Picture of By: Mary Sommer

By: Mary Sommer

Don’t Stress the Holidays

Thanksgiving is over and now we are looking forward to Christmas and New Years.  The holidays CAN be stressful but are not REQUIRED to be stressful so let’s all take a cleansing breath and not talk ourselves into a frenzy.

When I look at all the hype over the holidays I blame Martha Stewart.  Growing up Mom tossed out a bowl of ChexPartyMix, opened a carton of egg nog and Daddy opened the bar and VOILA!!!  A holiday party occurred.  Now we are creating elaborate dishes and desserts; recipes curtesy of Pinterest,  making our own wrapping paper and trimming our trees in exquisite handblown ornaments.  I LOVE the idea of all of this but honestly  Perfection is for people who have staff, and I don’t have staff.  

I think many of us look back on our childhood holidays and remember them as perfect.   THEY WERE NOT PERFECT but they were SIMPLER.  We long for a simpler time… so let us all MAKE IT A SIMPLER TIME!!!  


Understand where your stress originates:

internal pressure – stuff you heap on yourself

external pressure – stuff heaped on you by others 

Internal pressures can be very daunting but figure out what is important to YOU.  What is reasonable for you to get accomplished and realize that good is ABSOLUTELY ENOUGH.  Nothing should be perfect; meals, dress, presents, wrappings, cookies, music …… all should be something you enjoy and relish experiencing.  

Acknowledge how you feel — both good and bad and talk with your spouse/partner etc and tell them how you are feeling.  Sharing can provide some of the greatest stress relief.  Enlist the support of your family and friends.  Everything is more fun when done in a group.  Share all of the responsibilities with family and friends.  It will leave everyone feeling more included and certainly make to-dos much easier.  


  • Learn to say “No”…. you can do this easily by uttering the phrase “let me check with …my calendar, my spouse, my work  etc.  You are NEVER required to give an immediate answer
  • Check in with your family and see what holiday things are important to them.  You may be surprised at what they really enjoy and what they don’t like doing
  •  Decide what is really important to you.  You cannot do everything, be everywhere, and still enjoy the holidays yourself.   Be very clear of your priorities.  
  • Have a safety person to rely on when friends and family get stressful.  This is someone you trust and can be completely open and honest.  
  • Allow yourself to grieve: lost ones, missing ones, your youth, whatever.  Holidays can bring up many emotions so acknowledge  you can be happy and sad at the same time and that is perfectly OK.  
  • Calendar some quality alone time: read a book, go to a movie, take a walk
  • Cut corners:  Use gift bags,  send store bought cookies to school, order the holiday meal, have a potluck buffet rather than a sit-down meal,  have an all-appetizer Christmas meal rather than a heavy traditional dinner, order on-line, give gift cards(teenagers prefer them).
  • If you are feeling stressed STOP  and figure out what is going on. Collect yourself and decide your next steps.  That next step may/should include eliminating some items on your to-do list.  
  • Stop scrolling–NOW.  Nothing you see is real it is all edited, cropped and photoshopped . Take a 20 min. nap instead…. add up all that time scrolling;  you have plenty of time to nap
  • Push stuff to the New Year – friends, parties, volunteering
  • Create your own traditions – dump the ones that you do b/c “we always do it”. 
  • Holiday stress will pass with the holidays and that is a comforting thought.  


  1. List ways to simplify your holiday plans
  2. List how and what you will do to put  yourself first. Remember: If Mama isn’t happy then nobody is happy…