Thriving in the New Normal//

10 Rituals That Will Reduce Your Stress and Boost Your Well-being During the Holidays

The self-care ideas everyone needs during a pandemic holiday season.

PeopleImages/ Getty Images
PeopleImages/ Getty Images

You already know that rituals and habits can help boost our mood and lower stress. Now new research shows that they can be especially healing and restorative during the holiday season, when so many people experience heightened feelings of stress and fatigue. Especially during this destabilizing year, the holiday rituals we take on can help us recharge, reset, and combat the anxiety and unease we might be feeling.

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the small rituals that help them recharge, and how they’ll be implementing them during the holidays. Which of these will you try?

Daily gratitude calls

“I used to have a pre-Thanksgiving ritual where I’d thank all the folks who have contributed to my growth. I’m extending that ritual this year by thanking at least one mentor, manager, or supporter each day during the holiday season. With each call, I try to express the reason I’m reaching out, what impact was made on me, and how that legacy lives on. The response to my gratitude has been overwhelming. It’s so important to remind others of the impact they’ve had on you.”

—Stacy Cassio, CEO, Charlotte, N.C.

Lunchtime strolls 

“One of the best stress-relieving rituals I’ve implemented during this uneasy time has been my walk with my wife each day at noon. By separating from the home office and getting some fresh air, we are thriving together. We listen to one another, make plans, discuss challenges, and enjoy the outdoors. Even on rainy days, we can go out with jackets and soak in the fresh air. It has changed our lives for the better because it provides the needed release from our separate work environments. It’s a ritual that has allowed us to enjoy nature, exercise together, and grow as a couple as we head into the holiday season.”

—Scott Miller, marketing director, Wilmington, DE

Cold water ocean dips

“I’ve started doing daily dips in the ocean, just for two or three minutes at a time. My friend introduced me to cold water immersion for its health benefits, which includes boosting your mood. It’s been totally game-changing for me. I’m two weeks in and don’t see myself stopping! The science to back this is fascinating as long as you’re in good health, and with a doctor’s clearance of course!”

—Gillian Goerzen, body positive health coach, Nanaimo, B.C., Canada

Bedtime reflections 

“One ritual that helps me recharge is something I do with my son when tucking him in every night. We both share two things that went well that day, and one thing we wish could have gone better. What I love about this ritual is that it leaves room for improvement, while keeping the majority of the focus on the good things in life, which always exist alongside the bad. I call this our ‘grounded and grateful’ ritual. I find I sleep better when we do this together, and those few minutes are always my favorite time of the day.”

—Joe Kwon, executive coach, Oakland, N.J.

Short journaling sessions

“I dedicate 15 minutes to writing in my daily journal each morning before my workday begins. I first start my journal entry with three things I’m grateful for, which can range from the lovely rain outside to the support of my family to my dog, Selah. Then, I start writing as if I’m talking to my best friend, letting out my joys, celebrations, and frustrations. When those fifteen minutes are over, I feel ready to take on my day. Any harsh self-judgments or thoughts weighing me down, I leave on the paper. I started this ritual in January, and I can confidently say it has changed how I conduct myself in my personal and professional relationships.”

—Juan Brizuela, PR manager and consultant, New York, NY

Mindful reading

“I start my day by reading a few pages from a favorite book. Reading the words of my favorite authors about mindfulness, connection, and life helps to ground me and returns me to a space of what’s truly important to me before I start the day. During the holidays, I will keep this ritual close to heart, as I welcome the opportunity to be with close family members, focusing on being with them just as they are, rather than trying to change or fix them. Though the holiday season brings to a culmination the many challenges we have experienced this year, my morning reading allows me to start each day with a few words from the wise.”

—Sophia Godkin, health psychologist, Boise, ID

Tidying up 

“I have developed a ritual during COVID that boosts my mood and gives me a great sense of satisfaction: cleaning the house. Prior to COVID, I was fortunate to have a maid service twice a month. When the pandemic hit, I became the maid service — and I am still enjoying the instant gratification of cleaning. I also appreciate the exercise of bending, standing, scrubbing, and lifting. I love listening to an audiobook while I tidy up.”

—Donna Peters, career coach, business podcast host, Atlanta, GA

“Better-mood makeup”

“One ritual that helps me reset every morning is putting on some makeup for the day, even if I’m not going out or going to show my face on a Zoom call. It makes me feel as though I’ve pampered and put myself first. I have noticed that if I skip this step, my day isn’t as productive. When I don’t skip it, I get more tasks done than I had planned for and carry myself with a little more confidence throughout the day.”

—Amal Mehic, process engineer, Syracuse, NY

Daily check-ins with yourself

“One ritual that is helping me recharge and maintain perspective this season is doing a mini check-in with myself. I used to do this when I was undergoing chemotherapy. I had an alarm on my phone set for three different times during the day, asking me, ‘Lana, how are you?’ That little check-in reminds me to take a moment to breathe, take a pause, and think about how my body and mind feel at that moment. I do these check-ins now regularly throughout the day — and not just with myself, but also with the rest of my family and friends.”

—Lana Jelenjev, community alchemist, The Netherlands 

Early morning dog walks

“Taking a walk in the cool, crisp morning air has become a new ritual that has forced me out of bed earlier than normal and allowed me to enjoy a peaceful walk before tackling the day. Of course, a new puppy made this new ritual possible.  What initially seemed to be a chore has turned into a welcome start to each day.”

—Marta Rzeszowska Chavent, change and management consultant, France 

Which ritual are you implementing this holiday season to boost your well-being? Share with us in the comments!

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