If you can already feel the “how the eff am I going to get everything done” anxiety reverberating through your body now is the time to commit to not losing your you-know-what this Christmas; to enjoying the season instead of merely surviving it.

Christmas is supposed to be about peace and joy but for many of us that can seem as likely as flying red-nosed reindeer. Sure we might enjoy a few moments of bliss on Christmas eve when the kids are finally in bed, but the lead up can be killer. “Peace and love” are too often replaced by stress and resentment as we add “make everything perfect and magical for everyone” to our already never-ending to do list.

Repeat after me: you are only one woman and the sanctity and success of Christmas does not rest solely on your shoulders. Take a deep breath and think about how you can use this advice to maintain your sanity this holiday season.


Don’t overschedule. This is the golden rule of December. Protect your calendar and your time, especially the quiet moments alone with family, as fiercely as you protect your secret stash of peanut butter cups. Don’t be afraid to say no, especially to things that don’t bring you joy. Commitments made out of obligation, not desire, will only cause stress and resentment. Don’t get caught up in the belief you need to see everyone you’ve ever met and wish them a Happy Holidays in person. Ask yourself, can it wait until January?

Don’t overspend. Financial worries plague most of us throughout the year and our anxiety ramps up during the holidays (or at least in January when the bills come in.) Spending more than your monthly budget is inevitable at Christmas as the cost of gifts, entertaining and travel add up. But setting a realistic budget and sticking to it as best you can will help alleviate some of the anxiety. Keep track of what you spend so there are no surprises come the new year.

Don’t say yes out of guilt. Don’t say yes to anything – hosting, participating in a gift exchange, baking for the Christmas concert, or seeing the friend who happens to be in town ONLY on December 23rd out of guilt. Letting guilt or fear of disappointing others motivate us isn’t good for our mental health. The “put your own mask on first” philosophy is even more important this time of year. There’s no shame in politely declining with an “I’m sorry, but I can’t” or “next time for sure.”

Know your limits when it comes to homemade gifts. That Pinterest project might seem like a good idea but if you’ve never made a three-foot origami tree or french macarons, mid-December might not be the best time to start. Don’t add to your stress by setting yourself up to fail. Yes, homemade is lovely and thoughtful, and that’s exactly why God created Etsy.com.

Make a list and check it fourteen times. Make a list of everyone you need to buy for and start penciling in gift ideas as early as you can. A plan helps you avoid overspending and the dreaded last-minute panic purchase (which almost always costs more than you’d like to spend and is never quite the right thing.) Include teachers, tutors, coaches, babysitters, in-laws and hostess gifts. Seeing it all in list form probably won’t induce holiday zen, but knowing you’re organized and not forgetting anyone will.

Outsource. All is calm and all is bright, especially when you’ve got someone coming to do the cleaning for you. Outsourcing house cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, pet care and even Christmas dinner can free up time to focus on the things you really want to be doing during the holidays. It doesn’t have to be a permanent commitment, just give yourself a little time to breathe and enjoy the season by hiring someone to share the load.

Don’t Believe the Hype. Retailers would like us to believe that the holidays cannot be enjoyed without the perfect décor, matching velvet stockings and three-wick scented candles. But chasing that image of perfection, the belief that it all has to look right, will only have you running in circles. The perfect holiday is as elusive as the perfect body or becoming a perfect parent: it’s a unicorn, it doesn’t exist. Let go of the need to make everything look and be perfect. Your living room doesn’t need to look like a magazine spread to induce holiday bliss. Christmas isn’t about that. 

Think Hygge. This writer is currently obsessed with the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga), which means to embrace a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being, despite the awful weather or chaos happening around us. Hygge is about curling up with a hot drink and a warm blanket. It’s about quiet nights in front of a fire or relaxing in a dim candle-lit room. Hygge is a lifestyle choice that includes slowing down, appreciating the simpler things and surrounding ourselves with objects that bring us comfort and joy.


Jen Millard is a writer who's not afraid to say what everyone else is thinking about parenting and relationships. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram via @jennemillard or at wineandsmarties.com.

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