Ho Ho Hold off the Holiday Stress

It sorta sneaks up on you, the Holiday Stress. You’re cruising along and then suddenly, it’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, holiday parties, X days ‘til Christmas, New Year’s Eve plans. Ahhhh!

Right before Thanksgiving, we were talking about the holidays being around the corner. I was excited to embrace the holiday cheer. I was in the minority. The general sentiment was – its sooo much pressure and stress these days that it’s just not enjoyable. Some folks even told me they were dreading it.

Maybe you fall in this category too? If so, I hear you! I can relate. The shopping – especially shopping within a budget – is harrowing enough. But then you add in the decorating, holiday gatherings, travel, family get togethers that may or may not go well and the pressure of it all on a deadline, plus life’s normal demands, it’s easy to see that being joyful can make you stressed out.

The thing is, I really want to enjoy the season and all its perks. It became clear I needed a strategy to fend off the Holiday Stress. My plan was to get all of those pressure points cleared up before the holidays, in theory leaving me free to relax and enjoy. Here are a few thoughts on how I put the Ho Ho Ho back in the holidays.

First, I sat down and journaled the three things I enjoy the most and three things I find most stressful. Surprisingly, these little lists took some adjusting. Give yourself room to modify before you commit to it, because the list is the toughest yet most crucial part. Once your lists are done, your path is clear: focus on reducing the stressful activities and embracing more of the joyful ones. Be brave and committed to making useful changes!

For example, to me, decorating is the harbinger of the season. The process calls for carols and spiked eggnog. I sing along (very poorly but who cares after the eggnog) and revel in all the glitter and piney smells. Despite that, I hated the mess and chaos of decorating. After some consideration I learned it wasn’t the boxes I disliked, it was the feeling I had to get it all done as quickly as possible. Armed with that insight, I start right after Thanksgiving and I give myself four days of decorating disarray. Sometimes I finish in three, sometimes it takes all four. But knowing it will be untidy and having that extended window of time removes the drama and anxiety of decorating.

Another example: I simplified shopping. Maybe your tribe does this too. I’ve heard many good suggestions from gift swaps, to only shopping for the children, to everyone makes a donation to a favorite charity on behalf of someone (all brilliant ideas). The family resisted initially, but it’s caught on, since less shopping eases their stress as well. If the shopping is one of the things that you love, then it should be part of your holiday. Go for it! For me, I could do without.

The other big change I’ve made is checking in with myself – “How are you feeling Chris? You in a cheerful place or ready to shut it all down?” The stress of the season seems to show up unexpectedly, but actually it quietly builds over time. The big lesson from October on the porch was it is worthwhile to have a daily moment to decompress. I’m swapping out the porch for my Christmas Tree – spending time enjoying the twinkle each day. It gives me time to reflect and to keep that stress level in check.

Since I know this time of year is when my stress typically skyrockets, I am tracking it each day to determine where I’m at on my stress scale and what is making me crazy instead of festive. Knowing the triggers helps me to wrangle them and will help me craft my list for next year. I’m using the Stress Journal to vent off that extra frustration and keep things jolly. (The eggnog helps with that too!)

Whether you are looking forward to them or not, the holidays are here. Don’t let the Holiday Stress make them a drag.  Use what you have and make small changes to keep the holidays peaceful and enjoyable.

Got tips for keeping the Holiday Humbug at bay?  Add them to the Comments!


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Christine is a consultant, coach and collaborator. Her vision is a tool to nudge people towards the insights that are just out of reach; connecting their deeper thoughts and truest selves to make big leaps forward.

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