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The Ultimate Holiday Survival Guide for Empaths & Highly Sensitive People

Updated: Dec 18, 2022

Quick, easy, and practical tips to get you through the holidays with a genuine smile on your face–no booze required!

The Holidays & Highly Sensitive People

The holidays have a mystical, magical, slightly invasive way of completely taking over our lives. Perhaps it’s the bells constantly jingle-jangle-ing, maybe it’s the twinkling, sometimes seizure-inducing LED lights, but even people who seem to have their shit together can be found feeling frazzled, fatigued, and overwhelmed this time of year.

For empaths and highly sensitive people, the holidays may make you feel like you’re competing in the Feelings Olympics. All the small talk, social obligations, and pressure to make each moment feel like a Hallmark movie could leave you feeling like burnt toast come New Year’s.

But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if you could fulfill every social obligation, buy every gift on your list, and still have the energy to spare for that dreaded office Christmas party?

I recently watched the movie “Bad Moms Christmas” (Mila Kunis + Kathryn Hahn + Kristen Bell = hilarious female humor we can all relate to). In the movie, the three main characters, feeling disempowered and bested by Christmas, vow to take the holidays back into their own hands.

Unencumbered by traditions and tiresome commitments, they have a blast starting new traditions like going to the trampoline park instead of the symphony and going sledding with their kids instead of caroling.

Was there some underlying guilt felt? Yes. Were there family members getting butthurt? Yup. But at the end of the movie, everyone agreed that Christmas is in the heart, not the parties, the food, the music, or the meaningless crap we buy for each other.

If your holiday season is getting lost in tradition, consider switching things up and putting yourself first, for once. Because the holidays are all about love and joy, two things you can’t pour from an empty cup. Here are some best practices to avoid that holiday burnt-toast feeling.

Best Practices

Take Time for Yourself

Before you say, “well duh” and immediately stop reading this article - just hear me out! Like I said before, you can’t pour from an empty cup (moms, looking at you). Imagine you, living out your dream day. Is it filled with tasks, to-do lists, and a bunch of chores you’re doing for others? Probably not.

To live out the holiday of your dreams, that feeling has to start from within. When you take just a few minutes for yourself each day, the laughs will come easier, the gifts will seem givier, and the cookies will taste sweeter.

If you're looking for some specific self-care ideas, take a look at my Holiday Self-Care Checklist at the bottom of this article. I've got the whole day laid out for you :)

So, consider this your official invitation to self-indulge this holiday season. Note, I didn’t say over-indulge. If you’re an empath or highly sensitive person, your soul may be craving a quick moment with yourself even more than those homemade snickerdoodles. Here’s what this time could look like for you:


Meditation, especially when it includes some type of structured breathwork, is an awesome way to slow down and connect with yourself this holiday season. Not only can meditation cool you down in a heated moment, but it can even help to prevent these uncomfortable feelings in the first place! No more rushing to the bathroom or taking a walk around the block each time your sister makes a snide comment.


Let’s face it, we could all use some extra endorphins when it comes to the holidays. Like meditation, physical activity helps us to maintain a healthy energetic balance through situations that may otherwise cause us stress. Sexy bonus: the calories you burn exercising can help you justify that second (or third) helping of Christmas cookies. You’re already spending time with family–you don’t need to be sugar-deprived, too!


This is probably one of the first things that get tossed aside when it comes to the holidays. When you’re shopping, traveling, and wrapping up all those end-of-year projects at work, who has time to sleep, right?! Girl, don’t do it to yourself.

Experts suggest getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night–even Christmas Eve! Even though we grew up, a lot of us adults still feel the need to be up-and-at-em first thing Christmas morning. We’ve got breakfast to cook, stockings to stuff, and most importantly, coffee to make.

Set yourself up for success around the holidays by getting as much done as you can the night before your big plans. Pre-make your breakfast casserole the night before, so you can just pop it in the oven. Set your coffee to brew on a timer, and save yourself the stress by having all gifts wrapped and under the tree as soon as humanly possible.

Set Boundaries

Boundaries can be really scary, especially if you are a recovering people-pleaser who may have never set a boundary before! But trust, there is no better way to hack the holidays than to politely say “No” when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Setting boundaries this time of year may look like this:

  • RSVP-ing “No” to your neighbor’s annual Christmas Eve Party. Yes, they may see you inside, cuddled up on the couch, watching Judge Judy, but your mental health is much more important than their headcount. Life’s too short to go to parties you’d rather not attend.

  • Creating a Gift List Budget. There’s no reason for you to go into debt just to buy your niece the newest American Girl Doll. Set a total spend maximum and work backward from there. You could even suggest your family did a fun game this year, instead of exchanging gifts with everyone. If you’ve never laughed so hard you peed a little on your grandma’s rug during a rousing game of White Elephant, are you even living??

  • Avoid Situations That You Know Will Make You Uncomfortable. Are you sober, but feel obligated to attend your best friend’s BYOB Ugly Sweater Party? Just have a miscarriage, but your sister-in-law still asked you to take her kids to see mall Santa? Shitty things happen to all of us. It’s up to you to do what you need to heal, recover, and live your life in alignment with your desires. Also worth mentioning, you should never make decisions about your own life based on guilt.

Give What You Can

Giving truly is better than receiving. Instead of thinking of each gift you give as a material item you can find on Amazon, consider what YOU and only YOU have to give. Generally speaking, the things we are good at doing, typically come naturally to us. By identifying your inherent gifts, you can create a strategy of giving this season that will feel easy and hopefully, even pleasurable for YOU!

If you are an event planner, offer to coordinate Mom’s Cookie Swap this year. If you’re a graphic designer, suggest creating the flyer for your dad’s annual Pancake & Sausage Breakfast. Are you a good listener? Check in on your friends and family throughout the season and be there for them to vent.

If you’re not sure what your special offer would be, ask your bestie how you can best support them this season. Or, better yet, ask them what they think your innate gift is. Maybe it’s something as simple as your ability to crack some jokes in uncomfortable situations or even that you make an amazon carrot cake.

Final Thoughts

I’d like to end this article by acknowledging the fact that not all of us have the privilege or ability to be with our family for the holidays. If this is your experience, I hope you have extended or chosen family to celebrate with or lean on for support if you’re feeling isolated.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health this holiday season, Crisis Text Line offers free support, 24/7,365 days of the year.

So much love,


Holiday Self-Care Checklist
Download PDF • 40KB


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