8 Tips to Handle Holiday Stress


I was talking with two friends earlier this week about holiday stress vs. holiday rest. 

Friend #1 has kids in high school and college, so they are "fending for themselves" most of the time.  She spent the day after Thanksgiving in her PJ's resting - all day.  Her Christmas prep isn't complete, but she feels on track and isn't stressed.

Friend #2 has grown children, also, but with a toddler and newborn grandchild who came to stay unexpectedly for 5 days over Thanksgiving. (Her daughter's house heat went out.)  So after Thanksgiving, she didn't get to rest or decorate for Christmas.  She feels stressed because does not know when she will "get it all done," since she has committed to several December events.  We talked about possible ways to handle the stress.

Here are 8 ways to rest vs. stress this year:

Get focusedWhat is most important for your holidays THIS year?

  1. What holiday activities give you more joy and energy than they take?  Does baking for your friends and family relax you or leave you exhausted?  Does putting up the tree give you the most joy? Then put up the tree and skip the rest.
  2. If you are in a "life-transition" don't try something new.  Doug and I made this mistake our first Christmas.  We were crazy about a made-from-scratch pineapple jam from our honeymoon in Belize.  So, we got the recipe and decided to make it for Christmas gifts, thinking it would be a fun, easy project.  (The resort chef said it was easy.) Hours (and hours and days) later with an everywhere-sticky-kitchen we realized everyone would have been just as happy with a gift card.
  3. Recognize not just the season of Christmas, but the season of your life.  When I talked with Friend #2 about her plan, she decided to forgo some of the decorating.  Her memories with grandchildren over Thanksgiving was more important. For myself, when we were remodeling our entire house, I cringed at the thought of Christmas decorations on top of blue painters tape and gutted walls and ripped up carpet.  Pure chaos.  So we put a few ornaments on our bamboo tree and went to look at everyone else's decorations.  Simple.
  4. What do you really enjoy once it is done...but don't have the energy or time to do now?  Outsource.  Use technology.  Whether it is a Christmas card service or decorators or caterers, even professional shoppers, there are people out there to make your holidays easier so you can do what only you can do.  Only you can sit at the family table and play games with your kids.  Only you can go walk with a friend who needs some Christmas cheer.  Only you can sit by a fire and thank God for the good in your life.

Go all in!

  1. Some years, you just go for it.  Schedule time off from work and other activities and go 100% at making memories.  Pick a couple of friends and spend a four day weekend decorating each other's homes together.  Plan another four day weekend for shopping.  Turn on Christmas music 24/7.  Block the weekend before the family gathering to pre-cook (all) your favorite dishes.  Go to every party invite, even if you only stay for an hour.  And then plan to take the first week of January to recover.  Embrace the season completely.
  2. Get organized for gifts ... set up a wrapping station, make your gift list and block one weekend to shop on line and in store.  If you are like us, we purchase gifts throughout the year.  Pull out your "gift stash" before you make your shopping list.  Who knows, there may even be a re-gift option that is absolutely perfect for Aunt Betsy.
  3. Get organized for cards ... hopefully you purchased a few boxes of cards on sale last January.  We have a list of people and addresses in Excel that we update each year, with columns for "written, addressed, mailed."  On a Friday night (one without a party invite), put a log on the fire and Christmas music on your phone and write several cards.  Then keep a box and the list with you for when you are waiting in the dentist's office or on a plane or when you are on a stationery bike for your workout.

Get out of town.


The final tip?  Escape the stress completely.  Book a cruise or a spa-vacation.  Or hole-up in your favorite mountain cabin.  Skip the cards, other than a mass Facebook post when you return from your great trip.  Gift cards for the kids is the only shopping allowed.  Eat fresh seafood by the ocean.  Go for a hike in the snow.  You might come back feeling as jolly as Santa.



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