Tips to De-Stress Over the Holidays


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Positive EnergyWhile the holidays are a cherished time to spend with family and friends it can also be a stressful time trying to juggle all the additional demands of this season. This can be particularly challenging for empaths or sensitive people who tend to absorb the stressful energy of others.

To successfully navigate the strain of the holidays it’s important to learn to de-stress. Consider making your home as a place of retreat, not merely a stop off point to plop yourself after work, or stare at the TV, or inhale a fast-food dinner. Happily, it doesn’t take much, to instead think of your home as a haven.

The way to start is to create a sacred space, a self-fashioned altar, which can’t easily be intruded upon. It’s a specific location in your home, a refuge where you can kick off your shoes, breathe deeply again, meditate, and re-join yourself and Spirit. Just knowing you have your own spot can be reassuring, offers a back-up when things are falling apart. Your sacred space may be in a separate bedroom, nook, or alcove, or it can become part of an office in your home. My patients who have young children and limited square footage, often assemble one out of reach in their closets. Wherever you choose, it’s ideal to be able to shut the door. Also to select a site where guests don’t go, one you can designate “off limits” to your kids or mate, at least for blocks of time. A sacred space isn’t supposed to be a conversation piece, but rather a refueling sanctuary.

When your life gets busy or for ongoing energy refreshers go to your sacred space. Think of it as a vacation spot. No matter how stressed you are or how your mind is reeling, sitting in this atmosphere of stillness slows everything down and is centering.

Here are additional tips to creating your own scared space and home retreats from my book, Positive Energy.

Scout your home for a location for which you feel an affinity. Your choice may be obvious, or require some imagination. If you’re not sure, audition locations for privacy and comfort. See how they feel. You don’t have to make this a big production: start with a candle; light it; close your eyes. Then sit quietly focusing on your breath while actively meditating on opening your heart. Even five minutes can lessen frustration or fatigue, but you can stay longer. After meditating in the same spot, a vortex of positive energy builds. All that heart percolating in one locale. Some of my patients also use this space to think out decisions, mull the day, or write in their journals. You can try that too. Gradually bring items there that spiritually uplift, beautify, or contain meaning: flowers, shells, a photo of your dog or other intimates, or holy talismans and symbols, conventionally religious or not.

Use your scared space use as a retreat to eliminate external impositions that gnaw at your energy. The open-ended time you spend in your retreat to meditate, contemplate, listen to beautiful music, read poetry, even be silent, fills your well with positive energy and helps you to de-stress from life’s challenges.

There are various options for home retreats.

  • If you live alone create your own: pick a time, get coverage for business or other concerns, turn off the phones, and dive into whatever replenishes.
  • With a mate, you can plan a joint retreat, a deep and quiet intimacy. Together determine the length, preferred activities, and how you want to design it. Your retreat may be spent separately or with one another.
  • If you’re comfortable with your mate being at home but not participating, agree on parameters: How long is your retreat? Are you going to interact? Be silent? Would you prefer the TV off? The phone unplugged in specified rooms? No knocking on your door? Negotiate and observe these terms.
  • If your mate can’t or doesn’t want to take a home retreat, go solo. Choose an agreed upon period when he or she is out. Sensitively, say, “This is a time to recharge myself. It means so much to me that you respect this.” Then, to avoid intrusions, set a specific point to rendezvous later. Some mates will understand; with others it’s a process of gentle education.
  • If you have young children, a home retreat is a much bigger challenge. For you to have peace, they must be out of the house, so you’ll need to arrange for child care. Otherwise you’ll always have an ear open for them. Also, like some of my exhausted parent-patients you might find you fall asleep during this lull. That’s fine too; think of it as a period of hallowed replenishment.
  • Home retreats take household planning and good communication with family. The effort is well worth it. Retreats are a merciful pardon from the daily grind. They spare us the schlepping of travel and provide a geographically desirable strategy to cultivate energy in a frenetic world.

    Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear into Vibrance, Strength, and Love



    Judith Orloff, MD is a New York Times bestselling author with the upcoming book The Genius of Empathy: Practical Skills to Heal Yourself, Your Relationships and the World (Foreword by the Dalai Lama). She has also written The Empath’s Survival Guide and Thriving as an Empath, which offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people. She integrates the pearls of conventional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, empathy, energy medicine, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice and online internationally. Her work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and USA Today. Dr. Orloff has spoken at Google-LA, TEDx U.S. and TEDx Asia. More information about Dr. Orloff’s Empathy Training Programs for businesses, The Empath Survival Guide Online Course and speaking schedule at

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