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15 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

15 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

11 Minute Read

It’s no secret that things can get overwhelming around the Christmas season. According to a survey by Healthline, 62% of people said their stress level increases during the holiday season.(1) And it’s kind of easy to see why.

The more strain you put on yourself, your family and your wallet, the less room you’ll have to truly enjoy the magic of the season. Remember, this time of year should be joyful! Don’t cave in to the holiday stress! Here are 15 ways to keep the merry in Christmas and have a slow holiday you can savor.

1. Make a to-do list. 

And check it twice too. That’s what the pros like Santa do. Maybe you have a mental list of everything you need to do and when you need to do it. But it helps to have a written list or calendar to see the big picture. If your shopping needs to be done by a certain date, write that down. If your neighbors have a yearly bash on the second Saturday of December, write that down.

The point of this is to see everything in one place so you can get an idea of what’s happening and when. Don’t like how it’s looking? Reorganize your calendar and your to-do list to reflect the Christmas you want to have this year.

2. Avoid too many commitments. 

Most likely, your December schedule is sure to include party invitations out the chimney. But you don’t have to do everything on your calendar. You are in control! Remember, you can’t be everywhere at the same time. You can only attend so many family dinners, drive so far, and give so much. Just like your money, you have limits with your time.

Be honest and reasonable about what you can handle, and speak up if it’s too much to juggle. Instead of going to five Christmas gatherings, pick one or two. You don’t want to burn out before Christmas Day even gets here! Prioritize your family’s time and only commit to what you want to do. It’s all about quality, not quantity. 

Don’t let too many commitments throw your daily routine out of whack. Stick to your rituals and try to keep as much of your normal routine in place as you can during the scattered schedule of the Christmas season. If your average day starts with getting up, pouring yourself a cup of coffee, and reading the newspaper, don’t skip that. Having some normalcy can help keep you calm and focused on the day ahead. Plus, it’s a great way to stay level-headed . . . especially if your house is filled to the brim with guests for the holidays.

3. Don’t wait until the last minute. 

Delaying something until the last minute is rarely a good idea. Christmas shopping is the perfect example of that! A lot of people wait until halfway through December and then dash to the malls in a panic to buy gifts. But the good news is, you’re starting early! Aren’t you feeling more relaxed already? You probably just added five years to your life!

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Trying to do all your Christmas shopping or cooking in one weekend can push you over the edge. Instead, keep it simple! It might be easier to shop for one or two people on your list each day. The idea here is to have fun buying gifts for others and not make it feel like a chore.

Make a Christmas bucket list and fill it with fun and festive things to do throughout the season. That way, you’re making Nana’s Christmas cookie recipe at the beginning of the month instead of trying to cram it in on Christmas Eve. You can even freeze cookie dough ahead of time and pull it out when you’re ready to bake. Spacing things out during the season can help you stay in the Christmas spirit and keep the holiday stress low!

4. Make a Christmas budget.

You saw this one coming, right? No shocker here: We’re reminding you to do your Christmas budget, again. So have you done it yet? Take some time to think about all your Christmas expenses and decide exactly how much you will spend

Make a plan and don’t blow it! Avoid all the impulse spending, and when you max out your budget, that’s it. You’re done. 

Be sure to include all the parties you want to go to and the cost of gifts, food and decorations. Despite all of the holiday hoopla, stick to your plan no matter what! If you haven’t done your budget yet, what are you waiting for? Get our free budgeting tool, EveryDollar! It can help you stay on track to meet your goals this Christmas.

5. Decorate like a minimalist.

We all like to be just as festive as the next guy. No one wants to be a Grinch. But don’t feel like you have to put up a Christmas tree in every room of your house. This isn’t Whoville.

Instead of decorating the entire house, keep it simple by decorating the tree and the mantel. Focus on your main living spaces where your family gathers most often. Take some of the pressure off yourself and ignore the urge to create a winter wonderland inside (or outside) your home this year.

6. Don’t spend all your time on social media.

Stay away from the comparison trap, especially at Christmastime. Hide your eyes from the perfectly curated Instagram feeds and the DIY rabbit hole of Pinterest.

Don’t waste this joyous time of year apologizing to your friends and family because you didn’t bake every item from scratch or create an elaborate story each day for that pesky Elf on the Shelf! Ramsey Personality Rachel Cruze has a really great take on this in her book, Love Your Life, Not Theirs. Rachel says, “I’ve come to realize that when we start comparing ourselves to other people, we’re playing a game we’ll never win.”

7. Get rid of clutter before Christmas. 

It’s out with the old and in with the new. No one wants to feel like their house is a cluttered mess with new gifts piled on top of old ones. So get rid of the clutter before Christmas gets here. For every new toy that you know the kids will open on Christmas morning, get rid of two. Make your kids a part of it so they know they’re donating their well-loved toys to others. 

This is also a great time to sort through and organize your clothes, garage and kitchen (even those ratty Christmas decorations in the attic you’re still clinging to). Sell or donate the stuff you know you don’t use anymore, or wrap some of it up for gag gift exchanges.

8. Don’t shop at peak times.

Shop early, shop early, shop early. Since you started saving for Christmas early, you can shop early too. You’ll never have to worry about inventory being too low and having to stoop to tug of war with another desperate parent over the last Turbo Man action figure. Phew! You won’t have to worry about price gouging on popular items either.

If you can swing it, do a babysitting swap with a couple you know. They’ll watch your kids for a few hours and you can return the favor and watch their kids for a few hours when they need to go out. Everyone wins! You and your spouse can have a free evening together to go shopping—kid-free! Make the welcome escape a little date night for the two of you too. Grab some peppermint mochas and go Christmas shopping. You both deserve some one-on-one time. 

Or keep your holiday stress level at bay and do all your Christmas shopping online. There’s nothing wrong with that! Plus, being able to see the item prices in your cart can help keep you from overspending. And you’ll probably save a bundle with all those coupon codes offered online: win-win! On top of that, you’ll have plenty of time for things to arrive at your front doorstep—no paying $45 for overnight shipping for you!

9. Ask friends or family for help.

Some stuff just has to be done. You can’t get rid of everything on the list. But if you start feeling the pressure, consider enlisting some friends or family to help you out.
Maybe that’s trading off with a fellow parent to cart your kids to and from Christmas pageant rehearsals, paying your niece or nephew to wrap all your presents (well, the ones that aren’t theirs), or picking up store-bought cheesecake for your Christmas potluck at work. Whatever it is, just make sure it’s in your budget, and get ready to feel the holiday stress melt away.

10. Avoid family conflict.

Okay, we know this one is tricky to navigate, especially around the holidays, but stick with us here. We all have family members who push our buttons: Aunt Betsy, in-laws, Granny Gertrude—whoever! Instead of going to the family event and trying to master the fine art of not stepping on egg shells the entire night, how about just avoiding certain topics and removing yourself from the conversation if things go south? 

Believe it or not, it can be done. You don’t have to subject yourself or your family to a heated argument you don’t want to be in—boundaries, you know? 

11. Host a potluck.

Just because it’s Christmastime, that doesn’t mean you have to stress yourself out making a full-on feast for the masses. Scale things back and reduce your stress level with a potluck dinner! Trust us. It isn’t as cringeworthy as it might sound. Have each one of your guests bring their favorite side dish or family recipe to the meal. Then all you have to worry about preparing is the turkey (or ham . . . or fish . . . or partridge in a pear tree.) 

12. Don’t overeat.

Yes, it’s true: You can have too much of a good thing. Stressed spelled backward is desserts. If you cut back on all the holiday stress, then maybe your waistline will thank you too. You can still indulge in the sweet stuff. Just don’t go overboard. At least try to eat a little better than Buddy the Elf’s diet of candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.

And don’t forget about exercise! It can help keep the Christmas pounds off and lower your holiday stress level. If you can’t make time to get to the gym, make time to move. Take the stairs at work. Get up every hour or so and take a lap around the office. Lift small weights while you’re on the phone or watching television. You can even bundle up and go on your own Christmas lights walking tour. Maybe your exercise is just combining your Christmas shopping with walking in the mall. Anything is better than nothing!

13. Stay healthy.

Being sick at Christmastime is the absolute worst, so do what you can to avoid it! If you wash your hands, stay hydrated, and avoid sick people, you can make it through cold and flu season safe and sound. P.S. Hand sanitizer is your best friend. Also, don’t burn the candle at both ends by staying up late and getting up early. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep this season. 

Remember, stress can zap your immune system and make you more prone to catching those gnarly bugs. Keep the stress down and your spirits up by staying healthy this season.

14. Make time for downtime.

Keep your peace and quiet, and you’ll keep your sanity. It really doesn’t matter what part of the day it is—the early morning hours or the evening when the kids are asleep. Just make time to enjoy the things you love. Read a book. Do a Christmas devotional or Advent plan. Catch up on your favorite Netflix shows. Or dive into one of those cheesy (but you can’t look away) Hallmark Christmas movies. 

15. Remember what the Christmas season is about.

Christmastime is meant to be filled with joy, merriment and thankfulness. Carve out time with family and friends to reconnect with one another. You want to actually remember Christmas this year, right? The idea is to be intentional. Don’t let the month go by in a total blur.

Slow down and think about what you really want to do this season. Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle that you forget to enjoy the people you’re doing all this for. By starting early, you’ll be able to have a merry—and much less stressful—Christmas!

Don’t stress out trying to find the right gift. Use our Christmas Gift Finder in the Ramsey Store. You can narrow your search for items based on your budget (but of course!), discounts, topics and gift recipients.

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