Gaily wrapped small gifts in a stocking with text overlay: 9 Tips to Help Make the Holidays Less Stressful

9 Tips to Help Make the Holidays Less Stressful

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….at least around our house. My Hubby loves Christmas and makes it his mission to start getting the decorations up starting the day after Thanksgiving. This can be the most wonderful time of the year for many of us, but it can also be one of the most stressful ones. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few tips to make the holidays a little less stressful this year.

Some of the biggest stressors this time of year seem to center around trying to do too much, spending too much, and doing too little to take care of ourselves. We put too many expectations on ourselves, want everything to be perfect, and spend too much trying to achieve that perfection. Does any of this sound familiar?

If it does, here are some tips to help take some of the pressure off.

1. Decide what’s important to you.

When it comes to celebrating the holidays, what’s most important to you? Is it church services? Spending time with loved ones? Supporting various charities in some way? Giving gifts? A combination of things?

Whatever it is, knowing what’s most important to us is the thing that can reduce stress more than almost anything else. When we have that figured out, we can set our priorities accordingly. That makes it easier to do those things that support what we really want to do and say no to the things we don’t want to do or can’t manage.

2. Be realistic.

So often, we fall into the trap of wanting everything to be perfect for the holidays. The thing is, they rarely are. Being realistic with our expectations can help us reduce stress by taking away some of the pressure we put on ourselves to make things perfect.

This year especially, our Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year’s celebrations may not look the same as they have in the past. That doesn’t mean they can’t be special, though.

In their article Stress, Depression and the Holidays: Tips for Coping, the Mayo Clinic says,

As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children or other relatives can’t come to your home, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos. Or meet virtually on a video call. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate.

Mayo Clinic Staff

Being realistic about what we can and cannot do helps us avoid the stress of wanting to do everything/be everywhere at once. As the quote above said, “traditions and rituals change.” This may be just the year to embrace that.

3. Plan ahead.

December is not a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ kind of month for most of us. If you know you’re going to have obligations around the holidays, it can help to plan ahead as much as possible.

Planning ahead can include

  • Making a list of the gifts you’ll buy and how much you’ll spend on each person
  • Getting all the activities you’ll attend on the calendar so you know which days are free for other things
  • Setting specific days for shopping, cooking, spending time with friends, etc.
  • Planning your menu and making your shopping list for any meals or entertaining you’ll be cooking for
  • Making sure any gifts that have to be mailed are purchased, packed and shipped by the carrier’s deadlines to ensure they arrive on time

4. Pace yourself.

This really goes hand in hand with planning ahead, as that can be a key in our being able to get everything done without completely running ourselves into the ground. With a little planning, we can space all our tasks out over the month instead of trying to do everything in just a short period of time.

Pacing may also include paying attention to our energy levels. Knowing the time of day we usually feel best (or worst) can help us know when to tackle the bigger projects and when to do the small, less-energy-consuming tasks.

Christmas tree with gifts underneath with text overlay: "Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas." ~Peg Bracken

5. Set and stick to a budget.

Setting and sticking to a budget will not only reduce stress during the holidays; it’ll reduce stress in the new year when the bills come due. It’s a good idea to determine how much we can afford to spend for food and gifts and stick with our spending plan.

Having that budget can help us avoid overspending on gifts, and hopefully keep us from making those impulse buys we tend to make around this time of year.

6. Just say no.

Let’s face it — we can’t do everything, no matter how much we may want to. We have to set some boundaries. This may mean saying ‘no’ to some things we just don’t have time for, or that just isn’t that high on our list of priorities.

Remember — saying ‘no’ is much better than say ‘yes’ to something you really don’t want to do. When we say yes when we’d rather say no, we can start to become overwhelmed and feel resentful toward the very people we’re trying to connect with.

7. Stick with your healthy habits.

It can be easy to slip into some not-so-healthy behaviors around the holidays, which can increase stress levels. There are all kinds of goodies everywhere you turn, we’re so busy we don’t think we have time for exercise, and we’re burning the candle at both ends.

This year, let’s enjoy the things we love (in moderation) while sticking with our healthy habits. Some of the things that can help us maintain our good habits are:

  • Eat healthy meals most of the time. Remember that treats are fine, but in moderation. For some tips to avoid overeating at holiday parties, click here.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule. When we’re so busy, it’s easy to stay up later trying to get everything done, but sticking with a regular schedule can help us get our much-needed ZZZs. Here are a few tips to help you get a better night’s sleep.
  • Make movement a part of your daily routine. Exercise is a proven stress reliever.
  • Try some mind-body activities such as deep-breathing exercises, Yoga, Tai Chi, or meditation. These types of activities can help calm our minds as well as benefit our bodies.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol. While alcohol is often a part of holiday parties, overindulging can leave us feeling worse and cause us more stress.
  • Be aware of how social media is affecting you, and if need be, take a break from it. Sometimes ‘information overload’ can stress us out, especially if our lives don’t seem to be as happy or glamorous as those picture-perfect social media posts seem to say others’ are.

8. Set aside some ‘me time’ each day.

Around this time of year, we tend to focus on others’ happiness. There’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, that’s one of the greatest joys of Christmas for me. We just have to be careful that we don’t focus on others so much that we neglect our own wellbeing.

Even if it’s only 15 minutes a day, spending some time alone, without distraction, can help us relax and refresh.

9. Remember why you’re celebrating.

Sometimes we need to readjust our focus — we become so focused on the ‘doing’ of it all that we forget the real reason we’re celebrating. When this happens, it’s helpful to turn our attention back to what’s really important to us.

It’s not all about the gifts, the food, the decorations…. it’s much more than that. When we can focus on what why we’re celebrating, we can stop stressing and enjoy the season.

Perhaps the grinch from the movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas said it best:

“It came without ribbons, it came without tags, it came without packages, boxes or bags…. Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The holidays can be wonderful, but they can also be a source of stress for many people. Finding the things that help us reduce that stress can help us have a more joyful holiday season.

Do you find the holidays more joyful or stressful? What helps you stress less this time of year? Please share!



Want a little extra help with making things less stressful? Get your Stress Less December calendar.

This calendar is similar to the one we used for our One Thing for Wellness Calendar. It has suggestions for those tasks we need to complete and reminders of activities that can help us make self-care a priority and reduce stress.

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Christmas cookies, candy cane, and Santa statue with text overlay: 9 Tips to Help Make the Holidays Less Stressful



  1. Seems COVID is commanding a simple Christmas. The children’s presents are acquired and wrapped. Just a few bits and pieces left. I’m not baking as we’ll have no physical visitors, and with just the two of us, a turkey breast will do. Odd times. I’ve decided to send Christmas cards as I think they’ll have even more meaning this year.

    1. It sounds like you’re really ahead of the curve on things VJ! Good for you! I have most of my shopping done. I will still be doing a little baking, as I send some treats to our son, who lives in another state. We won’t be having our annual Christmas party this year, though, so that cuts down on some of my work (though we do enjoy having our neighbors over). As you said, “COVID is commanding a simple Christmas.” Hope you’re doing well sweet friend! Hugs!

      1. Oooh….thanks for the idea! I’m not gluten-free anymore, but a lot of the snacks I make either naturally don’t have gluten or would lend themselves to some gluten-free substitutes. I may have to get busy on this!

    1. Thanks for sharing Melinda! Christ’s birth is definitely my reason for celebrating Christmas. I hope these tips will be helpful for people through all the holidays we celebrate this time of year. Stay safe and well sweet friend!

  2. great ideas Terri! for me, being realistic is so very, very important. through the years i have tried too hard to do it all and it ended up with nothing getting done. and of course, we stick to a budget……..going in debt for a holiday will make your life much more difficult next year.
    another great post Terri!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Wendi! You make such a great point about the importance of not going into debt for a holiday. It really can make our upcoming year more difficult if we start it with a mountain of debt. Hope you’re staying safe and well sweet friend. Blessings to you!

  3. I honestly have no idea where this year is disappearing. The time just seems to be zooming by without me. I think that whole ‘planning ahead’ tip is perfectly timed because now is the chance to get on top of things if you can, especially given the pandemic where you really, really don’t want a last minute rush (or a last minute crush in the shops!) An excellent reminder to come back to what’s really important and to remember why we’re going through all of this for Christmas in the first place, a fact that often gets forgotten among the stress. Fab post, Terri! xx

    1. Thanks so much Caz! I’m with you — the whole year has just flown by! You’re so right about not wanting that last minute rush, especially now. I started my shopping way earlier this year than I normally do, just for that reason. Here’s wishing you a stress-free month sweet friend. (Oh, and BTW, I’ve added a Stress Less December Calendar download to the post since you first saw this.) Sending hugs your way!

  4. These are great tips! I always make sure to plan ahead so I won’t be stressed at the last minute. I know I always end up forgetting something so it’s better to forget it early rather than too late. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Michelle! That’s a great point about it being better to forget it early rather than too late! Planning ahead is definitely my lifesaver this time of year. I normally live on lists from just before Thanksgiving until after the new year. I hope this month will be a happy, stress-free one for you! Sending hugs your way!

  5. These are all wonderful tips! Remembering why we are celebrating is something I am driving home with my family this year. With travel restrictions and covid concerns, whether I choose to travel or not doesn’t matter, I am not the reason we celebrate Christmas.

    1. Thanks so much Cynthia! You make such a wonderful point about us not being the reason we celebrate Christmas. If we could all remember that, I think things could be much easier. Here’s wishing you a very merry (and safe) Christmas!

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