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9 simple ways to avoid holiday stress

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year…or is it? I’ll be honest with you, I actually dread the holiday season. I find the time from the end of October until New Year to be extremely stressful and overwhelming. I find myself overstimulated with holiday music, decorations, and consumerism. In addition, the obligations to attend holiday parties, family gatherings, and purchase gifts just feel daunting to me. It’s no wonder why I’m wondering how to avoid holiday stress this season!

Perhaps you find this time of year to be stressful and anxiety-provoking too?

Does thinking about holiday cards, party invitations, and family obligations make you just want to bury your head under your pillow and never come out?

I understand where you may be coming from.

Fortunately for you, I’ve figured out 9 simple ways to avoid holiday stress this season. Now you can actually enjoy and celebrate this year.

How to avoid holiday stress and not feel overwhelmed

If you’re anything like me, your heart rate starts racing when you enter the grocery store in September and start seeing Christmas decorations.

I ask myself, who in their right mind starts putting holiday decorations out when schools have just started?

how to avoid holiday stress

Needless to say, we can’t change capitalism or marketing.

What we can do is change how we respond to stressful and anxiety-provoking situations.

So here 9 proven ways to help you get through this holiday season and avoid unnecessary stress.

1. Plan ahead

One of the best tips on how to avoid holiday stress is to begin planning.

Oftentimes we get stressed out and overwhelmed when we procrastinate. This is true especially if we wait until the last minute to get prepared for the holiday season.

So even though I detest all the marketing that happens months in advance, I consider it a gentle reminder to start planning.

To help you feel less stressed this holiday season, try this exercise:

Close your eyes and visualize what your ideal holiday season looks like. This includes what you want to do for all the holidays occurring between October and the beginning of January. Then write it down in a journal.

Simply ask yourself the following question:

“If this (fill in the blank) holiday was perfect, it would look and feel like this…”

Once you’ve written down your ideal holiday season, start making plans to manifest those goals.

If you are going to travel during the holiday season and want to save money, start researching flights and hotel stays in advance.

If you decide that you only want to attend two parties this year, start looking through your closet for what you may want to wear or find something to borrow.

Most importantly, identify what is most important for you during this time and prioritize it.

2. Learn to say “no”

As a people-pleaser, I understand the difficulty of having to say no. It’s not easy, especially during the stressful holiday season when you want to say yes to everything.

But ask yourself this. Is it worth adding more stress and overwhelm to your life during what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year?

The answer is probably no.

How to say no without feeling guilty a woman holding her hand up indicating no

So when you start journaling or thinking about how you envision this holiday season, ask yourself which events, gatherings, and commitments are most important to you. You can even list them from most important to least important.

Oftentimes when we list things out, we can visually see our priorities right in front of us. You will notice that your priorities align with your values, which are usually non-negotiable.

If you need some more help, learn how to say “no” without feeling guilty: 6 secrets from an expert.

3. Practice self-care

As someone devoted to writing about self-care, mental health, and wellness, I can proudly say that I practice what I preach.

My daily self-care practice has been instrumental in keeping me grounded and sane during the entire year.

But most importantly, the practice helps me during the overwhelming holiday season when my stress levels are higher.

Pantea Rahimian

Take control. Feel better.

Start your Self-care Journey.

Take control.
Feel better.

Start your
Self-care Journey.

Don’t wait until you’re severely burnt out to figure out how to avoid holiday stress.

As a licensed mental health professional, I’m a big believer in preventative measures so come up with a daily self-care plan and start practicing it today.

4. Sleep

It’s past midnight, and you’re exhausted and wondering if you should keep working on some project or wrapping those presents.

Here’s the best tip I can give you to help you learn how to avoid holiday stress: prioritize your sleep.

“Humor me for a moment and think of your body as a car. When a car is overheating, you stop and let it cool down. If it needs gas, you pull over to a gas station and fill the tank. You don’t just keep driving hoping the car will get to its destination.”

Pantea Rahimian, LCSW

The same is true for your body, except that our mind can easily trick us into thinking we’re superhuman and can sacrifice sleep.

When you sacrifice your sleep, you damage your body.

A woman sleeping in a bed

So don’t do it. Focus on getting a good night’s rest during the holiday season and avoid sleep deprivation.

If you’re stressed and having a difficult time falling asleep, here are 10 Ways To Put A Racing Mind To Bed And Sleep Now.

5. Stick to a budget

One of the biggest sources of stress for all of my clients is money.

The pressure of buying gifts, hosting a party, and sending out holiday cards add up quickly. Before you know it, you are spending far more than you anticipated.

how to avoid holiday stress

So this year, try something different.

Before the shopping season begins, set time aside and create a budget for the holidays.

Here are some questions to ask yourself for your budget:

  • Who are you buying gifts for?
  • Does this person need or want this item?
  • How much can you afford to spend on each gift or person?
  • Can you make a gift or donation on their behalf instead of buying something?

The key is not only to create your budget but to stick to it.

Don’t get caught up in a shopping spree. Instead, ask yourself these questions before you purchase anything!

New to budgeting? Here’s a great tool for budgeting even if you suck at it.

6. Limit your time on social media

It’s easy to get onto Instagram or Facebook the minute you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed during the holiday season, isn’t it?

But guess what, it will make you feel worse.

The most important advice I can give you is this.

When you are feeling stressed, stay away from social media.

A hand holding an iPhone that is turned on

Those perfect Instagram filters and Pinterest feeds won’t do anything but make you feel worse.

Especially when you compare your holidays with your high school classmates that you haven’t seen in twenty years.

Remember this, social media pictures are fantasy not reality.

They are a curated, filtered version of something perfect that does not exist. The photos and videos do not show the burned meals, dysfunctional family feuds, and mounting piles of credit card debt.

So this holiday season, choose human connection, joy, and laughter over thumbs-ups and retweets.

You know that your electronic device comes with an off button right? Use it. 

7. Give yourself a break

While focusing on others, it can be easy to forget to care for yourself.

How can I stop being SAD in the winter

If you feel tension or worry building up, spend a little time focused on something you enjoy about the season.

Try watching a movie, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, or going on a mindful walk around your neighborhood.

Giving yourself even 15 minutes to unwind may help you recharge and feel better.

8. Follow healthy habits

Instead of letting yourself have a free-for-all during the holiday season, stay healthy and focus on your wellness. Remember that overindulgence will only add to your stress and guilt.

Try these healthy habits:

Most importantly, remember that having healthy habits year-round helps you feel more energetic and focused.

9. Make connection your number one priority

The holiday time is not just about buying gifts and decorations.

Instead, it is about connecting with your loved ones. Experiencing gratitude, laughter, and engaging in heartfelt conversations.

True connections do not just happen. They are intentional and purposeful.

How can I stop being SAD in the winter

Try not to get so caught up in the craziness that you forget to actually enjoy the people you’re doing all this for.

If you feel anxious or stressed when you are around your family, step away to a space where you can be by yourself. I usually go to the bathroom and do a breathing exercise which helps me relax.

And remember that life is short and we have these small moments to embrace.


With these tips in mind, it’s an opportune time to take a moment and breathe. You got this!

Remember, your physical and emotional health is important.

Ultimately this season is not about buying/receiving stuff. Instead, it is about connecting with people you love.

Try your best to focus your time and energy on what is most important to you. Prioritize your self-care and healthy habits. Don’t skimp on sleep and limit time on social media.

In doing so, you will find yourself grounded, energetic, and enjoying this holiday season.

What do you do to help you avoid holiday stress? What do you do to take care of your mental and physical health? What has worked for you in the past and what do you recommend for others? Please share your stories and comments below.

Now, it's up to you to take action!

  1. Share this article on social media to support me in publishing more high-quality content in the future
  2. Get started now and include what you’ve learned throughout this article in your daily routine
Pantea Rahimian

Take control. Feel better.

Start your Self-care Journey.

Take control.
Feel better.

Start your
Self-care Journey.


24 Responses

  1. Haha I was just thinking of this earlier today. Funny how life works out like that. And you had some great points. I especially think it’s important to try and set up both proper and realistic expectations for what’s going to come up during the holidays to help ease the stress before it builds.

    1. Hey David I’m so glad that my article arrived at an opportune time for you. I love your suggestion of having realistic expectations since that helps us feel more in control and less anxious about the what if’s.

  2. Great tips! We have to do everything we can to avoid being so stressed out during the holidays. It takes the fun out of just enjoying our family, friends, and the true reason for the season!

  3. Those are some great tips. Our family completely avoid most of it by deciding not to wait for gift giving in December. We just take a family trip instead.

    1. Hey Nisee that’s exactly what my husband and I do as well. We decided a few years ago that spending quality time with one another doing something we both enjoy is far more enjoyable than gift giving.

  4. I love the healthy habits tip! It can be so easy to indulge during the holidays. These are really good tips overall, thanks!!

    1. Hey Melissa thanks for the positive feedback and I totally agree with you that it’s easy to indulge during the holidays. I try to have a healthy snack before I head to a party or gathering since it prevents me from overeating AND I feel better not going somewhere when I am super hungry.

  5. This is such a great post! I have struggled with stress quite badly in the past and now do all I can to keep stress down where possible so this is an amazing post!

    1. Hi Katherine thanks so much for your positive feedback. Like you I also have struggled with stress (I sometimes still do) so I practice a lot of self-care, meditation and mindfulness on a daily basis which helps me manage my stress. Hope you’re taking good care of yourself!

    1. Hi Lani you are so sweet for saying that! I agree with you that following these tips helps prepare you ahead of time for the holidays so you can enjoy them instead of feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

  6. Love these tips! I personally find giving myself a break SO important for my mental health and to limit stress during the holidays. Thanks so much for these!

    1. Hi Michelle I totally agree with you! I give myself regular breaks and even try to take 1 mental health day off to just reset and take care of myself. It’s especially important to do during the holiday season.

    1. Hi Susan I’m 100% in agreement with you on self-care being key in lowering stress and boosting happiness. I love journaling and am so happy that you use it as a self-care activity. Be well!

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Pantea Rahimian

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