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12 Tips to Tame Holiday Stress

Once upon a time December and Overwhelm were, for me, inextricably intertwined.

There were the usual culprits—Christmas celebrations. Santa creating. Holiday gatherings. Dinner hosting. Present gifting. The real societal pressures to MAKE MEMORIES. SAVOR THE SEASON. (And be sure to perfect all the details while you’re at it.)

Add to it both our kids’ birthdays (one making her debut on Christmas morning)… and I’d created a reliable recipe for holiday stress.

Inevitably, I’d find myself Drowning in Chocolate—actually experiencing too much of the good stuff. (You can read more about that here.)

And then, one year, I had an aha moment. December need not be stressful. In retrospect, it was simple and obvious. By changing the structure and my mindset, I untangled the fixed association between the two.

If holiday overwhelm is a challenge for you, I hope these 12 Tips serve you well:

1. Stop and take 2 (deep breaths).

Step off the nonstop holiday hamster wheel to access a bit of calm—challenging when we feel there’s not a moment to spare; imperative if we want to make wise choices.

2. Prioritize what matters most.

Decide in advance how you want to spend precious time and money. Identify your top four values (for example: family, giving back, spirituality, tradition, rest, connection) and filter your decisions through them. Do your plans reflect your values?

3. Master the gracious No.

Keep it simple. No, thank you. Thanks for the invitation but we can’t make it this year. Protecting our priorities allows room for the most important moments and events.

4. Let go of comparison and practice good enough.

Expect inevitable unforeseen glitches and attempt to embrace the messiness.

5. Practice gratitude.

What is already right in front of you that you might be taking for granted?

6. Practice kindness (especially with strangers).

Amid the distraction and rush, everyday kindness can fall to the wayside. A genuine smile, a momentary chat, a heartfelt thank you can turn someone’s day around (including yours).

7. Disconnect from devices.

Go old school. Designate car rides to holiday activities phone-free zones. Sing holiday songs, tell stories, ask questions, savor the silence.

8. Honor loved ones we are missing.

If you are missing loved ones, allow time, space, and patience for grief, as it often hits at unexpected moments. Pull out old photos, share memories, keep your loved ones alive in memory.

9. Reconnect with nature.

Step outside, gaze up at the sky, inhale fresh air, take a walk. Time outside helps us regain perspective and can be invigorating and calming.

10. Take a birds-eye view.

Step back and recognize the usefulness of long-standing habits and traditions. Am I doing this because I want to or because I’ve always done it this way?

11. Schedule in the downtime.

Dashing from place to place intensifies stress, lowers our tolerance, and decreases our efficiency. Our sense of time expands when we slow the pace just a bit.

12. Behold the beautiful in-between moments.

It’s not the perfectly curated scenarios we remember, but the simple everyday moments. Be on the lookout for and savor them.


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