Managing holiday stress: An integrative approach

By Saybrook University

By Luann Drolc Fortune, LMT, Ph.D. 
Director of Instructional Excellence, College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences


A faculty member from Saybrook University’s College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences shares tips for staying grounded and minimizing stress during the December holiday season.

It is perhaps no wonder that people of many faiths have chosen the darkest time of the year for their festivals of light. From Christmas to Hanukkah, the December holidays have marked a time of spiritual renewal and celebration for centuries.

However, the “most wonderful time of the year” can also be the most stressful—even for those of us who practice what we teach in our Saybrook University College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences (CIMHS) courses.

The most important thing to know is you don’t have to manage this stress on your own. Call on a friend or family member if you’re feeling down or need them to help take something off your plate. Wellness coaches—such as those trained under Saybrook’s new M.A. in Integrative Wellness Coaching degree program—can also provide much-needed guidance for healthier, happier holidays.

With that in mind, here are some tips I have offered to my own clients to help manage holiday stress:

Schedule Down Time

Our bodies tend to naturally shut down in winter. So while civilizations have created joyous religious celebrations to bring light into the darkest time of year, those celebrations add obligations and expectations that can result in overload. Put some time on your busy holiday calendar to do absolutely nothing. Consider it a gift to yourself.

Make Mindful Choices

Take a look at your list of holiday “to do’s” and think about why you are doing all of these things. If you are being pulled in too many directions and you don’t enjoy half of the obligations on your calendar, respectfully turn some of them down. You will be more focused and able to better enjoy the season if you approach it more mindfully.

Be Conscious of What You Consume

In a season of lavish parties often focused around eating and drinking, making healthy food choices has never been more important. If you want to avoid sugar, try not to stand near the dessert table or hover around the punch bowl. And if you do indulge, be sure to keep your body primed with juices and superfoods in between the holiday food fests.

Get Enough Exercise

If your holiday event schedule is taking away time from a normal exercise regimen, find ways to incorporate movement into everything you do. Moving around at parties not only helps to avoid overeating but makes you feel more integrated into the group. Exercise is nature’s best stress buster so don’t be afraid to use it. You will feel better in the end.

Schedule Cocoon Time

Let’s face it. Our bodies seem crave more sleep in winter—particularly in cold, snowy climates. I like to think of this time of year as the season we are meant to cocoon and settle in for shorter days and longer nights. It’s good for the body, good for the mind, and even better for the spirit. Schedule some extra shut eye and you will be able to have a clearer mind for everything else left on that holiday agenda.

If you found that helpful and would like to know more about how to add Integrative Wellness Coaching credentials to your Saybrook education, go here for more information. Our new M.A. degree in Integrative Wellness Coaching program starts at Saybrook in Fall 2017.


Dr. Luann Drolc Fortune serves as Director of Instructional Excellence at Saybrook University’s College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences. She is also a practitioner and scholar.