Skip to main content

Coping With Emotional Stress During The Holidays

Nov 28, 2023 ● By Sheila Julson
Headshot of Meena Malhotra, M.D.

Meena Malhotra, M.D. Photo courtesy of Heal n Cure Medical Wellness Center

The holidays are typically a joyous time, but for some, an uptick in social gatherings, financial constraints, family conflicts or loss of a loved one can make the holidays far less merry. Glenview-based integrative physician Meena Malhotra, M.D., shares her tips on how to healthfully navigate holiday challenges.


How can we manage family strife, limited finances or unrealistic expectations during the holidays?

Don’t try to be a superwoman. Today, people are driven by perfection. Social media implies that you have to be perfect. That is not real life. Striving for absolute perfection ultimately leads to stress and imperfection.

Take time to breathe. While stuck in traffic or waiting in long lines at crowded stores, instead of worrying about what you have to do next, or fidgeting with your phone, practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Inhale for a count of four, hold your breath a count of seven and exhale for a count of eight. This stretches the vagus nerve, which can be very calming.

Also, find 20 minutes for yourself during each day. During that time, do not take care of children, spouses or work—you are just taking care of your body, mentally and physically. This is crucial. It is your time when you can soak your feet, meditate, go for a walk or do whatever makes you happy. Give yourself the gift of “me” time.

Exercise increases endorphins, and endorphins increase happiness. Take 20 minutes each day to walk up and down the stairs at your house. Walk on a treadmill or go to a yoga class.


How can people improve their sleep?

Late-night parties or traveling can affect sleep. You should be sleeping eight hours each night. If you feel you cannot sleep because you’re still wound up from a party or dancing, you need to reset your clock. Don’t hesitate to use melatonin.

Other helpful supplements include ashwagandha, which is very good for the adrenals and balances cortisol. Gaba is a calming herb. When the body is balanced and healthy, it has all these things in the right amount, but during unusually busy times, the body needs a little extra support. If you are on medications, check with your doctor to make sure these supplements are compatible.


How do we maintain healthy habits around the temptations of rich holiday buffets and treats?

Stay away from flour, sugar and chemically processed foods. Those kinds of foods affect blood sugar levels. When that happens, it contributes to anxiety. The same is true for alcohol. This doesn’t mean you can’t have dessert, but eat good, real food. Eat organic or organically raised animal products. Commercially raised animals are given hormones to make then grow bigger, better and faster. We consume whatever the animals we eat consume, and unbalanced hormones can increase our anxiety.

There are versions of recipes for brownies or rich chocolate desserts with healthier substitutes like almond flour, stevia or natural sugars. Be open to exploration and learning new recipes. Also, stay hydrated.


What are more effective strategies to better ourselves in the new year?

Don’t make unrealistic resolutions. If you’re overly ambitious and then slip up even once, you’re more likely to give up. Instead, say “I will try my best.” Then the next day, you will try your best again, and so on. That way, you’re not setting yourself up for failure. For example, if you set a goal to exercise for 20 minutes but you’re too tired to continue after 10 minutes, instead of feeling defeated, be happy that you did what you did. When you’re happy, your body heals better.

Heal n Cure Medical Wellness Center is located at 2420 Ravine Way, Ste. 400, in Glenview. For more information, call 847-686-4444 or visit

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings.