than doing them because I enjoy them?
  • When I can look back on this holiday season and feel a true sense of holiday spirit, what will have happened? What did I do to bring this about? How did I inspire others to feel the holiday spirit?

Positive Frame

These generative questions were created by this week’s phenomenal Kickstarter group as they worked together to create a positive frame for a  conversation worth having  about feeling overloaded, burned out, and unable to enjoy the holiday season.

  • Name it: I feel overloaded, burnt-out, and unable to enjoy the season.
  • Flip it: I feel balanced and able to enjoy the season.
  • Frame it: I can inject the holiday spirit into everything on my plate and am buoyed up with a sense of enjoyment, accomplishment, and satisfaction.


Cool Tip

Create moments in your day to pause, breath, and get curious. Focusing on the breath is a fabulous way to calm the sympathetic nervous system (our fight or flight response) and activate the parasympathetic nervous system (calms us down) into gear. Check out this video to learn an easy breathing technique to manage stress: Dr. Weil's 4-7-8 breathing technique  (Matcha.com, 2019).


Stuck for a Gift?

If you’re stuck for a gift idea, consider giving the tools to foster greater wellbeing, stronger relationships, and more success at work.  Introduce someone to Conversations Worth Having!  Share the book, a bootcamp, or invite them to join you for lunch and a 2024 Learning Lab.



American Psychological Association. (2023, November 30). Even a joyous holiday season can cause stress for most Americans. APA. American Psychological Association.

Matcha.com. (2019, January 15). Dr. Weil explains how to do his 4-7-8 breathing technique. Relaxing breathing exercise. YouTube. 

Stavros, J., & Torres, C. (2022).  Conversations worth having. Using appreciative inquiry to fuel productive and meaningful engagement. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.


Monday Kickstarters

This topic came from our Winter 2023 Monday Kickstarters series, working sessions to figure out how to have a conversation worth having when faced with a tough situation, challenge, or problem on leadership or performance. Do you have a tough situation you’d like reframing? Join us in 2024 by registering at The Center for Appreciative Inquiry or at Conversations Worth Having.

Shared by: Sylvette Wake, who is a certified Conversations Worth Having and Strategic Conversations Facilitator. Her diverse background includes training emerging leaders in India, working with non-profit start-ups and teaching sailing for the U.S. Army in West Berlin, Germany. What floats her boat the most? That ‘ah-ha’ moment when clients discover a world of endless possibilities for personal growth.




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