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8 Tips to Manage the Pressure of the Holidays

The pressure of the holidays seems to start earlier and earlier every year. Every October the stores start to display their holiday merchandise even before Halloween has come and gone. Do you feel the pressure yet?

Expectations start early and can make the season seem even longer. We are bombarded with external messages telling us how things “should be” for our holidays.

Here are eight things to consider not doing this holiday season. Keep yourself focused on what you like and on what the holidays mean to you:

  1. Don’t take on the pressure to give the most fantastic, expensive gifts.
    Retailers try to make you believe that giving expensive gifts is the only way truly to enjoy the holidays. Most of us do not have those resources. Overspending can lead to regret as the New Year starts and those credit card bills roll in.

    A simple, thoughtfully chosen gift has far more meaning than the latest gadget or coolest new toy that is forgotten within weeks. Things do not make the holidays perfect or more meaningful, memories do. Give a gift that makes a memory.

  2. Don’t feel the need to plan every second with a holiday activity.
    We don’t have to go Black Friday shopping, hit all of the neighborhoods within a 25-mile radius to see every decorated house, hunt around for the “perfect” Christmas tree, go to school plays, bake cookies, host a holiday party, or have the family get-together at your house.

    A long to-do list can make the holidays stressful before they even start. And we still have our everyday lives to live, with work and kid routines to do, too. So pick just a few things you truly like, do those and really enjoy every second, and then let the rest of it go for this year.

  3. Don’t feel the need to out-decorate your neighbors.
    This can be tough if you have neighbors who go all-out from Halloween through New Year’s. If that is something you love to do, by all means, go for it. But the holidays are not supposed to be a competition, so if you’re not feeling up for it, don’t feel compelled to keep up with the neighbors. It’s okay not to go overboard decorating, and that doesn’t make you a “Grinch.”
  4. Don’t feel the need to control everything.
    This can be a hard one, but when people are traveling, making big meals for many people or having houseguests, along with all the other holiday things happening, something is bound to go awry. If we go into the season prepared for “stuff” to happen, it will be easier to go with the flow, take things as they come, and enjoy ourselves.
  5. Don’t feel obligated to eat every treat out there.
    Everyone seems to dread putting on those extra pounds during the holidays, and yet it still seems to happen to an awful lot of us. Then we make crazy New Year’s resolutions to lose the weight, which always end up being very hard to keep.

    Willpower can be difficult to manage because those treats can be so tasty and we may not have them at any other time of the year. Sometimes even as adults we still feel the pressure to clean our plates, or the hostess insists we have a second helping. However, it is possible to enjoy the treats and special meals while doing so in moderation.

  6. Don’t drink too much.
    This seems like an obvious one, but it can be easy to forget while in the middle of all the merrymaking. This is especially true of any work functions. And of course, never drink and drive. Be sure to pick a designated driver ahead of time, and just like with the treats, drink in moderation.
  7. Don’t be alone if you don’t want to be.
    If you’re going to be alone for the holidays, consider volunteering. There are plenty of food banks that need help distributing food. The Salvation Army can always use an extra set of hands. Convalescent homes and children’s homes would like some visitors. Giving ourselves in this way can actually benefit us just as much as those we are helping. Conversely, if you want to be alone, be sure to plan time for yourself.
  8. Don’t try to be perfect.
    It’s important to remember that “perfect” holidays don’t exist. Even in the best of circumstances, it’s impossible to have that Christmas-card-perfect holiday season, and so we shouldn’t expect it.

Before the pressure of the holidays is full on, take some time to really think about what you want your holidays to look like this year. Decide what you want and like to do, not what everyone else is telling you to do. Then stick to what makes you happy. The holidays are meant for spending quality time with people we enjoy, doing things we love, spreading joy, and really appreciating what we (already) have.

Holiday stress photo available from Shutterstock

8 Tips to Manage the Pressure of the Holidays

Kurt Smith, Psy.D., LMFT, LPCC, AFC

Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching and writes a blog about the issues facing men (and the women who love them). As an expert in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today, he regularly appears on The Huffington Post, NerdWallet and PsychCentral. Dr. Kurt is a lover of dogs, sarcasm, everything outdoors, and helping those seeking to make their lives and relationships better. Check out his weekly tips on Facebook or Twitter.

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APA Reference
Smith, K. (2018). 8 Tips to Manage the Pressure of the Holidays. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 20 Nov 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.