Expert Tips to Minimize Holiday Stress

Dear friends and colleagues,

I’ve often considered the holiday season a great paradox. On the one hand, it is a precious time to connect with loved ones, reflect on whatever gives meaning to our lives, and engage in acts of kindness. On the other hand, it can be enormously stressful with long lists of cool things to accomplish and obligations galore.

The holidays can also be a time of deep feeling if we’ve experienced recent losses or trauma. There has been so much loss and trauma this year – most recently in our California communities, devastated by fires and shootings. All in all, it’s not uncommon to find oneself or our loved ones feeling a bit frayed. So what can we do to nurture ourselves? Gifting ourselves with some restorative time is also gifting those around us. While stress is contagious, so is calm. The tip I want to share has to do with connecting with others. I’m inspired by these words from the Persian lyric poet Hafiz:

Out of great need

we are all holding hands

and climbing.

Not loving is a letting go-

Listen, the terrain around here

is far too dangerous

for that.

I’ve been reflecting on the ways I can “hold hands and climb.” I imagine it requires being present, mindful, sometimes just sitting, and sometimes being determined. I’m exploring this idea this holiday season as a restorative practice. Perhaps you too will want to explore this idea of holding hands and climbing.

Three of the therapists from our team are sharing tips as well below. We hope that among these ideas, you’ll find some to nourish you and your family in this precious season of light and love. Read on for more expert tips on stress reduction this holiday season!


In gratitude,

Dr. Melissa Johnson – Licensed Psychologist (PSY13102)

CEO & Founder of the Institute for Girls’ Development

Training Director, Professional and Post-Doctoral Training


My tip for beating holiday stress is to embrace the power of “no.” The holidays can be such a busy time – with multiple events and long to-do lists. You may find it reduces your stress during the holidays to decline some requests or offers. By giving yourself permission to not take on everything, you allow more time to savor the things about the holidays that you truly enjoy.

Danielle Neddo, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist (PSY29486)


Sometimes with the stress and busyness of the holidays, we forget to sit and just be. One thing that can help with that is square breathing. Set the timer for a few minutes and just allow yourself to focus on your breath. Using square breathing can help you feel more grounded as you go between school holiday shows, parties and gift giving. Enjoy!


Vicki Chiang, Psy.D. 

Licensed Psychologist (PSY 21136)

Clinical Director – Child and Adolescent Specialty Practice

Clinical Supervisor for Post-Doctoral Fellows


To make the most of this holiday season, try deep breathing to regulate your emotions and body, make time for walks with friends, family or pets, and focus on self-compassion. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge when and why you’re feeling stress. When you start to feel anxious, be compassionate to yourself. Take a break, make some tea, slow down and do something you enjoy.

Mary Schultz, MMFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT 110506)

More Resources on Stress Reduction

3 Tips for Navigating the Holidays

Want to De-Stress? Take a Vacation from Your Mind

Using Our Imaginations for Good! Guided Imagery & Other Experiential Tools for Relaxation and Stress Reduction

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