Relieving stress any time of the year is worth the effort.
But during the holidays, with the extra rush, hurry, and expectations, reducing stress is even more important.
Statistically speaking, people are more likely to feel their stress increase rather than decrease during the holidays. Let’s change that.
Here are 10 Intentional Ideas to Reduce Holiday Stress:
1. Don’t expect (or even pursue) perfection.
There is no such thing as perfect: the perfect tree, the perfect outdoor decoration, the perfect play, the perfect dinner, the perfect gift, the perfect Christmas morning, etc. They do not exist.
If you want to remove holiday stress, remove the pursuit of perfect and replace it with “my best effort.”
2. Don’t overspend your means.
77% of us expect to exceed our holiday budget this year (and only 37% will put a post-holiday budget plan in place to recover). Overspending your budget adds stress during the holiday and after—a double dose. Say no to holiday overspending. Choose to spend within your means instead.
3. Set boundaries if necessary, in relationships.
Relationships can be difficult and unhealthy family relationships can be extra strained during the holiday season. There are times, certainly, when it’s best to stay away entirely. But often times, families want to be together during the holidays.
If the idea of spending time with family causes stress in your life, make decisions about setting healthy boundaries. Here are some thoughts on how to do that.
4. Set healthy expectations for your kids.
“Maybe you’ll get it for Christmas” are some of the most dangerous words we can use during this season with our children. It sets an unhealthy expectation that the number of gifts under the tree will be limitless. But we all know that’s not going to be the case. And when it comes time to open the presents, our anxiety level is through the roof.
Instead, be sure to set reasonable expectations throughout the season.
5. Appreciate the simple and free.
Holidays don’t have to be expensive, rushed, and stressful. One important key to accomplishing this reality is to appreciate and find joy in the simple and free. Keep your tastes simple and enjoy the magical moments.
There is as much joy to be found in a conversation with your grandparent, a quiet snowfall, or baking cookies with your kids as you can find flying halfway around the world to a beach in the Caribbean or spending thousands of dollars on gifts.
Enjoy the simple and you’ll never run out of joy—because your holiday season is full of moments to enjoy.
6. Embrace a ‘less is more’ mentality.
In almost every case, less is more if you begin to see it.
You don’t need to spend days decorating the home with countless Christmas decorations when one box of meaningful decorations would suffice. You don’t need to make commitments every night of the week when a few strategic outings will fill your calendar enough. And you don’t need an entire tree stuffed with presents when a few thought-out gifts will be more appreciated anyway.
If you want to reduce stress during the holiday seasons, notice how less is more. And then embrace it fully.
7. Reflect on the positives often and regularly.
Stress increases when our attention is fixated on our problems or worries. Of course, life is never perfect and some problems/issues tend to be extra highlighted during the holiday season.
To counteract this, it is wise to be intentional and consistent with reflecting on the positives.
Maybe your extended family relationships aren’t perfect, but they are still better than other families. Maybe you didn’t get every gift you wanted for Christmas, but you certainly got some good ones. Or maybe your travel plans weren’t pulled off flawlessly, but at least you arrived at your destination.
Keep your attention on the positives in all situations.
8. Hire some help.
While not available for everyone, hiring some extra help during the holiday seasons is a great way to reduce some stress. Hire the neighbor boy to shovel your driveway throughout December, or hire the housekeeper to do some cleaning before your family arrives. Even if you’re not incredibly wealthy, it might be worth looking into your local pricing for such options. They might be more affordable than you think.
And since buying time is one of the three ways to spend money on happiness, it might just be worth the investment.
9. Don’t cross the same bridge twice.
There’s an old saying that goes like this, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
The point of the saying is this: Don’t worry about a situation until that situation is actually in front of you. When you get to the bridge, cross it. You can’t cross it before you arrive at it anyway.
One reason the holidays can become stressful for us is we begin worrying about all the countless unhealthy and unhappy circumstances we might encounter. We worry about family, or travel, or plans, or the meal, etc. But worrying about a problem that may or may not arise in the future requires you to cross the bridge twice—once before it arrives and once when it arrives.
Determine this holiday season to not cross the bridge twice. Don’t let worry get the best of you. Rather than wasting energy imagining countless unenjoyable circumstances, decide to wait to see if they even arise. When they do, cross the bridge once—rather than twice.
10. Practice moderation.
Moderation, in so many ways, is the key to reducing stress during the holidays. Moderation in your diet, spending, commitments, alcohol, responsibilities, etc. From A to Z, embrace moderation throughout the holiday season. You’ll be glad you did—and so will everyone else.
A less stressed holiday season? Sounds lovely. And totally possible.
We only give gifts if we see the family in person. There are phone calls and texts. The little nieces and nephew don’t really know who the gift is from unless they receive it in person. So only in person gifts from us. I wish I had known about minimalizing at a younger age. I would have saved a lot more money. I have always enjoyed living with less, but never really was a minimalist. Working closer to my Less is More goal everyday. I really enjoy your articles Josha, keep them coming. Happy Holidays to all.
Pet groomer says
Thank goodness COVID restrictions are minimal this year. Travel is back to normal and VERY busy. So the opportunity to spend time in person with family this holiday is much greater and much needed! The shut down and social restrictions of everything last year has made me very thankful and appreciative of the ability to spend time with our families and people we care about this year. Some of us realized how much our people really mean to us. They are our foundation, our story, our heritages and traditions.
I just felt a sigh of relief…actually exhaled. Thanks!
I like the idea of removing holiday stress and do my best effort to set reasonable expectation and keep my taste simple, practice moderation. Wise words, Joshua
Rosi Sartwell says
Thanks for this article Joshua, I really look forward to seeing my relatives in Christmas too for our “online” get together :-).
I’m from the Philippines, and here we also love to spend Christmas with our loved ones.
I’ve been watching your YouTube videos for almost a month now and I’m gradually applying your tips and advice in my home, in the office, in my things, my finances, and most of all my relationship with the people around me.
Sheila Stahlke says
Thank you so much for your words of wisdom towards a simple life journey.
Cate Wilson says
I am looking forward to family visits and a simple Christmas. Good advice about moderate food and alcohol intake and I intend to keep up the gym and yoga
The worries are what I need to let go off. i worry too much and get anxious, but it is something I’m working on! I never thought about it as crossing the bridge twice. Actually I never heard of that saying. This holiday will be different. I don’t have to worry much as we will be spending it at home.
Kathleen Boggs says
Jeff- you might want to consider a COVID year update to this post. Maybe greater encouragement to NOT travel at all…?
joshua becker says
Thanks for the feedback. We travel to see our family every Christmas, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. So I wasn’t going to remove that.
Sue Odom says
I’m disappointed in that response Joshua. I have four dead friends who will not be seeing their families this year. All traced back to interaction with others. Minimalism is about giving up things that aren’t necessary. Since we can FaceTime, Zoom, etc. we can still share love and meaning this year. Is it really necessary to go now when you can wait a few months for a vaccine? And what about the doctors and nurses that can’t be with their families because they are so desperately needed? You have just minimized your message about minimalism, Joshua.
Linda Sand says
11. Give to others less fortunate than yourself. It helps you feel grateful for what you have.
joshua becker says
That’s a nice addition Linda.
Maria Pinto says
Christmas has always been simple for me. I moved back to my home town after my husband passed away. We did not have children & for about the last ten years he was alive did not celebrate Christmas. Where I live now there is a lot of family but with the covid will be spending it with only one sister & her husband. I do simple gifts I pick up during the year, kind of like a goody basket with usable items & candy of course!
I am waiting to hear back from the cat adoption place to adopt a second young cat/kitten for my 1 1/2 year old boy (yes I am one of those crazy cat ladies who calls her cats “kids”) That will be a wonderful present for all of us, & every morning I have “play time” with my cat I laugh a lot & he has lots of much needed exercise & fun.
Michael Richter says
I am the Executive Director of a Meals on Wheels program and I would like to “borrow” this article for our December newsletter .
joshua becker says
Sure thing Michael. Just include my name and this website as the original author. Thanks for all you do through Meals on Wheels.
Rosi Sartwell says