The Secret to a Stress-Free Holiday Season

Holiday stress is a popular custom consisting of making too many plans, leaving tasks until the last minute, and forgetting things altogether.

It’s a shame, of course, because the holiday season should be about enjoying special times with family and friends. Make a conscious decision to get your act together this year. Your own happiness, and that of those around you, is your primary motivation.

Here’s a three-part process for keeping stress out of your holiday plans:

Step 1: Don’t put off commitment

Quite often, your biggest mistake is not pinning down your plans early enough. That can make you feel out of control, like a pinball bouncing from one activity to another. Be proactive and make thoughtful choices for your time. Do it now.

–   Fill your calendar with all the events you anticipate, including parties, gift exchanges, company events, travel plans and school activities. This may take some phone or web research to chase down event details.

–   Firm up all travel plans. This is the least flexible item of all holiday plans. Create strict itineraries for date/time when you’re leaving, how you’re traveling, and where you’re staying. Solve your problems and eliminate your guesswork now

–   Make lists of all the things that take effort: gifts you’ll need to buy, errands you’ll need to run, food you’ll need to prepare, and decorations you’ll need to hang. Don’t forget the small but important items such as scotch tape, dry cleaning, baby sitters, stamps, and non-dairy creamer.

–   Stop procrastinating. It’s a holiday plan-killer.

Step 2: Be a deadline Grinch

There is no more stressful feeling than knowing you’re running out of time. Holidays always have way of sneaking up on you, so set hard and fast dates for accomplishing your tasks. This will stop important activities from being put off until last minute.

–   Break larger tasks down into smaller chunks. For example, you can choose to do a certain number of greeting cards each day, or you can spread out your shopping over the course of a week.

–   Take your deadlines seriously. Mark down your plans and stick to them, and don’t get caught in carefree holiday mode. You’ll pay for it in lost time.

–   Remember balance. You need to fit in time for the rest of life’s priorities such as work and family.

Step 3: Stop over-planning yourself


Let’s face it, we love our holidays with all the trimmings. But often people go overboard. Decide if your plan is truly realistic. Is it humanly possible for you and your family to do everything and still have time to relax? Chances are, you’re taking on too much.

–   Say no. For the sake of your own sanity you may have to turn down that one extra party on your schedule. You only have so much time.

–   Say no, again. For the sake of sanity you may have to forgo making homemade cookies for your daughter’s classmates and instead buy pre-made. What seems easy now may be a chore when the holidays arrive.

–   Keep the big picture. While you’re busy planning the minutia of your festivities remember what your holiday is truly about. Will planning those extra decorations truly equate to more happiness? Make it your choice to not be stressed this year.

A final note: A major source of holiday stress (and post-holiday stress) stems from your personal health. Limit your indulgences. Get sleep, cut back on the party snacks, keep tabs on your dessert and limit your alcohol consumption. Plan to have fun, but just don’t pay for it later.

Jeff Doubek Day-Timer Spokesperson Jeff Doubek can be reached at

4 thoughts on “The Secret to a Stress-Free Holiday Season

  1. This article is well written, and I feel the author understands the stress that comes with the holidays. I feel he empathizes the person who overplans or takes on more than they should. The author gives great suggestions such as organizing your commitments, and sticking with the things most important to you, especially taking care of yourself durning this time that can be very taxing emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually even. Thank you for reminding this single mom of 3 what to do and not do to get caught up in all the holiday mayhem, I for one truly appreciate your article.

  2. This well written and thoughtful piece contains information most everyone knows about. It doesn’t go deep enough to explain how to accomplish and give examples.

    Better to focus on one tachnque versus the several you tried to cover which resulted in a a very light piece containing no quality materia.

    1. Ransom — thank you for your comments. I always appreciate reader feedback. I try to provide a wide-range of topics and a varying range of detail so that users can improve their understanding of their own needs. If you have a specific area of interest you would like to have more support or information on, please send me an email. I’m happy to address any issues that are relevant to our readers.

      Thanks — Jeff

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