How to Reduce Christmas Stress

Time Management Strategies to Restore the Holiday Sparkle

Woman stressed about Christmas holidays

 grinvalds / Getty Images

For many, the holiday season is the season of stress. There are just so many things to do and limited time to do them in. Working people may feel especially harassed, trying to cram Christmas activities into their already limited "leisure" time.

If you're one of those people feeling more frazzled than festive, taking the time to use a few time management strategies can really reduce Christmas stress; you'll feel as if you're in control, rather than feeling like you're being driven like one of Santa's reindeer. Try these strategies to reduce Christmas stress:

Make a List

It works for Santa and it will work for you. Divide a page into two columns. List the things you have to do to prepare for the holiday season, such as gift shopping, on one side of the page and the things you want to do, such as special holiday baking, on the other side of the page.

Checking items off a list as they're accomplished is satisfying in itself, especially as seeing the number of check marks on the list increase shows you that you are making progress and whittling down the task. However, to really help reduce your Christmas stress, use your list to:

Pick and Choose Your Christmas Activities

Many of us do what we do during the holiday season just because we always have, turning the entire month of December into a mad whirl of non-stop Christmas preparations and activities. If the things on your list that you have to do outnumber the things that you want to do, it's time to make your list more manageable by eliminating some of these holiday activities.

Do you really need to spend hours writing and sending Christmas cards, for instance, or hours making hundreds of chocolate balls? By all means, do if you enjoy these activities, but if you don't, give yourself more time to do the things you enjoy by cutting them from your list. Each item you eliminate from your list will give you more time to do what needs to be done. Even better, take the time you would have spent doing what you've crossed off to do something stress-relieving, such as just sitting down by a cozy fire enjoying some Christmas music or touring the Christmas lights in your neighborhood.

Get an Early Start

There's no rule that says that all Christmas activities have to be crammed into the week before Christmas. You can decorate your home for the holiday season in November if you want (or even leave some Christmas lights up all year round). Food for the holiday season can be bought in advance or delivered on the day you need it and Christmas gifts can be bought any time of year (even August). Stretching out your holiday activities over a longer period of time can really help reduce Christmas stress.

Get Help

Who says that you personally have to wrap all the Christmas gifts, do all the baking, and/or do all the holiday season decorating? This year, give yourself the gift of holiday stress relief by patronizing a local bakery, hiring a cleaning service to clean your home, or even having your holiday season party or festive dinner catered.

Think about how much your time (and sanity) is worth, and contract out accordingly. Use the gift wrapping services that many businesses provide this time of year. Assign some tasks to other family members. Using the time management strategies of outsourcing and delegation will lighten your workload and your mood.

Break the Christmas Gift Shopping Gridlock

You don't have to take the time to drive anywhere to shop if you don't want to. Reduce stress by shopping and buying Christmas gifts online. In many cases, your gifts will then be delivered right to your home - or to the home of the gift recipient if you prefer.

Call Ahead Before You Shop Offline

Why go six places looking for that one Christmas gift when you could just make a few phone calls, go to one place and pick it up? You can even call ahead and reserve a turkey for Christmas dinner from the local grocery store in many places.

Avoid Rushing Around in a Holiday Frenzy

To reduce stress, pre-plan and coordinate your journeys. You can easily combine running errands with Christmas shopping, for example, so why make separate trips? And why go Christmas shopping ten or twelve times? Use your list and make your calls to cut down on the hours you need to spend shopping.

Turn Chores Into Events

Everyone finds some holiday season activities to be tedious. Transform these activities into special occasions. For example, make the Christmas baking a family affair or invite some friends over for a tree-trimming night.

Slow Down

For instance, you don't need to buy, put up, and decorate the tree all in the same day. At my house tree trimming is an ongoing event. We buy it, put it up, and set out the ornaments. Then whoever wants to hangs a few ornaments on the tree when they feel like it. Sometimes it takes two weeks, but we always have a beautiful, fully decked Christmas tree by Christmas Eve. 

Allow Time to Relax and Enjoy the Festive Season

Take the time to drive around and enjoy the incredible displays of Christmas lights, attend a special holiday concert, make snow angels with the kids, or just take a long hot bath. Your Christmas stress will drop considerably.

Plan Ahead for the Next Holiday Season

Christmas supplies, such as decorations and gift wrap, are often available at discounted prices in the week after Christmas, and they don't go bad! It's easy enough too to buy Christmas gifts any time of year; all it takes is some planning.

Get the Christmas Sparkle Back

The holiday season should be a joy, not an ordeal. Applying some time management strategies during the holiday season can help you regain the equilibrium you need to appreciate (and savor!) the true spirit of the season.

And if you run a small business open on Christmas, learn what you can do to increase sales through this critical festive season and make your holiday season run more smoothly.