Coping with Holiday Stress



When the first of November rolls around and I start to see the word “holiday” crop up in advertisements I break out in a cold sweat.  I know that in a few short weeks it is Thanksgiving and then the countdown begins.  Every year I say that I am not going to get stressed so that I can enjoy the planning and the preparation.  Here are some very helpful tips that I hope will help me over the next few weeks!

Get organized:

Grab a calendar and set it where you can see it.  Keep a short list of the things you have to accomplish each week.  Time block a half an hour a day to get that holiday checklist done so that at the end of the week, you have set aside 3.5 hours to get something done.  For example:  this week I am updating my holiday card address list and putting it into a spreadsheet.  By the time I am ready to send out my cards, I know I will have a spreadsheet that I can convert into mailing labels to easily print out!

Stay within your Budget:

Nothing stresses us out more at holiday time than money.  Figuring out a budget ahead of time and sticking with that budget will go a long way to helping keep your stress level down.  I start in November by making a list of everyone I need to buy for and figure out an appropriate amount to spend on each based on my finances for the year.  Now is also a good time to talk to family about the gift-giving plan for the holidays.  Maybe this year you start doing a grab bag for the adults.  You will be surprised that others are thinking about this exact topic as well and are equally as stressed! 

Be realistic:

One year at Thanksgiving my friend I decided we were so busy that we were going to make a reservation at a restaurant for our two families to enjoy the holiday together and we wouldn’t have to cook.  Both sets of our kids were so upset that we weren’t cooking!  Yet it turned out to be one of our favorite memories for both families.  We’ve all heard this retort when we try to do something different around this time: “But it’s tradition!” or “We always do that during the holidays!”  I say to heck with that! Life gets in the way sometimes and things just don’t always work out.  Just because it didn’t work out this year because things were complicated or someone got sick or money was tight, doesn’t mean you can’t do it next year.  Start a new tradition – one of letting go!

Say NO!

The party invitations start piling up, the requests for donations, the calls asking you to donate your time…it starts early and doesn’t stop.  And as much as we want to give and be in the holiday spirit, we have to learn to say no.  Choose to donate your time and money to those things that are most/personally meaningful to you.  And we can’t be everywhere all the time.  This should also be a time to slow down and spend quality time with the people that are the most meaningful to you.  Saying NO doesn’t mean you won’t get invited next year – or maybe it does – but you can’t get that time back with your family or friends that are closest.


Overwhelmed one year in mid-December and thinking I will never get these holiday cards out, my husband in a rare moment (because he is so busy too) said, “What can I do?”  I didn’t even think to ask for help.  We divided and conquered that day and now I delegate writing out and addressing cards every year to him – and he enjoys it!  Each year we choose a family to sponsor from our church.  I ask my kids to help me shop for and wrap these presents because it not only helps me get it done, but it teaches them a little something about the spirit of giving to those in need.

Be kind to yourself:

I recently sat down to learn how to time block with a colleague of mine.  When I filled in my calendar with everything that I wanted to get done including work, home and holiday planning, there was absolutely NO time set aside for ME.  This is very important.  As we run around in the pursuit of the perfect present, planning the holiday meals, getting ready for company, we forget to take care of ourselves.  Set aside at LEAST an hour for yourself during the day and definitely shut down the engine at night well before bed to regroup and unwind.  Treat yourself to something special when it’s all over, like a day away or a nice dinner out.

Let this holiday season be your best ever.  Make it as stress-free as possible.  Enjoy every moment with your family and friends.