11 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

Depressed frustrated woman wrapping Christmas gift boxes, winter holiday stress concept


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Depressed frustrated woman wrapping Christmas gift boxes, winter holiday stress concept

Stress Relief

No matter how much you love the holidays, stress is an uninvited guest — whether or not you have real-life visitors. There's a lot to do, a lot of money to spend, and a lot of people to please. Take a deep breath and employ these simple tactics to manage stress during the holiday season. 

Related: 100 Holiday Gifts Under $100

christmas tree

Get a Real Tree

Surprisingly, experts say one key to happier holidays may be as easy as opting for a real tree. That's because exposure to natural environments has long been a documented stress-reliever, CNN reports, but that's not all. Evergreens even produce phytoncide, a chemical that can help us fight off viral infections when we breathe it in. Less stress, less sickness — what's not to love?

Related: The Best 2021 Christmas Ornaments for Your Tree

Lend a Helping Hand
Monkey Business Images/shutterstock

Lend a Helping Hand

There are deserving people who need help during the holidays. Offer your time serving food at a homeless shelter, packaging items at a food bank, or delivering hot meals to those who don't have access to the bounty your family enjoys. The work will help put most problems in perspective.

Related: 34 Reputable Charities to Help This Holiday Season

family mother father and children watching projector, film, movi

Try a New Tradition

Just because you've always celebrated one way doesn't mean you can't mix it up this year. One new tradition or shift in routine may help manage holiday stress. Dine at a restaurant, celebrate on a different day, buy presents only for the kids — whatever you need to keep the season special without adding stress.

Related: 38 Cheap or Free Family Traditions for the Holidays

Presenting Christmas Gifts

Embrace Smaller Gatherings

Fewer people at a holiday gathering means less food, less money, and less overall stress — and the pandemic is a convenient excuse to keep things intimate. As satisfying as it is to be invited to a slew of parties and events, each invitation turns into an obligation to buy more gifts, bake more cookies, and track down another suitable outfit. Politely decline invitations and explain your new less-stress approach, but only if an explanation seems warranted.

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Donation money jar filled with coins in front of holiday lights

Skip the Gifts

Commit to donating to a charity or the kids' college funds instead of buying gifts. Get the extended family on board to cut gift costs even more. Everyone determines how much and where to contribute, but the end goal is the same: Spend less and stress less.

Related: Gifts No One Wants to Get This Holiday Season

Neighborhood Potluck
Erin Donalson/istockphoto

Host a Potluck

Rather than buying all the groceries and cooking the entire holiday meal, invite guests to pitch in. Breaking the affair into smaller, more manageable tasks significantly lowers the amount of time, effort, and money you'll expend. Consider choosing a theme so all the dishes complement each other. 

Related: 25 Betty Crocker-Era Holiday Recipes That We Secretly Love

Plan Ahead

Plan Ahead

Waiting until the last minute to buy gifts for everyone on your list, cook a side dish, or clean the house is asking for anxiety. Set deadlines well in advance to eliminate cramming at crunch time. Buy items as you see them — especially if they're on sale — and make to-do lists with a "due date" notation. When the big day arrives, you might feel less inclined to yank out your hair. 

Update the Holiday Card List
Laura Bartlett/shutterstock

Update the Holiday Card List

Holiday cards can easily cost more than $1 apiece — and that doesn't count postage. Take time to double-check the card list so nothing marked "return to sender" shows up in your mailbox. Are you still in touch with everyone? Are you sure the addresses are current? There's no sense in wasting time and money sending out more than necessary. 

Related: Best Cheap Custom Christmas Card Sites

Get Out of Town

Get Out of Town

Put the money you would have used on gifts toward a holiday vacation that won't break the bank. Set a budget and stick to it. Be sure to account for costs such as airplane tickets, lodging, food, entertainment, and incidentals. If the extended family tags along, have everyone chip in to cover their share. 

Related: Holiday Road Trips Away From the Crowds

last minute christmas shopping

Use Up Saved Vacation

If your paid vacation time accrues throughout the year, reserve several days for the holidays. Though the end of the year is usually a slow time at the office for most people, being able to put aside job concerns completely may be worth it. Time at home during the holidays means more time to prepare, fewer balls to juggle, and a lot less pressure.

Mother and daughter at home

Put the Family to Work

Relieve some pressure by recruiting loved ones to take on essential tasks. Children can be a big help in the kitchen, and adults can run errands and tackle critical chores around the house. With less on your plate, you may actually look forward to hosting holiday festivities.