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  • Writer's pictureAngela Stratman

Navigating the Holiday Hustle: Your Guide to Stress Management

The holiday season is upon us, and while it’s known as the most wonderful time of the year, it often comes with its fair share of stress. Between gift shopping, festive gatherings, and the pressure to create picture-perfect moments, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed. Fear not! With a bit of mindfulness and strategic planning, you can breeze through the holidays with a smile on your face. Here’s your personalized guide to stress management during this joyous but sometimes challenging time.


Prioritize Self-Care

Amid the holiday hustle, it’s crucial to prioritize your well-being. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep; aim for 6-8 hours. It can be difficult, especially when you are stressing over everything you need to deal with or sleeping in different accommodations. I remember whenever we traveled, I had to bring my own blanket; I couldn’t sleep in a hotel or family member’s house without it. As an adult, the pillows usually cause me restless nights. Think of what you need. Is it a blanket, pillow, ambient sound, or mild light that helps you sleep?

Also, to the best of your ability, maintain a healthy diet and engage in activities that bring you joy. Don’t skip a meal because you plan to have a bigger meal later in the day; eat something small, like some fruit, half a bagel, and a little natural sugar or carbs to help get you through until that bigger meal. Taking care of yourself physically lays the foundation for emotional resilience. Here’s another secret: take a nap. Set an alarm and take a little break; it’s okay! Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so give yourself the gift of self-care this season.


Set Realistic Expectations

It’s easy to fall into the trap of perfectionism during the holidays, aiming for the ideal celebration straight out of a magazine. However, perfection is often unattainable and can lead to unnecessary stress. Get flour all over the counter, and let your kids (or yourself) have a smudge of chocolate on their cheek or nose from licking the mixing spoon. Take a picture of the burnt cookies. No one will remember if you set the table “properly.” They will remember the silly joke someone told or the stories of adventure it took to get the meal on the table. There have been too many people to count who have had dinner go “up in smokes” and end up ordering pizza for Christmas dinner, present company included! It was the best pizza ever that year; remember to tip your delivery person well. Set realistic expectations for yourself, acknowledging that not everything has to be flawless. Embrace the imperfect moments; they often become the most cherished memories.


Create a Manageable To-Do List

The holiday to-do list can feel never-ending between decorating, cooking, baking, and buying gifts. Break it down into manageable tasks and prioritize them. Try to stay within 5 items on your list. Tackling one thing at a time prevents you from feeling overwhelmed. Another method is to dump all of the tasks in one extensive list and divide it up by day, person, or team. Team? Yep, this works well if you have a lot of children or adults who need supervision. Make teams. If you have an odd number, count yourself as a team of 1. Then, assign tasks to the different teams; this helps people feel like they are not alone in their duties and balances the load.

Remember, delegating tasks or asking for help when needed is okay. But as part of delegating, you have to be willing to accept the final results. So, if the table is not set exactly the way you wanted, as long as the plates and flatware are there, all is well. You’ll be surprised at how much more enjoyable the holidays become when the workload is shared.


Learn to Say No

Ah, my favorite. As invitations pour in and commitments pile up, remember that it’s okay to say no. You don’t have to attend every holiday event or take on every responsibility. Reread that last sentence. It is okay to be picky about how you spend your time. When people ask, politely decline something like “while I would love to attend (help, do, etc.) I have a conflict that I can’t move.” They do not need to know that conflict is a nap to regroup because you baked cookies for the prior 10 hours with a bunch of kids, and the kitchen looks like flour fairies struck it. They may ask, but it is up to you what you decide to tell them.

Try to note what you turned down, and maybe next year, try to fit that event in. Be selective about where you invest your time and energy, focusing on the activities and gatherings that genuinely matter to you. Quality over quantity is the key to a stress-free holiday season.

Embrace Mindfulness Practices

In the midst of the chaos, take a moment to center yourself. Incorporate mindfulness practices such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga into your daily routine. These techniques can help you stay present and grounded, preventing stress from taking over. Find a quiet space, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day, to reconnect with yourself. I am not too proud to admit I had my kids have downtime (quiet time in their rooms without TV) when they were little for two reasons: one, so they would learn that taking a break is okay, and two, so I could have the same downtime and reenergize myself.


Set Boundaries with Technology

While technology allows us to stay connected, it can also contribute to holiday stress. Set boundaries with your devices to create meaningful moments with loved ones. Designate specific times to check emails and social media, allowing yourself to be fully present during family gatherings and festivities.


With our phones acting as music players, cameras, search engines, and more, putting them down is hard. My kids, I think, live with at least 1 earbud in at all times, and I have learned to pick my battles. When we are having dinner, phones are out of sight, and only 1 earbud is in. I have come to accept that I am personally a loud eater, and it drives my kids up the wall, so I let them drown that out with a bit of music. Guess what, that’s okay. I would rather have that than them be grumpy because my chewing is driving them crazy.

Focus on Gratitude

Lastly, amidst the chaos, take time to reflect on the things you’re grateful for. Cultivating a gratitude practice can shift your perspective and bring a sense of peace. Consider keeping a gratitude journal or expressing thanks during family meals. Acknowledging the positive aspects of your life can help counterbalance stress.


Let this season be a time of joy, connection, and gratitude, creating memories that will warm your heart for years. Cheers to a stress-free and truly happy holiday season!


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