Photo of a person enjoying a mug of tea surrounded by fall decor.

For many of us, holidays represent a time to gather, celebrate and reconnect with loved ones. However, it can also be a time of stress between hosting demands, gift-giving expectations, complicated family dynamics and large to-do lists. 

No matter how you’re feeling about the holiday season, here are eight tips to help you take care of yourself. 

1. Be intentional

Take a moment to clarify your priorities around the holidays. Being intentional about how you show up this season can help relieve some of the pressures associated with holiday expectations. If you’re not sure how to narrow your priorities or set intentions this year, it may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions. 

  • What are the most important traditions or rituals I want to honor this year? 
  • Who do I want to spend meaningful time with? 
  • What do I want to make time for during my time off? 
  • How do I want to feel (e.g., relaxed, active, busy, etc.) and how can I help make that happen? 
  • What expectations do I want to let go of this year? 

Getting clarity on these aspects of the holidays can help you be more selective about how you spend your time and energy. For instance, if you want to prioritize time with your extended family, you may need to shift your focus away from other tasks, like decorating or tidying. This will allow you to spend more time and energy being fully present with your loved ones. 

2. Quiet your calendar

Winter months tend to be jam-packed with holiday gatherings, family commitments, work parties and other celebrations. Before accepting every invitation, take a moment to reflect on which social events matter the most to you and your family. 

Prioritize the events that you are most excited about, and give yourself permission to say no to the rest. Allowing yourself space to rest, decompress and tend to your needs between occasions can help make the next few months feel more manageable. 

3. Unplug from work

When our minds are focused on things like work, preparing for family, cooking and tracking down gifts, we can miss out on the small moments that make the holiday season magical. That’s why it’s important to disconnect from work, relax our expectation and focus on being present. This year, try to focus on the little things, whether it’s a long-awaited hug from a family member, a chance to wear your favorite cozy sweater or enjoying a hot beverage by the fire.  

If you struggle with disconnecting from work or staying present, here are some quick tips: 

  • Turn off work notifications, including email, chats and work-specific phones. 
  • Store your laptop somewhere you can’t easily see it while you’re on holiday. 
  • Vow to spend less time on social media or the news while you’re with friends or family. 
  • Focus on sharing experiences over material goods. 
  • Set time limits for party planning and online shopping. 
  • Encourage your friends and family to follow these tips as well. 

A special note for supervisors: upervisors play a critical role in whether or not their teams feel at ease taking time off. This year, set and communicate healthy boundaries around work for your employees. For instance, you can set an expectation that team members should not answer emails or take work-related calls while they're taking time off and during campus closures. You can also encourage your team to participate in self-care, catch up with loved ones and enjoy the holidays without worrying about work. Remind yourself that your team needs this time just as much as you do. Chances are you will all come back to the office with a more positive frame of mind to start off the new year. 

4. Share responsibilities

While it’s important to practice self-care over the holiday season, it’s equally important to engage in community care by leaning into your support systems. Unlike self-care, which focuses on how we take care of ourselves, community care emphasizes how we can collectively take care of each other. 

Leaning on others during these hectic times allows us to foster deeper connections, build more robust support systems and improve our overall mental health and well-being in the long term. Here are a few examples of how you can engage in community care and share the load this season: 

  • Opt for a potluck or catering. Hosting family and friends can be stressful, especially if the hosting and cooking duties primarily fall to one person or family. This year, consider hosting a potluck where friends, family and other guests can prepare and share their favorite holiday dishes as a group. Alternatively, you may want to ask everyone to pitch in for a catered meal to share. Both of these options can help reduce the burden of cooking (and cleaning up) a whole holiday meal or party by yourself. 
  • Come together. Lean into your community for support when it comes to hosting overnight guests, preparing meals and cleaning. For instance, if you cook the main meal, you can ask guests to help package leftovers and pitch in during cleanup at the end of the night. Similarly, if a family member is hosting guests for an extended stay, you can offer to help pick them up or drop them off at the airport to help lessen the burden on that person to handle all of the travel logistics. 

5. Prioritize your own peace

Holiday stress can sometimes exaggerate difficult family dynamics or tensions. Here are a couple of tactics you can use to prioritize your own peace. 

  • Setting boundaries up front. Take some time to set boundaries with your loved ones who can be difficult. This may include things like avoiding specific questions or topic areas (e.g., politics, family planning, etc.), setting limits for spending on gifts and other behaviors. 
  • Choosing “and” over “but.” If you find yourself in a difficult conversation with a family member, try to emphasize the word “and” when sharing your point of view. For instance, you may say something like, “I enjoy spending time with you, and at times I get uncomfortable talking politics.” Oftentimes, when we use the word “but,” it can put up a wall or feel defensive because it negates whatever you said first. 
  • Manage substances. The holidays can be perceived as a time to indulge, or in some cases, overindulge. While overindulgance may not have long-lasting negative affects on some, for others it may impact their family rifts, mental health and well-being. Try to avoid indulging too much in things like alcohol or other substances as ways to cope with stress or frustration. Instead, try to nourish your body and emotions through the support of close friends or family, healthy activity, nourishing foods, restful sleep and practicing gratitude. 

6. Adopt an abundant mindset

It’s that time of the year again: marketing emails are filling your inbox and Black Friday sales are starting earlier than ever. Being bombarded with constant messages to consume, buy new things or give the perfect gift can make it hard to remain fully present in this season of gratitude. However, fostering an abundant mindset can be helpful during the holiday season when we face additional pressures to fill our shopping carts. 

Stephen Covey, the bestselling author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, defined an abundant mindset as “when a person believes there are enough resources and successes to share with others.” This year, take some time to not only notice but celebrate the abundance of what you already have, whether it’s the possessions you own, the relationships you have or the activities you’re able to enjoy. 

When we feel a sense of abundance in our lives, it’s also easier to give generously. Donating your time to a local charity or volunteering can provide perspective and help you deepen ties to your community. If you’re not able to donate your time, consider donating other items such as gently used toys, warm jackets or non-perishable food items to organizations in need. 

7. Make time for what you love

Make a list of the activities or hobbies you truly enjoy. These should include things that feel mentally, physically or spiritually rewarding. Try to include simple things like reading a good book, going for walks or crafting. You can also write down more ambitious goals that you’re passionate about reaching, such as writing a novel, running a marathon or starting your own small business. This season, pay attention to the things that you genuinely enjoy doing, and set time aside to pursue them. 

8. Honor those who aren't here

If someone you love has passed away, the holidays can bring a mix of emotions. Allow yourself to not only feel your grief but cherish the fond memories you’ve made together.  

Here are some ways to handle grief during the holidays: 

  • Talk about the person and what you miss most about them. 
  • Share funny stories or memories that you have of them. 
  • Honor that person by hosting a small vigil, visiting their grave site or going to their favorite place in town. 
  • Create traditions around the holidays that make it feel like they are remembered and included.  
  • Seek support from family, friends or professional services. 


You don’t have to manage stress, burnout or other concerns alone. There are resources on campus that are here to support you. 

Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP)

FSAP provides free mental health services for all CU Boulder staff and faculty, including brief individual or couples counseling, community referrals, workshops and support groups.

AcademicLiveCare (ALC)

ALC is a telehealth platform that allows CU Boulder staff, faculty and students to schedule medical and mental health appointments virtually. This is a great option for staff and faculty who are traveling out of state or who want evening, weekend or after-hours support.

The Real Help Hotline

The Real Help Hotline provides access to professional counselors who can offer assistance finding local resources as well as immediate crisis counseling. This program is free, confidential and available to all employees 24/7 by calling 833-533-2428 or texting “TALK” to 38255.

Office of Victim Assistance (OVA)

OVA provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short-term, trauma-focused counseling services for those who have experienced and/or witnessed a traumatic or disturbing event. 

Collegiate Recovery Community (CUCRC)

The CUCRC provides support and connection for students, faculty and staff in recovery or seeking recovery from a wide range of behaviors. They offer weekly meetings, peer-to-peer support, substance-free events and community referrals.