How to Manage Holiday Stress

12 Helpful Ways I Manage Holiday Stress

Why does Santa eat so many cookies?

I know. You probably read that first line and thought, “Santa? Why does he have to manage holiday stress? How can this be? Surely this must be a mistake. Perhaps a typo.” Even yours truly is not a stranger to daily stress. With each calendar page turn, stress can creep up on you if you do not take the proper self-care to help alleviate it. It is also true that most of the adults on my naughty list are filled with those who could not find stress management techniques for those moments of anxiety. I decided to share my tips to manage stress during the holiday season and hopefully help make your Christmas season that much brighter.


Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas

The holiday season is full of love, gratitude, and joy. This has become my mantra over the years. Whenever I feel my attitude slipping just a bit, it’s almost like my inner Linus Van Pelt comes out and tells me, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,” or Mr. Kringle. Or Kris Kringle. No, I’m pretty sure Linus and I are not on a first-name basis. Where was I?

Oh yes, gratitude.

When your holiday plans and must-dos start to feel overwhelming, it can become far too easy to forget the reason for the season. When this occurs, finding ways to keep your positive attitude will help manage stress and keep you focused on what is truly important. I like to make lists. No, not a naughty and nice list.

A list of the things I am grateful for, like: Katie, my elves, my reindeer, that someone invented chocolate chip cookies, etc. This helps ground me and reminds me to who I should be giving my gratitude. It has also been my experience that showing gratitude can help with the stress others are experiencing. Just a little thank you can go a long way.

#2 – Take a Walk

Rudolph Walking in a snow blizzard

Walking is a great way to get physical exercise, relieve stress, and feel good. Katie has been trying to introduce more physical activity into my daily routine. I think she’s tired of hearing me complain about my belly being referred to as a bowl full of jelly. She keeps saying she will get me one of those bit-fit things. You’re probably saying, “But Santa, that’s easier than it sounds.” I say it’s not as hard as you think it is. The hardest part is telling your body to get up and do it. I find it helpful to pick a location with a lot of scenery. I like to give my eyes some regular exercise as well.

Malls are great places to exercise and keep warm while doing it. Most malls open an hour before the shops to let people walk around, and if it’s during winter, this is one of the only times you will find parking. I used to do this when it got too cold to walk outside, but I kept getting stopped and asked to take a photo. Now it’s become so popular I have helpers do this in malls during Christmas when I am not available.

#3 – Breathing – Deep, deep breathing

Santa Claus from A Christmas Story

Funny story, this is where the misconception of “Ho, ho, ho” came to be.

It was Christmas Eve many years ago. While I don’t like to admit it, I got lost. For those millennials reading this article, we did not always have Siri around to direct us where to go or even the thing your older millennials called Mapquest. No, we had to rely on hand-drawn maps, which can be confusing things when it is dark and snowy. Nevertheless, as I was fumbling around my sleigh to find out where to head next, I stubbed my toe somewhat hard on the runner. What was once the stress of being lost was now escalated to pain.

Needing to center myself, I began taking very deep breaths and exhaling through my mouth, making whatever sound came out. What I thought nonsensical was translated into a “Ho” sound repeated. And when you’re famous, like me, you are often branded by what you do in public. Thus, the rumor of Santa saying, “Ho, ho, ho.”

When you practice deep breathing, your brain releases endorphins into your nervous system, making you feel good and helping you cope with stress. So, the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, take a step back, take a deep breath and exhale through your mouth. And maybe find someplace private so you don’t get assigned a new catchphrase by those around you.

#4 – Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Dear George - No Man is a failure who has friends

Once upon a time, being Santa was a one-person job. As time passed, it proved to be more than I could handle, and I had to ask for help making toys, taking care of my reindeer, planning out each stop, and the list continued. The other day, I read that the world’s population was estimated at around eight billion. Which means there are eight billion opportunities to ask for help.

Over many years, I have learned the art of delegating tasks, which has helped my mental health! Over the years, I have found fantastic help from my wife, our friends, and the reindeer. Without them, I would never have been able to accomplish the things I do year after year. It isn’t always easy to ask for help. Oh, and never assume. Assuming would never have got my household into going green in 2003. Dasher has really “taken the reigns” on keeping the North Pole eco-friendly. He even formed a reindeer committee to explore further opportunities.

#5 – Take a Moment to Enjoy the Season

Some days, I feel so overwhelmed that I decide to chuck out my to-do list and take a second to enjoy the quietly beautiful moments that accompany every holiday season. Listen when your brain screams at you that it can’t take any more tasks for the day! I like spending time baking with Katie. My role is mostly watching and being the Quality Control Taste Tester. But by that third or fourth cookie, I find my stress melts away in a sugar haze.

Santa Claus from A Miracle on 34th Street

We also like enjoying a peaceful dinner and talking out our worries together. Sometimes having good listeners can make all the difference. I even find myself talking out my problems with my reindeer. Vixen happens to be a great listener when carrots are involved. I feed her carrots, and she listens to me ramble on for hours. I find her thoughts to be profound and insightful. Except for Gestaltism. We agree to disagree.

#5 – Scale Back (aka Retreat!)

Clark with chainsaw from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Every year I go into the fall with thousands of ideas to make this Christmas magical, wonderful, and the best. One by one, with the fall of each leaf, I begin to scale back and become more and more realistic. The moral of the story, it is okay to dream big, but it is not okay to become crippled by stress because you overdid it.

Sometimes you must weigh things by the practical and probable scale. You made the expectations; you can also reevaluate them. Removing items from your to-do list to give others the proper amount of attention sometimes is the best answer. And that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with scaling back (and avoiding some anxiety in the process).

#6 – HIDE!

Randy hiding under the sink - A Christmas Story

Sometimes you must find that quiet space and listen to your thoughts. Find a quiet area – the garage, the pantry, or the great outdoors and take a calm moment to ground yourself. There is no shame in hiding.

When I find myself overwhelmed and have tried several ways to manage stress, retreating to a place to be alone is the only option I have for my sanity to remain intact. That is why I built the west wing of my workshop and why there is a sign that says “Santa Only” on the door. Getting away from your situation for a few moments can also provide perspective and reduce stress. I find creating to be helpful in these moments. Some of my best toy ideas have come from my, as Katie calls it, “Santa Seclusions.”

#7 – C is for Cookie

C is for Cookie - Sesame Street - Cookie Monster

When all else fails, I embrace eating cookies. Cookies make everything better. Trust me on this one. Katie and I have an agreement. I exercise more, and she allows my cookie indulgences. Katie is not a fan of crumbs in my beard. But that’s a story for another time.

While Christmas will always be my favorite season and hold a special place in my heart, Spring will be my second. Why?

Three magical words. Girl Scout Cookies. This is the second most wonderful time of the year, and with good reason. They’re magic in a box. Have you ever seen an unhappy person eating Girl Scout Cookies? I didn’t think so. That’s where the adjective “comfort food” came from. Food has that magical way of sending endorphins to your brain and providing comfort.

In short, eat the cookie.


All the Whos down in Whoville the Tall and the Small

Don’t worry about #8. It probably wasn’t important anyway. During the holidays, things get busy, and some are dropped or forgotten. It’s okay if they do. Just continue and let the unimportant things slip away (like this list has multiple number 5’s). I’m moving on.

Embracing imperfection can be the best medicine to cope with stress. Too often, we find ourselves wanting everything to be perfect. Imagine what the wedding industry would look like if people embraced this concept. Er, wait a minute—lousy example.

Did the Who’s down in Whoville, the tall and the small, freak out when The Grinch stole their Christmas? No. They continued, singing their little hearts away. They started in low, then started to grow. Why? Because Christmas isn’t about perfection. Neither should yours.


Santa Claus at table with knife and fork

This is a shame. I have not now, nor have I ever enjoyed a diet. Diets, to me, are almost like a form of punishment. Who could be expected to be happy when restricted from doing the things they love? This is the opposite of managing stress. It’s stress-inducing. Until I see cookies on a list of allowed items on a diet, I will not entertain the idea of ever following one.

However, all joking aside, learning healthy ways to manage our food intake, and choosing whole grains over processed foods, are natural ways to help our body and mind cope when we feel overwhelmed.

#11 – LAUGH

Animated Santa Claus from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

It has been my experience that, next to cookies, laughter is the best medicine. Finding the humor in things is the best way to not hold on to something, keep your jolly composure, and reduce your stress level. I have a handful of go-to movies I watch because they make me laugh consistently. Like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Even the opening credits.

I am a Santa who can laugh at himself. Why? Because taking things too seriously is just like expecting things to be perfect. Wouldn’t you rather be laughing than yelling? I know I would.


No matter what you do, buy or say, at the end of the day, your attitude makes the holiday season what it is. The holiday season can be magical, beautiful, and full of wonderful memory-making moments. It can also be stressful, annoying, and frustrating. The truth is that the holiday season is what you decide to make of it. Charles Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens to [you], and 90% how [you] react to it.” And that is Santa’s secret. How do I manage stress and have a magical Christmas every year? Because I choose to.

Wrapping Up Santa’s Stress Management Tips

Santa Claus House of Kringle

Stress can happen to everyone, and that’s okay. Focus on the essential things, slow down from time to time for positive self-talk, and don’t take things too seriously. While Christmas may only come around once a year, stress can happen anytime. Remember to breathe, laugh, and even retreat if you must. Follow my tips, and I know you will significantly reduce your chances of finding yourself on my naughty list. When all else fails, eat the cookie.

Also, save one for me.

Warmest Regards,