Dealing with Holiday Overwhelm: A Survival Guide

The holidays can be pretty stressful a lot of people. Some may worry about money. Others may be worried about spending time with relatives they rarely see who make passive aggressive comments. Holiday planning in and of itself can also be incredibly stressful for many of us. “Holiday Overwhelm” is exactly what it sounds like – the feeling over overwhelming stress around the Holiday season. (Which is highly common).

Don’t worry, I’ve been there – stressing about what gifts to buy for certain people, worrying if I can get everything done on time and making sure I don’t snap over some passive aggressive comment during Thanksgiving dinner.

Here are my best tips for dealing with Holiday Overwhelm so you can survive the holidays without any mishaps, (and hopefully have a fantastic, stress-free holiday season):

1. Plan Ahead as much as possible

Wentworth Miller My Plan Will Work GIF by Prison Break - Find & Share on GIPHY

Around the holidays in the past, I’ve procrastinated and that only led to a ridiculous amount of stress & anxiety. Planning ahead is one of the best ways to avoid becoming overwhelmed during the holidays.

Some of the main things you should plan ahead for to avoid “procrastination stress” are: 

  • Setting a Christmas Budget (Here’s my easy guide for creating your Christmas Budget)
  • Sending out those Christmas Cards at the beginning/middle of December (If you still send out Christmas Cards. I do.)
  • Get all the gifts on your gift list checked off early
  • Plan out your Thanksgiving Dishes early
  • Think about how you’ll deal with those snide comments from in-laws or other relatives who always seem to have an opinion (cue eye roll)
  • Prepare for all holiday parties at least a week in advance
  • If you have more than one place to stop on a certain day, make a “time crunch” plan & stick to it.

Planning ahead will ease the burden of all the holiday activities so you can relax and enjoy time with family 🙂 .

2. Drop any ideas of Perfection you have

No matter how much you plan ahead, you sometimes can’t plan for everything around the holidays. Shit happens. Get rid of the “perfection notion” because it’s impossible to achieve.

Nothing is, or ever will be perfect. The sooner you accept that fact, the happier you’ll be.

3. Don’t make too many plans

Fail Office Christmas Party GIF by Saturday Night Live - Find & Share on GIPHY

This happened to me last year. I had committed to way too much and wasn’t able to actually enjoy time with my family. My guy and I simply made too many promises of where we were going to visit. DON’T DO IT. It’ll not only cause a lot of stress but it will make the time you spend with loved ones less enjoyable.

Plan only for what you’re able to do while still leaving wiggle room. The holidays are supposed to be about enjoying family & friends – not rushing around, trying to see everyone on the same day.

4. Be Generous, but know your limits.

If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it 100 times. Some people turn the holidays into a pissing contest. They go way over budget and stretch themselves too thin simply to impress people or make themselves appear to have a perfect life. (Eye roll – again with this perfection shit..)

Sure, be generous. Give as much as you can but don’t try to spend loads of money because you think it makes you “more impressive” or whatever. Truth time: Nobody cares!

Just stay on budget. It’ll save you a lot of stress. 

*Nerd Tip: To avoid feeling financially burdened during the holidays – have a holiday fund that you add to all year 🙂

5. Be Grateful

It’s great to receive gifts and feels great giving them too. Try to be grateful for what you were able to buy everyone and be grateful for the gifts you receive. Do not fall victim to the comparison game.

Whenever I talk to certain people, they seem very envious about what they see on social media, (regarding people they never even talk to). Hell, we’ve all done it. Some refer to this as “the grass is greener” syndrome. You see that so-and-so was gifted a crazy, exotic vacation and then you start feeling bad about your situation. STOP DOING THIS!

I know it may be hard for a lot of people but we are all living our own lives. Your situation is different than so-and-so’s and that’s okay. You probably have a lot of one-ups on their life, (if you care). And, I say it all the time – but I’ll say it again – people post their “best life” on social media and sometimes it’s not a reflection of their actual day to day.

Focus on YOUR best life, what makes YOU happy and what YOU have to be thankful for. The comparison game is one you’ll never win. Seriously.

Happy Disney GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Be grateful for what YOU have and all the happiness in your life. And you know what, be happy for so-and-so too! All of these comparisons aren’t cool and we really need to learn to not only be grateful for what we have but also happy for others.

Practice gratitude throughout the holidays and offer congratulations as well. 🙂

6. Don’t Neglect your Routine

It’s really easy to get off track during the holidays. Last year my word count diminished times 6 during the month of December. YIKES! Not cool. We need to stick to our daily lives during the holidays. (Even if you do throw a couple extra cheap meals in the mix – that’s okay).

Make sure you’re taking care of yourself as much as you do, (even more would be fantastic), during the holidays. Keep up on your to-do list and always set aside some “me time” and date nights. Focusing TOO MUCH on the holidays is going to amplify your holiday overwhelm.

7. Now, About those not-so-friendly relatives…

I Can'T Christmas GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Whether it be a judgmental in-law, an overly honest Aunt or a pesky, bragging cousin – it’s likely that you’ll have to deal with some people you’d rather not. This is actually a key stress trigger for MANY people.

Nobody likes to play a hundred questions with someone they never see or talk to. But, with a lot of family gatherings, that shit is just inevitable.

Not to name names, but there is one person in particular whose face is quite punchable and I’ve only ever had to encounter this dude at holiday functions (not one of my blood relative -you guys are all pretty cool).

Anyhow, my best advice for passive-aggressive bullshit, rude comments and unwanted opinions during holiday gatherings…F*ck em’.

Seriously, does it honestly impact your life that someone you never have to see has something rude to say to you during the holidays? Think big picture. It doesn’t matter! Stop letting ass hats make YOU feel bad. They are the one with the issues.

Try your best to play it cool but don’t take too much shit. Nobody, even those related to you, should make you feel bad. Just go with the flow and if you feel attacked – say so.

Make the most of the holidays

Macaulay Culkin Happy Holidays GIF by Home Alone - Find & Share on GIPHY

I’ve experienced holiday overwhelm almost every year, (since I became an adult, that is). I know a lot of other people do too. It’s important to remember that the holidays aren’t about money, (who spends the most, who gets the best gifts and so on). It’s about spending time together, being grateful for each other and, of course, love.

It’s really easy to get stressed, but if you stick to a plan, remember to take care of yourself and focus on good vibes – you’ll be just fine.

The main takeaway from this article, (I hope), is that we should:

  • Be Kind, generous & grateful.
  • Not let the Bastards get us down (a new favorite phrase of mine).
  • Plan ahead but don’t anticipate perfection because nothing is ever perfect & there’s nothing wrong with that.
  • Celebrate & make the most out of the time you get to spend with family and friends <3

I hope every single one of you has a fantastic holiday season and that you’re able to beat holiday overwhelm & focus on the good vibes!

What are your plans for the holidays? Let me know in the comments 🙂

Krissy October is a professional freelance writer, aspiring novelist and knowledge nerd who is dedicated to consistent self-improvement and finding clever ways to solve everyday problems.

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