The Twelve Days of Calmness: How to Survive the Holidays with Aplomb

I love the holidays.  I love Christmas and New Year, and all the parties, and seeing my friends and family.  I love the look of wonder on my son’s face as he jackrabbits from his room on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought.It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done—and maybe a little stressed on the finances too—but my suggestions below are designed to keep everything flowing smoothly and easily.  Enjoy!

  1. Choose your holiday parties wisely. Coordinate with relatives and friends ahead of time. Don’t feel like you have to go to everything.
  2. Find a standard holiday gift that will work for most people. Spend the extra time and energy on your truly close friends and family.
  3. Schedule downtime and exercise. Make sure you’re getting the rest you need and keep yourself stress-free with an exercise routine that’s as similar to normal as possible.
  4. Finish the shopping as early as you can. Go online for simple point-and-click shopping, and let the gifts just roll into your driveway.  Don’t forget cards—you don’t want to have to do a mad dash for them on Christmas Eve!
  5. Come up with a home-made project—maybe one that you can give as a gift. One year I actually did fruitcake! I’ve also done Christmas ornaments, mulled cider, and more. It can be a really fun activity with the family or a friend. Consider signing up for a local craft class (there are tons around the holidays). Maybe you could make your own soap for everyone?
  6. Be a party host if you love to host, and a stellar guest if you don’t. Don’t feel obligated to host a holiday party. There are many ways you can help your hostess: be a great conversationalist, be gracious to everyone present, and come armed with a few friendly topics to discuss. Don’t be afraid to dig in in the kitchen—but only if you know the host will be happy about it, and not frazzled by the help.
  7. Cut down your own tree! It’s fun, it gets everyone outside, and there’s a little bit of exercise involved in dragging a tree along a wooded path. Plus you’ll be helping a local farmer and getting the freshest tree you possibly can. Check with your town to see if they have a mulching service after the holidays (mine does). Then your tree will live on as mulch in local parks and green spaces.
  8. Don’t just give gifts: give time. A recent survey showed that people who performed small acts of kindness for ten days in a row were markedly happier at the end of the run. Collect mail for a traveling neighbor, shovel an elderly neighbor’s walk, pick up a gift for a busy friend, or just call someone to say “Hi” and stay connected. There are lots of ways to give back to the people in your life.
  9. Start a family tradition or two. Insist that they happen. This may sound silly, but I always give my female relatives fuzzy socks for Christmas. They really look forward to them now, and I have fun shopping for something that everyone will like. Your tradition could be more formal—like seeing a holiday performance every year—or you could finish the holiday decorating with a pizza party. Whatever evolves for you and your loved ones, hold onto that tradition. If you’re like me, you’ll hope your children will carry it on.
  10. Sign up for New Year’s resolution activities now. This is something I learned after 14 years in the fitness industry. People make New Year’s resolutions on January 1, but don’t really do anything about them until a few weeks later. Sign up with a personal trainer or coach (any kind of coach) now. You’ll beat the January rush and get the time you’re gunning for, making it more likely that you’ll actually tackle that resolution successfully.
  11. Buy yourself some bling. Okay, it doesn’t have to be bling—it could be a super-soft blanket—but buy yourself something that either makes you feel spectacular or bathes you in comfort. Some soaking salts for a long hot bath on a cold night maybe? A spa pedicure instead of the usual iffy home job? A new garden tool? A great shade of lipstick? Do something to remind yourself that you’re special, too.
  12. Plan holiday parties with some healthy choices. Every year I challenge myself to do an all-organic, somewhat healthy dinner. I usually pull it off. I would never deny anyone mashed potatoes and gravy on Christmas day but I make sure the veggies are steamed so people can load up on that if they want. I don’t sweat it too much, though. We should indulge every once in a while!

So far I’m doing pretty well with my list.  I’ve been keeping my workouts regular (I know it’s easier for me, since I stand in a Pilates studio all day!), we’ve been eating well and I actually have all my Christmas shopping done—including cards!

What are your ideas for a calm and tranquil Christmas?  Please share them and happy holidays!

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson runs her own successful fitness blog at Lisa Johnson Fitness and is frequently seen hanging around Twitter @LisaJohnson. She also runs a few Pilates studios, Modern Pilates Boston.


  1. Great list Lisa! I have tried to reshape how I look at the holiday season and really cut back on a lot of things this year. And you know what? I am not stressed! 🙂

  2. Great advice! Thanks so much for the tip on finding a standard holiday gift (#2). Gonna be a lifesaver.

    Feel free to visit my blog for 4 Tips to Survive Christmas Morning.

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