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The Secret to a Happy Holiday: Create a Plan to Reduce Stress and Improve Sleep

By: SleepScore Labs  |  November 17th, 2023

There’s a reason you’re seeing more stories about the ways holiday stress impacts your health. 

While stress about COVID-19 has decreased this holiday season, the perennial stress factors are still in play. What tops the list of holiday stressors? Finances, preparing for holiday meals, holiday travel, and finding the right gifts for loved ones. 

Because of irregular schedules, increased relationship pressures, and financial stress, the holidays pose a significant challenge to your physical and mental health. 

While stressful events can negatively impact sleep, a good night’s sleep can help you manage stress when it arises. When you don’t sleep well, you may be thrown off by minor negative events, and find it hard to appreciate the positive things in your life. 

If you’re already anticipating a busy holiday season, now is the time to plan for better outcomes. By setting intentions now, you’ll be able to manage holiday stress naturally, making it easier to get restful sleep. Let’s explore how to manage your time (and your stress response) differently with the power of intentions. 

Focus on What Matters Most This Holiday Season 

The holiday season offers a chance to rest and refresh. And yet, it’s also a time filled with obligations and events during a season when we’re supposed to be turning inward. Take a moment to consider how many events you have coming up at work, with family, or with friends. 

Whether you’re inviting visitors to your home or traveling, there are two major changes you can make to bring balance to your schedule. 

  1. Say no! It might sound like common sense, but it’s difficult for most of us to do. Which invitations can you politely decline? If you feel stress around a holiday event, that’s a good sign you should decline.
  2. Ask for help: if you’re hosting a dinner party, what about asking each of your guests to bring a side dish? Or, you could co-host with a friend to divide responsibilities. Feeling overwhelmed by gift giving? See if you can set agreements with family so you can keep your budget in check. 

Delicious meals, fun parties, and late nights spent with friends and family can be fun. After all, at what other time of the year do you get to catch up with so many people in just a short time? While it might sound less fun to practice moderation, your health matters; you don’t have to be everywhere and do everything to enjoy your holiday! 

What is Within Your Control? 

One simple action you can take is to use the power of intentions to take control of your time and your health. 

Before an event, it’s a good idea to make agreements with yourself. One way to do that is to state your intentions out loud to a partner, friend, or spouse, or write them down. 

Consider these examples: 

“I will leave the party by 9:30.”
“I won’t graze on appetizers before dinner.”
“I will limit myself to one glass of wine with dinner.” 

In other words, focus on the elements of your day that are within your control. For example, consider how late in the day you have caffeine, or whether you can turn a get-together into an opportunity to exercise. 

Instead of overindulging, make a point to focus on meaningful connections. Notice small gestures that make your day better, whether you are with family, close friends, or interacting with strangers when you are out and about. 

In addition, one of the best ways to deal with stress is to stick to a consistent sleep time. Getting enough quality sleep can help you handle challenges gracefully. With a few adjustments, you’ll feel good about investing your time and attention on what matters most. 

If you don’t have a long list of events this season, that’s ok! Consider how you feel about your schedule, because instead of saying “no”, maybe it’s time to say “yes” to more activities, instead. Trust your gut feeling about what would be most beneficial for you.

How to Plan for Less Stress and Improve Your Sleep 

Consistent sleep is one of the best gifts you can give yourself this holiday season. Why? It can help you stay healthy and grounded throughout the holidays. 

A recent national survey showed that people who have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep for only 2 nights out of the week have higher levels of depressive symptoms. While it’s always best to see a doctor if depression or anxiety are disrupting your life, sleep is proven to have a positive impact on mental health.  

One way to set the stage for better sleep is to slow down. Especially in the hour before bedtime, slowing down and creating a more peaceful environment will make it that much easier to wind down when it’s time. An easy way to do that is with Sleepy’s Scented Pillow Inserts. They help improve sleep with less time awake, and fewer times waking up. 

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In addition to creating a peaceful environment before sleep, taking time to create a plan will help you stick to healthy habits during the busy holidays. 

First, grab a notebook or journal and a pen, then complete the following steps: 

  1. Contemplate how you feel about the upcoming holidays.
  2. Visualize yourself enjoying the holidays; what activities are you doing? Who are you with?
  3. Write your thoughts down in a journal.
  4. Take a hard look at the obligations and events on the horizon. Be realistic about the number of activities on your schedule. Permit yourself to say “no” to activities that cause stress and “yes” to meaningful activities.
  5. Set an intention to stick to a consistent (give or take 30 minutes) sleep time every night. 

Why does this work? By writing down your intentions, you’ll avoid getting swept up in the busy flow of activity. 

By reducing stress, you’re setting yourself up for better sleep. When you stick to a consistent sleep time, you’re making it easier to handle holiday challenges with grace. 



Krause, A. J., Simon, E. B., Mander, B. A., Greer, S. M., Saletin, J. M., Goldstein-Piekarski, A. N., & Walker, M. P. (2020). The sleep-deprived human brain. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 21(7), 354–369. 

The NSF. (2021, December 10). How is your sleep health linked to your mental health? 

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