How Can I Find Relief From Holiday Stress?

The holidays can be exhausting
The holidays can be exhausting, but there's much you can do to cope!. Vstock LLC/Tetra images/Getty Images

Question: How Can I Find Relief From Holiday Stress?

"Every year as the holiday season approaches, I feel a sense of dread mixed in with all the excitement. It's not that I don't love the holidays, but this time of year, I find myself so frazzled by the end of December that it's difficult to enjoy myself. How can I find relief from holiday stress and still enjoy the season?"

Answer: If you find yourself more stressed than you'd like to be during the holiday season, you're not alone.

According to a poll conducted on this site, around 80% of readers feel the same way. It's no wonder; all of the baking and entertaining, shopping and wrapping, relatives we don't often see (sometimes for good reason), and holiday cards can add up to a schedule packed with extra activity and responsibility. Pair that with the high expectations that most of us carry for the season, as well as the debt that often lasts for months afterward, and you have a recipe for stress -- a "stressipe," if you will -- that has many people starting off the new year already wishing for a break and in need of some serious holiday stress relief.

This year can be different, though, if you try a combination of cutting back on activities, taking shortcuts, and adjusting your own expectations for the season. You can enjoy the holiday to the fullest without maxing out your energy, schedule and credit cards. Here are some tips that can provide relief from holiday stress.

Make a Plan

Your first line of defense from holiday stress is to think about what it is about the season that has felt so stressful in the past. Do you always have a conflict with your spouse about whose family to see, or a conflict with the family once you all get together? (This article on family conflict can help.) Do you end up working on your holiday card list up until the last moment, agonizing over what to write, or trying to weigh whether you should send them late or at all?

Do you end up spending too much? If you can make specific plans to better handle these situations, you'll be less stressed when you face them. For example, making a spending plan and sticking to it can eliminate much of the stress that comes with holiday shopping, making the whole season and the following months less stressful.

Just Say No

Next, you should cut out unnecessary activities. That means anything that doesn't provide an emotional payoff that far outweighs its hassle should be crossed off the calendar. You don't need to try every activity offered, go to every party thrown, or do everything the 'Martha Stewart' way in order to make your holiday special. Really enjoying the things that you do end up doing is what will make the holiday something you'll want to remember.



Our society has certain expectations about what makes the season special. The good thing is that most of the activities we associate with this time of year are fun. However, it's easy to become so overwhelmed by all this activity that we become too busy to actually enjoy what we're doing. For those activities that are important enough that you'd really miss them if you didn't include them in your celebrations -- holiday cards, holiday parties, baking for friends and family -- there are ways to cut corners or otherwise simplify the experience without sacrificing what makes these activities fun.

Trying a simplified version frees up your energy so you can do more, or enjoy more of what you're doing. (For more help, see these holiday shortcuts.)

These are some general guidelines on finding some relief from holiday stress. See this article for more information on the causes and prevention of holiday stress, or check out our Holiday Survival Guide