Don’t Let the Holiday Stress Get You!

holiday stress

(I originally wrote this post when my kids were younger, but I reread today, and the advice still holds true. I hope it helps you too!)

My family loves the holiday season. They are counting the days down until Thanksgiving, and wish the time would fly by. I, on the other hand, am looking at the calendar and wondering how the heck I am going to get it all done. I’m officially feeling the holiday stress. Remember when the holidays meant wearing a new dress, seeing your cousins, eating good food and getting lots of presents? I do … fondly. When did I become the adult? How did I become the person responsible for everyone else’s good time? When did I become the keeper of tradition?

I know when. It was at the moment I volunteered to host a holiday. If you have never hosted Thanksgiving or Christmas, you are officially still a child. Good for you. Go buy a pie and a bottle of wine and simply show up. The grown ups will handle the tough stuff. Hosting a holiday is hard, and the stress of it all can definitely turn you into a Grinch — if you let it.

READ: The Holidays are Coming and I am NOT Ready!

I am motivated to make the season not only wonderful for my family, but also nice for me. Some years I fail and am inwardly miserable the entire month of December — I don’t let it show on my face. Some years I succeed and I look back on New Year’s Eve and wish I could do it all over again. With years of being a holiday adult behind me, I know what I have to do to enjoy the season. In no particular order, here is how to be happy during the craziest time of the year.

  • Take care of yourself so you don’t get sick, but don’t worry about how you look. If I obsess over being pale, exhausted and 5 pounds overweight, with nothing festive to wear, the holiday stinks. If I let it all go, not only do I feel better, I usually end up looking better. Diets make me gain weight.
  • Let the little stuff go. If all the decorations don’t make it out of storage, if the house is not the brightest on the block, if you need to cater the sides, so what!
  • Hold onto the important traditions, but make room for new ones. Trying to make every holiday the same as the one before is anxiety provoking. I like to think every year has its own personality, and the holidays take their own shape. The more rigid you are in your expectations, the more disappointment you may have.
  • Focus on family and friends. It is the company you keep that really matters. If the turkey is dry, but the laughter is flowing, you win. If the presents are low, but the love is high, you win. Martha Stewart does not make your memories … the people you love make your memories.
  • Find time for fun. You have no time for a party? Go anyway. No time to sit with someone you love in front of the fire? Sit anyway. No time for a drink with a friend? Drink anyway. Leave the dishes in the sink and watch It’s a Wonderful Life. Let the clean up wait and enjoy your dessert. The work will still be there, but the great moments are fleeting.
  • Reject negativity. Stay away from complainers and naysayers. Surround yourself with people who make you happy. And, don’t take yourself or your seasonal responsibilities too seriously. I’ve had actual breakdowns because I ran out of ribbon — somehow Santa still came.

Don’t let the Most Wonderful Time of the Year become the most stressful. Sometimes it is easy to let the pressure of making the season great for everyone else get to you. I have noticed though, the happier and more relaxed I am, the more joyful the whole family is. So, in a way, when I put the to-do list down and pick up my wine glass, I’m really doing it for my kids;)

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karen Chrismas


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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.


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