Ask the Expert: How Can I Avoid Stress During the Holidays?

Marla Tomazin, a Manhattan-based certified image consultant, shares her tips for avoiding stress during the holidays and how you can relax if you find that you are stressed.

woman stressed about the holidaysWithout a doubt, the holidays, which are “the most wonderful time of the year,” are also a crazy time of year. From the end of November to the beginning of January, most of us rush around nonstop, trying to fit in dozens of events, activities, and responsibilities. And even though most of us look forward to this special season all year long, it’s still easy to stretch yourself too thin in the midst of all the festivities. According to Marla Tomazin, a certified image consultant, that’s why it’s very important to take care of yourself as well as taking care of everyone else.


How can I avoid stress during the holidays?

“Most of us don’t realize just how demanding the holiday scramble can be until we’re exhausted, overwhelmed, or even sick,” Tomazin says. “The good news is, with a little prior planning and prioritizing, you can enjoy and cherish the things that are most important to you without having to run on fumes to make it through New Year’s Eve!”

Make a list and check it twice. Realistically, you can only focus on one or two big goals at a time, no matter how adept you are at multitasking. That’s why Tomazin recommends sitting down, deciding what is most important to you this holiday season, and prioritizing those things. If spending time with your family is at the top of your list, for example, put them first and consciously make sure that other things remain on the back burner. Or if eating well and maintaining your health is a primary goal, plan out a strategy beforehand so that you won’t be blindsided by the bountiful buffet-table.

Plan ahead. Everyone talks about how the holidays “catch them by surprise” every year. In order to keep from being overwhelmed and overbooked in the coming weeks, Tomazin says that you need to look at your calendar right now. Start scheduling social engagements as soon as you become aware of them, and give yourself plenty of time to fulfill your own responsibilities so that you aren’t frantically gluing tinsel onto your daughter’s pageant costume at 2am the day of her big stage debut. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy seasonal events instead of just getting through them.

Let yourself off the hook, and be okay with that. Unless you’re Suzy Homemaker, you’ll never have a picture-perfect holiday season. To save your sanity, realize ahead of time that you might forget to buy a gift for Great-Aunt Maude, that the dog might break a few low-hanging Christmas ornaments, and that you might not be able to make all eight dozen cookie recipes you’ve collected. “That’s normal,” Tomazin says. “So don’t beat yourself up. Keep your focus on what’s really important and you’ll be less tense and harried—as well as more resilient!”

It’s okay to say no. Many of us have trouble saying no for a variety of reasons: We don’t want to let others down, we don’t want to be seen as weak, we’re afraid to refuse, etc. Tomazin points out that until you learn to say no, you’ll never be in the driver’s seat of your own life. Remember that you can’t do it all. “Again,” Tomazin reminds, “decide ahead of time what’s most important to you and prioritize those things. Then you can feel okay about saying no to some of the rest.”

What can I do to relax if I find that I’m stressed?

Give yourself the gift of health. When you’re busy and stressed, it’s easy to become run down and spread yourself too thin. On top of the strain that the holiday bustle can bring, it’s also cold and flu season, so make sure to take care of your physical needs. Tomazin recommends getting in some light exercise, even if you can work in only a short walk a few days a week. Be sure to drink lots of water, eat healthy foods, avoid gorging on treats at every opportunity, and make it a point to get enough sleep (DVR that late-night holiday special if you have to). Tomazin promises that if you do all of these things, you’ll enter the New Year on a healthy foot.

Go on a date with yourself. We tend to be constantly surrounded by other people during the holidays; after all, it’s a season devoted to being with the ones you love. Even when it comes to family and friends, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. To make sure you don’t become socially drained mid-season, make a point to do something by yourself every now and then. Maybe it’s sitting down to enjoy a cup of coffee in the middle of Christmas shopping, or going to see a romantic comedy without your kids. (A dinner with just your spouse can also serve this function if you’d rather not fly solo.) “When you unwind and take a breather,” Tomazin says, “your perspective will stay clear and your stress won’t become too overwhelming.”

Give yourself a gift (or two). Chances are, you’ve already started shopping for some of the items on your gift list. As you’re choosing the perfect presents for your spouse, kids, friends, and more, Tomazin says to remember yourself. Whether it’s an afternoon pedicure or a plush new robe to wear around the house during the chilly months, remember that it’s both okay and healthy to invest in you. Spending a few dollars or minutes on you might seem like a relatively small thing, but Tomazin promises that it can make a huge difference.


Marla Tomazin is a Manhattan-based certified image consultant who established her business in 1990 with the goal of helping clients identify an authentic image and develop its effective expression. Her clients include women, men, and corporations seeking external revitalization that mirrors their internal development.