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7 tips for less stress this holiday season

Woman sitting on a chair in a mall with shopping bags

The holiday season is here! While it’s an exciting time of year filled with traditions, treats and fun, this time of year can also cause stress and anxiety. The shopping, cleaning and planning can feel endless, and, while we want to celebrate with all of our friends and family, sometimes schedules and budgets won’t allow it. If you are struggling with making holiday decisions and talking about them with family, we hope you find these tips helpful. 

  1. Set your boundaries. Ask yourself questions that will help you make a decision about your plans. Discuss with your partner or someone you trust what feels best for you and your family. Ask yourself, “What are the most important things to me and my family about the holidays?” or “How do I want to feel when the holidays are over?” Once you determine the answers to these questions, you can begin drawing boundaries so you have the holiday season you really want. 
  2. Only attend events/gatherings you really want to attend. It’s easy to overfill schedules this time of year. Revisit your conversation on boundaries and use these answers to determine the best events for your family to attend. If you want to make sure you get your fill of the holiday spirit, make plans for at-home cookie baking or holiday movie nights in. 
  3. Establish a budget. Money can be a big stress trigger around the holidays. Determine an amount you are comfortable spending for everyone on your list. Communicate your thoughts ahead of time with anyone you’re going in on gifts with, so you can plan accordingly. And remember – sometimes the most memorable gifts are from the heart. Things like a child’s artwork or a photo of a favorite memory will surely be cherished.  
  4. Keep up with healthy habits. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress. Consider a quick family morning walk for fresh air! Also, incorporating healthy food choices like fruits and vegetables in addition to fun holiday treats will help keep you and your family more satisfied. This also includes your daily routines and self-care. Try your best to work your holiday plans around your normal day-to-day activities, instead of letting them upend your daily life.  
  5. Take a break. Whether it’s reading a book, meditating or slowly enjoying your morning coffee, take a moment to yourself to decompress and take a deep breath during holiday busyness. Enjoying a holiday movie or craft project with your kids is another way to break from the stress and enjoy the season. 
  6. Accept that you may disappoint or upset people. It is alright if your decisions don’t sit well with others. We can’t expect everyone to agree with us. The important thing is to honor your own boundaries and respectfully communicate with loved ones. 
  7. Remember what the holidays are really about. At the end of the day, the holidays are really about celebrating and making memories with those you love most. When the days get overwhelming, ask yourself if your stressors will matter a few months, or even a year, from now. Chances are, it will be a long-lost memory before the holiday season ends. 

Child Psychology

Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine