The holiday season can add extra unwanted stress with gift shopping, holiday parties, extra school activities, and family obligations/ traditions. In fact, a 2021 poll by the University of Michigan Health System showed 20 percent of parents acknowledged that holiday stress — the endless to-do lists, planning and expenses surrounding the season — negatively affects their family life, with nearly twice as many mothers rating their stress level as “high” compared with fathers.
We often get busy leading up to the holidays and forget to be intentional about our planning and end up buried in responsibilities. Instead of being a season of rest and celebration, the holidays are often stressful and frantic. And even when we try planning ahead, holiday stress can still sneak up on us, and we find ourselves sleep deprived, drinking and eating too much, and in general not taking care of ourselves.
5 Ways To Reduce Holiday Stress & Burnout
1. Make A Clear Picture of What You Want Your Holiday To Look Like.
Do you picture your holiday celebrations as more intimate with your immediate family or something bigger with lots of people around you? Do you enjoy spending time in the kitchen cooking or is that something you would prefer to outsource or spend money to purchase? Do you enjoy holiday parties and socializing? Are sending out holiday cards important to you and your partner? Are there traditions important to you that you want to carry on as parent?
As a family, this can be challenging to figure out and takes some practice and communicating with your partner on. Start with a conversation of what's important to you and what your priorities are around the holidays. Write them down.
2. Set Boundaries & Learn To Say No
You can't attend ALL the holiday parties and activities so think through which ones are most important to you. Ask your partner the same. And graciously decline if there are just TOO many.
If you are already feeling overwhelmed, pause before saying yes to anything additional so you can assess what you have time and energy for. Maybe offering to host the holiday dinner isn't the best idea this year. Can you simplify your holiday shopping list or limit the number of presents you need to purchase? Can you send out the holiday card via email this year vs taking the time to create/snail mail your own.
In this Washington Post article, Holiday Stress Falls More Heavily On Mom's, Here's How Some Opt Out, psychoanalyst Robin Stern says, “Boundary setting is a skill you develop over time." A critical part of boundary-making is being specific about your limits. Stern points to one evidence-based strategy that can help: creating a “feelings charter,” or a few words describing how you and your family want to feel at home during the holiday season or anytime.
If you struggle with feelings of guilt around saying no, I highly recommend working with a coach or therapist to hone your skills around this, as this can be great tool to help you through the busy season.
3. Focus on what you can control
“I can’t change the world, but I can make my own little corner of it pretty nice.” We can't control if our kids get sick over the holidays, or if that must have item just went out of stock, or how our family around us behaves (or doesn't behave). So we must focus on what we can control- OURSELVES. Our own attitudes, mindset, and how we react to stress triggers. So remember to go inward and focus on these things when holiday overwhelm starts to overtake you. Adding in a short 5 minute brain break or mediation practice during the holiday season can also be a helpful tool.
4. Make A Christmas budget.
Depending on how detailed you want to get, Nerd Wallet gives us a few tips here including planning in advance, documenting everything in a spreadsheet, keeping gift receipts, and creating spending categories. I also like to take advantage of the Black Friday sales and after Christmas mark downs to get a head start on next years gifting. Money and finances are the number one topic that couples argue about it so taking some time to create a simple holiday budget will save you time and energy later on!
5. Exercise, Rest, and Remember To Indulge in Moderation.
I live by the 80/20 rule and recommend the same to others. By all means enjoy all the delicious holiday sweets and treats (and yes even the alcohol), but remember to indulge in moderation! Continue to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night, and try not to skip out on your regular workouts and exercise routine. It's well documented that anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders spike during the holidays. The National Alliance on Mental Illness notes that 64% of individuals living with a mental illness felt that their conditions worsened around the holidays due to all the obligations and expectations around the holiday season.
Taking care of yourself should STILL be a priority during the holiday season!