How to Reduce Holiday Overwhelm & Stress


Overwhelm is everywhere during the holidays and the question remains:  How to reduce holiday overwhelm and stress that we feel.

Does this sound like you:

Overwhelmed with shopping.

Overwhelmed with baking.

Overwhelmed with cleaning.

Running errands.

Doing all the fun holiday things.

Being at all the parties.

Seeing all your family.


There is so much to get done, so much to do, and we often times feel so alone in all of this.  You are not alone!!

Overwhelm permeates many areas of our lives, especially during the holiday season.  You are left with this heavy, bogged down feeling and defeat seems to follow you wherever you go.  It’s certainly the opposite of the joy we are on the search for during the holidays! The feeling of “it’ll never be enough” looms large for you – I’ll soon share more on the feeling of nothing you do is ever enough – but in the meantime, the overwhelm.

Could it be that you are choosing to overwhelm yourself?  Maybe even unnecessarily.  Possibly. I am all about using empowering language so that you can see the power that resides within you, and how you need to harness that power – it all starts with the language you use. And, I know this might not leave you with the warm and fuzzy feelings, but you are making the choice to overwhelm yourself, and you need to empower yourself to make a different choice!

Here are some tips on reducing the overwhelm you feel during the holidays.

Focus on what really matters

No one will remember the gifts, but they will remember the laughs, enjoyment, the togetherness that you share.  I certainly don’t remember the gifts that I got during my childhood but I do remember the warmth, love, and family.  Just reminiscing about this makes me smile and cry at the same time.  Sharing time with those I love is what is so special about this time and those are the moments I want to cherish.

Focus on what you can control

Focus on what you can control in each and every moment.  Sometimes the sense of overwhelm comes from thinking about all the things left on the to do list, how we’ll have to run everywhere to get it all done, thinking about all the family we’ll have to deal with.  Start by making a list of the things that you can control in your life. The things you cannot control are simply none of your business.  Examples of things you can’t control:  Other people’s reactions or comments; the gifts others decide to give you; the expectations of your family; the resulting feelings of others when you do what is right for you.  Focus on the control you have throughout the holidays.  And, remember, you have control over your to do list! (wink, wink)

Use your breathing to regain control

That’s what the holidays do to us when we let it run out of control.  I love to use my breath as both a reminder that I am in control and to calm myself when the overwhelm feels, well, overwhelming.  Breathing is relatively automatic – most of the time you don’t realize you are doing it – its an autopilot function for you.  Only until you think about your breathing and slow it down do you see that you have control over your breath.  And, having control over your breath reminds you that you do, in fact, have control.  There are actually many different benefits of purposeful breathing exercises, but one of the biggest benefits is that you are able to stop and bring yourself into the present moment.  Try the 4-7-8 breathing method, it’s been proven to reduce stress and anxiety.  This breathing method is this:  close your mouth, breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, then audibly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8 – that’s one breath.  Repeat that multiple times.


Fourth tip for reducing overhwelm, and it’s a big one.  But, one, that if you do consistently can immediately decrease the overwhelm you feel. Ready?  SAY NO.  You don’t need to say yes to every opportunity, every ask, every engagement. You actually need to say no more and choose your yeses more wisely. Hear me:  Choose your yeses more wisely.  Don’t immediately respond to a request, take the time to think and evaluate whether it’s adding holiday joy or contributing to holiday overwhelm.  Then the decision becomes easy!

Prioritize your list

Take the time to prioritize your list, and make sure to include your own needs. Get out a piece of paper and dump out all the things you need to do on one list.  After you finish, take the time to rewrite the list in priority order. This helps you determine what is the most important and maybe what should have your focus.  Things that are lower on the list?  Well, ship those off to someone else, call in your holiday helpers or eliminate them all together.  If they are that low on the list, are they truly needed?

Question your expectations

Finally, I think it would be beneficial to mention those expectations, which we will dive deeper into during this series, but I must mention it here briefly.  Your expectations, as well as the expectations of others that you allow into your life, drive the sense of overwhelm you experience throughout the holidays.  If there is one thing I can share with you now it’s this:  with expectations, you are always trying to reach something that will never be attainable because it will never feel like enough, you are always reaching for the next thing, striving to do more, questioning why you can’t get it all done.  When you release the expectations you place on yourself, things in your life will happen naturally because you aren’t stressed about whether it’s going according to your expectations – life is just happening and you should savor every moment. Ask yourself this question:  how do these expectations serve me?

So, let’s summarize how to reduce the overwhelm during the holidays:

Focus on what matters.

Focus on what you can control.

Do some breathing exercises with the 4-7-8 method.

Say No More, Choose Yeses Wisely

Take a look at your to do list and prioritize

Question your expectations


Phew, that’s a lot but overwhelm during the holidays is a big topic and a challenge we will face day in and day out.  Take back the control and savor the holiday moments.


For more holiday tips, join my Surviving The Holiday series HERE!



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