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  • Writer's pictureShannon Wiggins

5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress

An overwhelmed woman lying face down surrounded by holiday gifts and wrapping paper
Holiday stress and burnout

The holidays are fast approaching, and you know what that means-- Food, family, friends, and… STRESS. It’s an unfortunate truth that as wonderful as the holiday season may be, it often comes with a healthy (and sometimes not so healthy) dose of stress. It’s to be expected, but if you’re not careful to keep it in check, it can ruin your holiday festivities, make you dread the holidays in the future, and, in the most unfortunate cases, lead to long-term mental health issues.


Stress is a natural response the mind and body has when it feels the demands placed on it are more than it can handle. And it happens to all of us. So why is it the holidays seem to kick the stress factor up a notch? Well, it’s because you suddenly have multiple “new” demands placed on you. Any one of these demands alone may not be such a big deal, but when you compound them with all the other holiday requirements at once, you suddenly have the recipe for a stress cocktail.

Speaking of recipes, for example, you may not feel stressed out about cooking for your family on a regular day to day basis, but if you’re cooking for a larger holiday crowd you might start to feel some pressure. Now, just for fun, let’s add in the fact that you need to clean your house so no one will know how you really live your guests are comfortable, you need to get some festive decorations up and you’re trying to master a traditional family recipe. Any one of these things may not normally give you pause. However, when you throw them all together… Some of the same activities you do every day, but now they’re causing stress.

So how to you manage your holiday to do list and still enjoy a stress-free holiday? Start by checking out my 5 tips to avoid holiday stress below!

A letter board with the message "its almost time to switch from my everyday anxiety to my festive Christmas anxiety
Festive anxiety letter board

1. Get organized—Often times, we feel overwhelmed because we know we have a lot to do, but we aren’t clear on what all the tasks actually are. This can lead to us building up a vague to do list in our minds that seems like a mountain that needs to be conquered. What’s worst, not getting organized often leads to procrastination, one of the leading causes of stress (at least for me anyway). When we don’t know exactly what we need to do, we tend to put it off. So, carve out some time, sit down, and make a list of all the things you want/need to get done for the holidays.

2. Learn to prioritize—Now that you have your master to do list, begin to prioritize what absolutely needs to be done and in what order. This year, I’ve decided to make the majority of my Christmas gifts for family and friends, so I know that needs to be at the top of my list. I want to ensure I give myself enough time to do this task, because if I don’t get them made, I’ll be extremely stressed and worse, feel horrible if the day arrives and I’m empty handed. I’m also hosting dinner for my family this year, so at some point I’ll need to make the menu and do the grocery shopping, but that task can wait closer to the day of.

3. Trim the fat—For some reason, this time of year makes us want to turn into some type of holiday superhero, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound (or maybe just tackle every single holiday task and tradition ever created). But the truth is, we can’t do all the things. Going back to the to do list you made when you sat down and got organized, you now need to go through the task you didn’t mark as a priority and see what you can simply take off the list. Be extremely realistic with yourself. Not everything on your list is going to get done, so make the decision up front of what to cut out. This gives you control of what’s going on, which is great, because the sense of a lack of control is a huge contributing factor to stress.

4. Take a shortcut—Remember how I said I still need to make the menu and go grocery shopping? I’ll be taking a shortcut and ordering groceries online. That way I can avoid the crowds and work on something else during the time that I would be at the grocery store. And don’t tell my family (or do, because I don’t think they’ll mind), but I plan on finding and taking as may shortcuts as possible with dinner this year as well. So, not everything will be made from scratch, but it’ll still taste yummy and I’ll actually be able to enjoy more time with my family! And those gifts I’m working on? I’ll be utilizing lots of gift bags this year, because it cuts down on the time needed for wrapping gifts. Which means more time for fitting in some Christmas movies with the hubby and munchkin!

5. Cut yourself some slack—Again, we’re not holiday superheroes, only mere mortals. If you can’t do everything you wanted, including buying the kiddos everything on their wish list, give yourself a break. While the holidays maybe have become skewed by shopping lists and to do lists and living up to family tradition expectations, what’s really important is the love behind it all. Make the conscious effort to not allow the whirlwind of the holiday season to cause you to lose focus on what it’s really all about. If you couldn’t afford that gift this holiday, get it for them sometime in the following year. Bonus points if it’s a surprise on a random day! Think of how special it’ll be to them then. Don’t think you’ll be able to out up all the decoration? No big deal! It’s better to feel festive than to look festive.


So, I hope these 5 tips are helpful in helping you tame that holiday stress and get back to enjoying the time with family and friends!

What do you do to keep calm during the holidays? Let me know in the comments below!


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Revised 12/11/23


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