As the holiday season approaches, your stress level will probably rise.

In addition to your typical schedule of work, home and kids, you’ve got more shopping to do, menus to plan, and food to prepare. Oh yayyyy!

The good news is, even with all the extra activities and preparations, you can still reduce your holiday stress.

Here are some proven strategies to help you decrease your stress. Some of these may even be so effective that you’ll choose to use them all year long, not just during the holidays!

1. Acknowledge that everything doesn’t need to be perfect. The commercials and movies on television during the holidays really miss the mark when it comes to realistic portrayals of family holidays. Whose life really looks like that?

For me it’s about creating an experience and memories and that includes setting the scene. From that perspective I want it to be perfect. So I have to let go of that sometimes, especially the year we unboxed the tree only to find that mice had devoured it!

Try to accept that you can in fact enjoy some beautiful holiday get-togethers regardless of whether something is spilled or you’re having trouble locating your favorite dinner napkins.

Furthermore, most people will hardly notice if the pies were baked a little too long or you forgot the cranberry sauce.

2. Start holiday planning and preparations earlier. Can you imagine how much less stressed you’d feel if you had all your gift shopping and wrapping done in October?

I’ll be totally transparent here and say I haven’t quite mastered this one. While I often have started my holiday shopping in the summer, I’m usually far from being done by December. The end of year is a busy one for me (you know, with all that focus on Crafting a Life You LOVE and all!) and so the holiday decorations are frequently the last on the list.

Plan your holiday menus well in advance of using them. This way, you’ll have the menu set and the store lists made. If you’re like me, you have your old “stand by” dishes, you know, your favorites that you pull out once a year as a tradition? That makes it easier as the holidays get closer because then you just review your menus and shopping lists and make any minor adjustments you want.

Spreading holiday tasks out over longer periods of time means you’ll have less stress during the holiday season.

3. Scale down your holiday plans. Because we sometimes have an overly idealistic view of the holidays that springs from our childhood experiences, this strategy can be tough to do. Scaling down your plans involves letting go of your “perfect dream” for the holidays (review #1 above).

Essentially, know that you don’t have to repeat that special holiday memory you have in your mind. You don’t have to find the perfect gift, spend the most money or have a room stacked with wrapped packages to show your love to others.

Ascribe to the theory that, “It’s the thought that counts.” Most people will never remember the cool thing you got for them that one year. But they will have warm memories of the time you spent together as a family.

4. Take shortcuts to save time. Figure out easier ways to do things that will provide more time for other holiday tasks and activities.

One good example: Rather than baking the pies, order them from a nearby restaurant that’s known for its delicious baked goods.

If you live alone, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t still have a holiday dinner that’s a day to remember. Host a “bring-your-favorite-dish” day, invite your friends and family, and have everyone sign up on a list so that there’s no overlap. Or, take advantage of the many stores that now offer full-blown turkey dinners. All you have to do is order, heat and eat!

When shopping, don’t be afraid to select gift cards as holiday gifts. The fact is that many people prefer receiving a gift card as they can then choose exactly what they want. Gift cards are easy to shop for, satisfy nearly everyone and will cost you less in wrapping paper. Basically, gift cards are “no fuss and no muss.”

5. Choose what you want to do. Ponder what the holidays truly mean to you and then express that meaning in your celebrations. Avoid getting caught up in the commercialism that has taken over the entire holiday season.

It’s worth your time to think about what ideas you hope to portray to your friends and loved ones during the holidays.

Let go of feeling required to plan and carry out elaborate, lavish celebrations. Maybe you’d really rather have smaller, more intimate gatherings with friends spread out over a month or two, rather than a big whoop-de-doo that makes it difficult to really connect with others.

The best way to teach your children that the holidays are about giving to others is to take them to visit local charities or even to serve meals at a church soup kitchen.

This year, make the decision to reduce your holiday stress. By shedding the urge to be perfect, beginning holiday planning earlier, scaling down expectations, and using shortcuts to save time, you’ll bring your tension level way down.

Think about what you really want the holidays to mean to you and your family. Then, you can let go of expectations based on the past and really enjoy your time together.

Ultimately, isn’t that what the holidays are for?

With good energy,




Debra Wilson Guttas, Life Transition Doula™, HTP
“Supporting and inspiring women in life transition, and cancer recovery, to craft lives with more purpose and passion.”

Author of the best-selling book “7 Keys to Coping with Cancer – How You Can Feel Good AND THRIVE (from someone who’s been there)

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