Elizabeth Chung
4 min
11 Stress-Busting Tips

11 Stress-Busting Tips for the Busiest Time of Year

With 29 percent of giving occurring in December, the mere thought of holiday fundraising can be enough to send nonprofit professionals into a tailspin. The year-end rush to wrap things up and cross off to-dos can make your blood pressure spike.

That’s why we’ve rounded up a few stress-busting tips to help you calm your nerves and recharge, so you can power through the biggest days of the year. With these techniques in hand, you can kick stress to the curb, take year-end fundraising by the lapels, and finish off on a high note with a happier, healthier you.

Pro Tip
While these stress-busting tips are especially helpful during the end of the year, they can be used to combat stress at any time or season.

1. Prime Your Body for Better Sleep With a Bedtime Routine

Get the sleep you need before the big day with a soothing activity before bed. According to sleep specialists, it’s important to establish a transition between wake time and nighttime in order to turn off anxious thoughts and prepare your body for sleep. Set aside at least 30 minutes before bedtime to wind down with a good book, a warm bath, stretches, or relaxation exercises.

When you establish a calming pre-sleep ritual, you can separate your precious sleep time from the day’s events and fully recharge. And if your brain is still buzzing about tomorrow’s to-do list, try writing it down and setting it aside ‘til the morning.

2. Start Your Day With Lemon Water

stress-busting tip: lemon water

Jumpstart your morning the right way with a large glass of lemon water. This healthy habit will help rehydrate your body, flush your digestive system, and stimulate your liver to increase bile production—an acid that aids digestion. The lemon, packed with vitamin C, can also help clear up your skin and boost your immune system to kick any nasty colds.

In the morning, squeeze the juice of a quarter to half a lemon into a glass of water at room temperature, and drink up. It’s important that the water is warmer to improve digestion and encourage health benefits to kick in.

3. Get Your Body Moving

Exercise is a fantastic stress-reliever that pumps up feel-good endorphins, enhances your mood, and gets you a better night’s sleep.

Fit a short workout—even if just a 10-minute walk before work—into your last day of the year. Head outdoors for best results, since natural sunlight can release serotonin in your brain, lifting your mood and helping you feel calm.

4. Indulge in Delightful Smells

Spark a scent and flare those nostrils—research shows that aromatherapy can relieve stress. The smell of lavender, in particular, creates a calming effect that reduces anxiety levels. Use a lavender-scented candle or air freshener in your office, treat your body to a scented body wash or lotion, or massage a bit of essential oil into your wrists and temples.

5. Snack on Dark Chocolate

stress-busting tip: dark chocolate

It’s time for your inner chocoholic to take a bite out of year-end stress. Amid research that suggests chocolate relieves stress, one 2009 study confirms that eating 40 grams of dark chocolate everyday for two weeks reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and catecholamines, “flight-or-fight” hormones produced in response to stress. Other studies also show that dark chocolate can lower blood pressure and risk of heart attacks or strokes. The flavonol antioxidants in cocoa help reduce blood pressure and improve blood flow.

Munch on a bit of dark chocolate during your work day. Since processed foods contain fewer flavonols, opt for dark chocolate with 70 percent cocoa content or more.

6. Sip on Tea

Rather than revving up on coffee, opt for tea to calm those nerves. To investigate its effects on stress recovery, one study compared two sets of participants: one group that drank a black tea beverage four times a day for six weeks, and another that drank a fake tea beverage for the same amount of time. After experiencing a stressful event, those who drank the black tea had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Even just the ritual of brewing tea—taking a couple minutes from your day, hearing the sound of the kettle—may help you start to relax.

7. Turn on Some Relaxing Jams

Research shows that music can alter your mood and body. Relieve your stress by listening to calming music while you work. Consider experimenting with some light jazz or classical numbers, or relax and focus to rain, thunder, or other nature sounds. Or simply go wild and mix and match your own soothing soundscape.

You might even notice that the background noise helps you focus and problem solve. Researchers have found that a moderate level of ambient noise improves creativity for most people.

8. Take a Moment to Write a Thank You note

stress-busting tip: write a thank you note

When your year-end tasks feel overwhelming, taking time to appreciate what you have can really put things in perspective. Research consistently shows that gratitude helps people feel happier, improve their health, handle hardships, and nurture relationships.

Take a moment to write down a few things you’re thankful for from this past year. Or, better yet, send a quick thank you note or text to someone who has made a mark on your life. One study found that participants who delivered a letter to someone thanking them for their kindness demonstrated a huge boost in personal happiness.

9. Proofread Your Emails for December 31

With 12 percent of all charitable gifts being made in the last three days of the year, it’s important to maximize this opportunity by sending at least two emails on December 31. Pull up your last emails for the year and do a once-over for spelling and grammar.

If you haven’t written a second email yet, don’t panic. Just whip up a quick message to go out in the evening that a) counts down the number of hours left, and b) emphasizes donors’ last chance to lock in their tax-deductible gifts for the year. It can be as short as, “Three hours left to make your tax-deductible donation!” A deadline can hike up a sense of urgency and compel donors to act fast.

10. Schedule Your Thank You Email Ahead of Time

You’re working hard to get those year-end appeals out, but scratch one more thing off of your list before December 31: your thank you email. You don’t want to have to worry about emailing donors when you wake up after your New Year’s celebrations.

Instead, prep your follow-up message ahead of time and set it to fire off first thing on January 1. When you’re enjoying a leisurely New Year’s Day with loved ones, you’ll be glad you took care of this ahead of time.

11. Be Kind to Yourself

We are often our own worst critics. In the midst of your day, start paying attention to your self-talk. Would you speak to a best friend the way you’re speaking to yourself? If not, replace those unhealthy, negative thoughts with positive ones. Give yourself an inner pep talk and remind yourself you’re doing a great job. You really are—believe it!


At the end of the day, take a breather and know that whatever’s going to happen is going to happen. Be proud of all of the incredible work you’ve accomplished in 2016. Now it’s time to kick off your shoes, grab a cocktail, and ring in the New Year!


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