Young beautiful woman sitting eating food around christmas tree at home relax and smiling with eyes closed doing meditation gesture with fingers.

5 Tips for a Less Stressful Holiday Season

The holidays can be busy and exhausting, but what if they don't have to be that way?

It's easy to get swept up in all the expectations and possibilities, but honestly, it's WAY more than any of us can take on. Even if we could get to all the fun things done, let alone the things we feel we “should” do, then we don't have time left just to relax.

Let's take a look at a few ways to undo perfectionism, get rid of other people's expectations, and make this year a different, less stressed holiday season.

Do You Want a More Connected, Less Frantic Holiday Season?

Great! If holidays are frantic and exhausting, it's totally fine to acknowledge this fact and decide to change them.

It's easy to get stuck in overthinking and perfectionism when we spiral into “should” thinking.

  • I should be able to deal with this.
  • I should enjoy this.
  • I should be more prepared.

However, if you take the ‘should' story out of it, you can accept that you simply don't WANT it to be this exhausting.

Then, instead of feeling guilty, you can spend that energy looking at what you want to change and setting your new plan in motion. Here are some things to consider as you move towards connection, not perfection at the holidays:

1. Be Gentle – You Don’t Have to Change All at Once or Get Everything Right.

Holidays can hold a lot of memories, expectations, and the potential for emotions to run high. It takes a while to get clarity on what you really love, and what you'd like to let go of.

Think about the overall feelings and experiences you want to create. Try one thing this year that helps you experience more of these good feelings. It's OK to experiment, and it's OK to go slow.

2. If Stress Starts to Overwhelm You, Get Perspective.

Back way up and at your the big picture. What actually matters here?

  • Is it spending time with loved ones you don't see often?
  • Is it making memories with your family?
  • Is it taking time for spiritual renewal or reconnection?

If you have kids, they're excited about the holidays without everything being perfect. Kids want time with you. They love the holiday traditions and decorations that are special for your family – not the traditions of every family on Pinterest.

Kids see magic in decorations at the Grocery store, chipped Christmas ornaments, Charlie Brown Christmas trees, and repetitive Christmas music. These things don't have to be five-star fancy versions!

When you can get some perspective, it helps you let go of trying to get every detail right. This is where the phrase connection, not perfection first came into use for me.

3. Just Because You’ve Always Done Something, Doesn’t Mean You Always Have to Do It.

Speaking of expectations…as you move towards more meaningful holidays, you may notice traditions that you do without questioning, even when they don’t really work anymore. It’s worth asking yourself if it’s time to make a change. Yes, this may disappoint some people in the short run. In the long run, however, it'll keep you from building up resentment and frustration.

4. Think Ahead About What Matters Most to You.

This way, you can let go of the rest more easily. Take a moment to think ahead of time about what is most important to you. By doing this you'll have more clarity and confidence when choosing which events you say yes to, who you include in family events, and what you are willing to be flexible about.

Take care of the things that matter most to you, ask for help with them, and let the rest go as best you can. 

5. It’s Not Too Late to Start New Traditions

To kids, something done twice becomes a tradition. In fact, even to adults, a feeling of ‘tradition' comes up with just a couple of repeats. It doesn’t have to be something that's been done since your grandmother was a baby.

Here are some of my favorite resources for creating fun, meaningful, and connected holidays:

Here’s What It Comes Down To: You Have a Choice!

Just because you’ve always done something or you think somebody expects you to do something does not mean you have to do it.

You’ve got to look at what you want for your family and make choices that will support that. You may get some grief about it, but in the end, if you want to have a connection with the people who matter most to you, you have to make that a top priority.

Take a hard look at which obligations you are taking on only because of other people’s expectations and ask yourself if it’s worth it.

Have fun and get inspired, and remember to go for connection, not perfection, with your holidays this year!

Author: Alissa Zorn

Title: Trauma-Informed Coach

Expertise: childhood emotional neglect, perfectionism, parenting, journaling, comics, doodling, coaching

Alissa Zorn is the founder of She's a trauma-informed coach and cartoonist passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism and shame to build authentic, joyful lives. Alissa has been featured on the Good Men Project, Wealth of Geeks, Motherly, and more.