5 Self-Care Tips to Avoid Holiday Burn-Out

stressed out woman holding giftsNov 21, 2023

By Caroline Young, MS, RD, LD, RYT

Do the holidays stress you out sometimes? If the answer is yes, you are not alone. In fact, some Americans have reported they are more likely to experience increased stress than decreased stress this time of year (1).

October 31 and January 1 are like the start and finish lines of a celebration marathon, and it can be a joyous time. But it is easy to get caught up in the seemingly endless to-do lists. For many of us, the go-go-go mentality can lead to burn-out, sickness and, well, a bad mood! Here are some ways to keep yourself healthy, mentally and phsyically, during the holidays.

Keep Stress in Check.

When the body is in a constant state of “fight or flight,” hormones go haywire, particularly cortisol (our “stress hormone”), and can lead to weight gain (2).

Find time to slow down, press the pause button, and continue (or start!) self-care practices. Need some ideas? Everyone’s different, but some stress-busters include meditation, journaling, time in nature, yoga and other forms of exercise (Aim for at least 30 minutes, five days a week) (3,4).

Eat Superfoods.

Make nutrient-rich foods the majority of your diet -- start simple by making half your plate veggies. Choose foods high in fiber, protein and good fat, which can help with weight maintenance because they help us feel fuller longer. Every day, include plant-based protein like peanuts and peanut butter, lean poultry and fish, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables (5,6).

When you’re on the party circuit, it’s easier to make sure you eat nourishing foods if you bring your own. Try Glazed Butternut Squash with Peanuts or Garlic and White Bean Dip.

Catch Zzz’s.

In the midst of the holiday hustle, it’s easy to skimp on sleep. But sleep deprivation can throw appetite hormones out of whack, and lead to increased food intake (7).

Shoot for 7-8 hours a night. Before bed, try limiting screen time, drink herbal tea, or do gentle stretches to ensure a restful sleep (8).

Be Mindful & Merry.

Whether it’s mom’s mashed potatoes or a coworker’s homemade cookies, delicious food is everywhere. And while food is fuel, it also serves to bring people together and carry on cultural traditions.Additionally, restricting food can lead to overeating, disordered eating and social isolation.

So, have your holiday treats, but practice mindful eating -- sit down, slow down, listen to your body and savor your food. Practicing mindful eating can help with weight maintenance. Try taking a moment to pause and breathe between bites, and then decide if the third cookie still has the same appeal (9).

And don’t show up to the party ravenous – recipe for disaster. Try a fiber and protein rich snack an hour beforehand. An apple with a spoonful of peanut butter will work (10).

Lay off the Booze.

Going overboard at the bar can make it harder to continue ‘mind’ful eating when the mind is saturated with alcohol.

Nurse your drink and take sips of water in between. Ladies, aimt to stick to an average of one drink per day, and men, aim for two drinks per day. That’s 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine or 1.5 oz. of vodka for each serving, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Bonus: You’ll feel like a million bucks the next morning (11, 12).


1. Holiday Stress. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/12/holiday-stress.pdf. Published December 12, 2006. Accessed November 30, 2017.

2. Wardle J, Chida Y, Gibson EL, Whitaker KL, Steptoe A. Stress and adiposity: a meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011;19(4):771-8.

3. Learn to manage stress: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Learn to manage stress: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001942.htm. Accessed October 13, 2016.

4. Recommendations for Physical Activity - NHLBI, NIH. U.S National Library of Medicine. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/phys/recommend. Accessed October 13, 2016.

5. Fiber: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Fiber: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002470.htm. Accessed October 13, 2016.

6. Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Lemmens SG, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein – its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health. British Journal of Nutrition. 2012;108(S2). doi:10.1017/s0007114512002589.

7. Shlisky J, Hartman T, Kris-Etherton P. Partial Sleep Deprivation and Energy Balance in Adults: An Emerging Issue for Consideration by Dietetics Practitioners. 2012;112(11):1785-1797. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2012.07.032.

8. How Much Sleep Is Enough? - NHLBI, NIH. U.S National Library of Medicine. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/howmuch. Accessed October 13, 2016.

9, Mathieu J. What Should You Know About Mindful and Intuitive Eating? Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009:109(12):1982-1987. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2009.10.023.

10. Neumark-Sztainer D, Wall M, Guo J, Story M, Haines J, Eisenberg M. Obesity, Disordered Eating, and Eating Disorders in a Longitudinal Study of Adolescents: How Do Dieters Fare 5 Years Later? Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2006;106(4):559-568. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2006.01.003.

11, Alcohol use and safe drinking: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Alcohol use and safe drinking: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001944.htm. Accessed October 13, 2016.

12. Appendix 9. Alcohol. Home of the Office of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-9/. Accessed October 13, 2016.

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