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Journaling through the Holidays

How Personal Writing Can Ease Stress and Bring
More Joy to the Season

by Tina M. Games

While the holiday season can be quite joyous, it can also bring up a lot of stress and overwhelm - and for some, it can stir up feelings of pain or loneliness.

According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 110 million Americans take medication for stress-related causes each week. And when the holidays come along, people already predisposed to stress can find themselves feeling blue and more anxious than usual. Even those who don't ordinarily feel stressed under the pressure of events or deadlines, still find that the holiday season can play havoc on day-to-day routines.

So what can we do?

“Plan for stress,” say the experts - just like you plan ahead for any calamity you want to avoid. The more prepared you are for the upcoming schedule, the more relaxed you’ll feel going into it.

During the holiday season, I always think of the film, "It's a Wonderful Life." It seems to capture the "heaviness" that can come around this time of year, with a gentle reminder to really appreciate the smaller things in our lives. It requires a mindset shift - a change in our perspective.

The good news is you don't have to let stress ruin your holidays. You can begin this shift in perspective by pinpointing what you're anxious about.

  • Are you feeling stressed because you're not going to be able to fulfill your children's gift requests?
  • Are you and your partner wrangling over holiday expenses?
  • Are you overloaded with too many invitations and don’t know how to say no?
  • Are you feeling left out because your friends are enjoying the season and you're not?

Start by considering your attitude. There's no magic bullet, but your attitude can make a difference. Ask yourself, "Is my situation a small, medium or large problem? How upset do I want to get over it, and for how long?"

Look at the possibilities around you, not the restrictions.

Learn to recognize common holiday triggers, so you can disarm them before they lead to a meltdown.

  • Relationships - Relationships can cause turmoil, conflict or stress at any time, but tensions are often heightened during the holidays. Family misunderstandings and conflicts can intensify, especially if you're thrust together for several days. On the other hand, facing the holidays without a loved one can be tough and leave you feeling lonely and sad.
  • Finances - With the added expenses of gifts, travel, food and entertainment, the holidays can put a strain on your budget and your peace of mind. Not to mention that overspending now, can mean financial worries for months to come.
  • Physical demands - Even die-hard holiday enthusiasts may find that the extra shopping and socializing can leave them wiped out. Being exhausted increases your stress, creating a vicious cycle. Exercise and sleep - good antidotes for stress and fatigue - may take a back seat to chores and errands. And to top it off, burning the candle at both ends makes you more susceptible to colds and other types of health issues, both physical and mental.

The key is - don't forget to take care of yourself during all the busyness! Take a few minutes for meditation or journaling, or perhaps an hour for a morning run or walk, or a good stretch during yoga.

As an avid journal writer, I find that dumping my anxieties out in my personal journal helps clear the space for me to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. This one simple act helps me turn overwhelm on its head and look at it from a different viewpoint.

Here are a few journaling prompts that can support you during a hectic holiday season. They're broken down into categories (based on the type of journal writing prompt).


These are simple statements or questions that help you focus and clarify your writing. Like the diving board at the swimming pool, they provide a jumping-off place.

  • What brings me peace?
  • How (and/or what) do I want to celebrate this holiday season?
  • As this year closes, I choose to let go of ____
  • This holiday season, I need ____
  • My stress triggers are ____

Captured Moments

These are captured images in our mind that freeze a moment in time. They are usually brief (often two or three paragraphs) and focus on the sensory descriptions of an event.

  • My best (Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year’s) ever
  • My most challenging (Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year’s/holiday) ever
  • A memorable Christmas morning
  • A memorable holiday family dinner

List of 100

Lists are great for clarifying, itemizing, gathering and noticing. Lists of 100 are particularly useful when you want to find out what's going on beneath the surface of an issue or you just want to clear your mind. And it's okay to repeat yourself (it just means it's important)!

  • Gifts you’d like to give to the world
  • Ways to a peaceful heart
  • Ways to cope
  • Things that cause me stress during the holiday season
  • My “holiday” to do list

Unsent Letters

Because the whole point of an unsent letter is NOT to send it, you'll benefit from the opportunity to get as angry, sad, swoony, unreasonable, silly or indignant as you want. Unsent letters are a safe, satisfying way to release pent-up energy.

  • Someone who has passed on
  • Family member you're having a struggle with
  • Disappointment
  • The year 2013

Tapping into Your Inner Wisdom

When we take the time to really go inside ourselves, we always know the right answer. Choose a question (or two) that is relevant to "self" during the holiday season. Some examples are:

  • How can I stay calm?
  • How might I contribute to peace on earth, good will toward all?
  • What is the message of the season for me?
  • How can I embody the true meaning of the holidays?
  • What is my next right action with (someone with whom you’re having difficulty)?

Journal writing is an excellent way to ease holiday stress and to minimize or make sense of any pain or loneliness that may surface during this time of year.

Here's to the power of journaling through the holiday season!

You’re a mom, but who are you really? This book and journaling card deck gently guides mothers on a journey through the moon phases as they explore their most authentic self and begin to connect the dots that lead to a life filled with purpose, passion, and creative expression.

Being Thankful for Everyday Gifts - Gratitude Journaling E-course by Tina M. Games. A gratitude journal can be instrumental in creating a more positive way of thinking. It can help you appreciate small pleasures – and support you in graciously accepting the many wonderful things you have in your life. This 30-day e-course is designed to guide you on a journey of gratitude and celebration through the art of journal writing.

Tina M. Games is the author of Journaling by the Moonlight: A Mother's Path to Self-Discovery (an interactive book with an accompanying deck of 54 journaling prompt cards).

As a certified creativity coach and life purpose intuitive, she is the "Moonlight Muse" for women who want to tap into the "full moon within" and claim their authentic self, both personally and professionally.

Through her signature coaching programs, based on the phases of the moon, Tina gently guides women from darkness to light as they create an authentic vision filled with purpose, passion and creative expression.

For more information about her work, please visit: where you can receive her 12 best tips for journal writing.