How to Avoid Holiday Overwhelm


The holiday season can be the most stressful time of the year for many of us. We tend to have extra household chores, extra visitors, gift hunting, and high expectations for ourselves. It’s the perfect storm for a break down in the middle of a Black Friday half-off sale.


Stop. Take a deep breath. Follow these steps to get on track and avoid panic this holiday season.

1. List creation and planning- Classic for a reason.

Either open a Google doc or take out a blank sheet of paper and write out whatever ‘to-do’ items are weighing on your mind. Panic and anxiety make our internal to-do list seem like a thousand fluttering birds…..hitting a window. When you make a list, those items that have been at the back of your mind trigger action and quell some of the panic. Afraid to get started? Break tasks down into small and manageable chunks. This will also help you prioritize what needs to get done and what you can work on later.


To Do List

Find a gift for kids

-check out book store sale

Bake brownies for school bake sale

-get ingredients with holiday dinner party items

Pick up Aunt Anne from airport at 10:30 am

Send out Christmas Cards

-edit vacation photos for card

-go to Costco for printing

-get stamps from Safeway

-make address list from Facebook contacts

Throw Holiday Dinner Party for family and friends

-make list of guests

-find a time for party

-create a menu

-make list of grocery items

-check friends for dietary issues

-clean the kitchen

-clean the living room

-stock up on toilet paper

-dig decorations out of basement

2. Step out and stretch your legs.

When you are anxious about work projects that keep piling up, or emails you need to send, you may start to lose focus about actually doing those tasks. Spinning your wheels behind a desk is a sign you’ve maxed out your decision making power. Get up, walk outside and just let your mind wander for a bit. By taking yourself out of the overly stimulating environment you can reset some of your focus and maybe get a new outlook on what needs to be done next.

3. Find an organized colleague or friend to commiserate with.

Your strategies for accomplishing holiday goals may be different from how someone you know gets things done. They may have ideas about how to multitask or may have some of the same tasks to do themselves. You aren’t alone.

4. Strategize your timing.

Figure out when you are at your best for certain tasks. Take mental note of when you are most personable- use this time to make calls, hold meetings, or plan with others. Take stock of when you are most organized, and plan out your week. There are always times when we have less energy or emotional resources to throw at bigger tasks; so after a long day at work, take out the garbage or shovel the driveway.

5. Avoid the “All or nothing!” trap

Holiday movies and decorative storefronts have set the stage for a perfect home, family gathering, and finding the perfect gifts. It’s impossible to nail everything, every time. Make that list of things to do, set priorities and also list things that might fall off the list. Accept that you didn’t hit everything and for your own sanity, move on.

6. Create a budget for your holiday shopping

Make Santa’s list. Check it twice, and then add up how much all those presents will cost before swiping your credit card. You may be surprised at how the sticker prices can add up. Often times it's okay to bake heart felt cookies for friends and neighbors- and keep the bigger ticket items in the family.

7. Keep it all in perspective

The holidays are a good time to remember what the season is all about. Ask your friends and family what they love most about the holiday you celebrate and they will probably mention things like: time spent together, warm feelings, tradition etc. Your priorities for the season (clean house, perfect gifts, beautiful turkey) probably don’t match what we will remember as special and memorable.