Creating stress-free holidays

How to enjoy the season and bring joy to yourself and others
Amid the busy times, take a moment to nourish yourself. Photo: Viktor Gladkov

I am not sure there is such a thing as stress-free holidays, but if the pandemic has taught us anything, then it is O.K. to slow down and be super intentional about where we give our time and energy. 

As life begins to return to normal and with the holidays approaching, it can be easy to take on more and more without even realizing how much stress we have added. The problem then is we wake up one day and realize we are completely burnt out and have missed all the joy of the season. So, how can we be more intentional with our time and energy, especially around the holidays? Here are a few tips to get you started: 


This is hard for some of us. I speak for myself here, because I like to have my hand in a lot of different things, and I have an amazing ability to think I can do it all. Sometimes, as moms, we feel that saying “no” is a sign of weakness, but as we all learn the importance and practice of self-care, I think it is just the opposite. Instead of feeling guilt or pressure, remind yourself that by saying no to someone else you are saying yes to yourself. 

Saying yes to ourselves can be one of the most important tools for mental health, especially around the holidays. One of the ways we can do this is by setting time aside every day to do something that nourishes us. It could be as simple as listening to a meditation, taking a walk, calling a friend, or taking a bath. Another way we can do this is by prioritizing how we want to spend our time and with whom. Once we are clear on our priorities, then say no to tasks and obligations that don’t align. This takes some practice but, in the end, you may find you are happier. 


Between decorating, cooking, shopping, and sending holiday cards, it is easy to see how we can get to Christmas Day and feel totally depleted. Planning out what you are going to do, limiting what you do, and getting a head start on it can help you to be intentional. It also can help you avoid the last-minute frantic energy that can be stressful for us and those around us. 

My family often reminds me that in the frenzy of trying to do so much, I’m not always the most enjoyable person to be around. So while intentions are good, sometimes doing less and planning creates a happier person to be around. It is supposed to be a season of joy and happiness, after all. A simple way to plan is to make a list of everything you need to get done before the holidays, then take a hard look at the list and figure out what you really want to do and what is going to bring joy to you and others around you, and then make a schedule, so it doesn’t all fall to the last week. 


If you feel your holiday spirit is waning and you start questioning the purpose in all the craziness, take a moment to do something for others. Different things put different people in the holiday spirit, but for me that holiday spirit comes from volunteering. I find there is no better way to help remind myself or my children of the true reason for the season than helping others. 

We are so fortunate to have so many wonderful organizations close by that need volunteers, especially around the holidays. A few of my favorites are adopting a family at Compass Family Services or TogetherSF’s Feed 5000 event, where the whole family can help load groceries to help those confronting food insecurity. If you or your kids love to bake, consider dropping off some holiday goodies at your local fire house, police station, or hospital to thank our essential workers, especially after the past year. 

While it may be impossible to eliminate stress entirely during the holidays, I hope practicing these tips will enable you to take control over the stress and find peace, happiness, and joy in this year’s festivities. It really can be “the most wonderful time of the year.” I wish this along with good health for you and all your loved ones. 

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