Handling Holiday Stress

Parties to attend, errands to run, gifts to wrap, cookies to bake, and trees to trim are just a small part of our holiday to-do list. For some, the most wonderful time of the year quickly turns into the most stressful time of the year. Many of us kick off the holiday season with plans to enjoy some quality time with family and friends, but as the to-do list grows we find ourselves quickly overwhelmed. How can parents handle the holiday stress while still enjoying the season?

Get organized

Get a jump on the holiday to-do list by shopping early. “I start shopping for holiday presents the week after Christmas,” says mother of two, Rebekah Johnson. “I have what I call my “magic present box,” which I add to throughout the year. I buy gifts when they are on sale. By Black Friday, I am usually finished shopping.” A little planning ahead makes holiday shopping easier when Christmas approaches. Amy Cameron, mother of three says, “I keep a Christmas binder with all the clothing sizes, gift ideas, how much food to purchase, and more. I even take photos of my decorated house so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It helps me stay sane when I have a blueprint written by me, for me.” A little extra work in advance can take off the stress when the holiday rush begins.


If December has arrived and you realize you forgot to shop throughout the year, try simplifying the holidays. Choose the most important traditions to continue. Cut your menu down to the most beloved dishes. Only purchase the most meaningful gifts. Mother and grandmother Deb Madden says, “The key is to simplify and prioritize how you spend your time and money.” By cutting out the things that are less important, your holidays will be more enjoyable and you will feel less stressed.


“Delegate. This helps tremendously,” says mom, Sarah Brown. “If we host a gathering at our home, we send out a list of what we will be providing and then people sign up to bring food, drinks, and games.” It can be hard to reach out and ask for help, especially when feeling overwhelmed, but a shared load is much lighter. Chrissy Rousell, mom of six says, “Last year was particularly crazy with sick kids, so I paid my babysitter to wrap presents for me. It sounds insane, but it was the best money I ever spent.” People love to help others, especially during the holidays. Ask for help in the areas most needed and you might be surprised at who jumps in to help. It is possible you will be able to return the favor in the future.

Choose joy

A positive attitude can have a huge impact on how we view our circumstances. “I only do things that bring me joy during the holidays,” says mom, Kara Thomas. “Picturing the joy I am spreading to others makes a huge difference too.” Holiday stress often comes from people or situations that are out of our control. “I realize I can’t change people around me or their choices,” says Candice Zimmers, mother of three. “I can, however, change how I react to them. I keep an open mind, embrace the chaos, and keep in mind there are many more positive times than negative ones.”  

Break out of the norm

Holiday stress often comes from trying to keep up with elevated expectations we create for ourselves. Sometimes a break from the norm is just what we need to reduce holiday stress. “A few years ago, we went away for a few days after Christmas and stayed in a cabin with no TV or internet access,” says Lisa Parrish, mom of three. “The kids loved it so much, we decided as a family to cut back on gifts and spend a few days away each year. They look forward to it every year. Even better, I have less to buy, less to wrap, and they get our undivided attention when we are there. Everyone returns with full hearts rather than feeling hungover from holiday stress.” 

The source of holiday stress is different for everyone. For some it may be shopping and wrapping gifts. For others it may be family situations and hosting holiday dinners. Some may be overwhelmed by all the expectations that go along with the holidays such as parties, baking, decorating, and creating family traditions. Try to define the source of your holiday stress and come up with a solution to simplify, organize, and prioritize that particular area. If the holidays are less stressful, they will be much more enjoyable.