The Princess, the Pea and the Holidays

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

The holidays bring with them extra family, travel, food (usually the not-so-healthy kind), money-spending, crowds, and stress. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard enough time managing my stress on a “normal” day.

I require a low stimulating, non-demanding environment in order to remain relatively sane. I call it the “Princess and the Pea syndrome.” If you recall the children’s story written by Hans Christian Andersen, there was a princess sleeping on a dozen or so soft mattresses, and the only way to know if she was a true princess was to test her physical sensitivity by placing a pea under the bottom mattress to see if she felt it while trying to sleep.

If you are like me and the princess, then keep reading as I share the ways in which I limit stimuli to my hypersensitive system, thereby managing my holiday stress:

Family Events:

Show up late. Leave early. Tell them you have diarrhea. Who’s going to try guilting you into staying if you say you have diarrhea? Ha ha! Just kidding – don’t lie.

What I say is that I am not feeling well, which is true if my body and mind have reached their limits. Fatigue, tension in my neck and shoulders, headaches, and chills or sweating are all signs that I am beginning to experience anxiety and it is time for me to scadaddle.


If in the car or airport for any length of time, make sure you have ways to block out extraneous sensory input, which to me is anything beyond someone honking their horn at you for weaving into their lane, or at the airport, the attendant calling for finally boarding on your flight.

Some ways I block out extra stimuli when traveling include listening to relaxing music through earphones. Sometimes I leave the ear buds in even when there is no music playing because strangers or even my kids are less likely to make small talk or bother me if they think I am listening to something.

Bring sunglasses! I don’t have a problem just shutting my eyes no matter where I am – in the airport, a restaurant, or on someone’s couch. Closing my eyes, even if just for a minute or two, really keeps me from becoming visually overstimulated.


Eat a carrot for every cookie you inhale. Do I do this? No. But it’s a good idea, right?

Shopping crowds:

Online, baby! Unless your lap is overpopulated.

I hope some of these suggestions help you manage your holiday stress this week. What do you do to decrease stress during the holidays?  Please share in the comment section below.


P.S. December 31, 2012 is the deadline for submissions to Turtle Way‘s next issue. Turtle Way is Write into the Light’s online mental health journal. See submission guidelines here.


Shine Your Light!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s