Simplify, Simplify, Simplify: Tips for Avoiding Holiday Stress

by Terra Wellington


Why did everyone have to schedule the same holiday party for the first weekend after Thanksgiving? The holidays are meant to be filled with joy, but sometimes it feels like a hard-fought marathon. Right after the turkey leftovers are half gone, we’re racing to kickoff point for a grand run to the holiday finish line.

If you’re feeling a little worn due to the hustle and bustle, here are five tips to help you out:

1.   R&R goes a long way

Part of the reason that many of us get stressed out over the holidays is because there's often very little down time. Sometimes the only way to make a quiet moment happen is to schedule it in. Maybe there’s at least one weekend in December that is party-free, no matter what, or several days that you don’t go out after work and school. 

2.   Baked goods are fun, but…

Making cookies and sending them off to neighbors and friends is a great way to say "thanks" and to share the love and friendship. However, while I’m all for the charm of homemade goodies, it can take a lot of time. Perhaps make it half and half, like half treats purchased from the farmer's market, and half homemade candies or cookies. What are your fast-and-easy holiday treats? Fill a plate with the easy stuff if you’re hard pressed for time.

3.   Look for short prep times

If you’re planning to have people over and will need to make appetizers, look for easy treats that have short preparation times. Dips with locally sourced veggies are a healthy alternative to the all-sweets fare that usually grabs us at holiday parties. Make a list of what worked this year, save it, and use it next year as a tradition: this takes the stress out of having to re-invent every year. I have a friend whose specialty is a walnut salad that everyone can’t wait to eat, even though they've had it year after year.

4.   Take the focus off the dollars

Whenever possible, look for ways to enjoy the holidays and go easy on the wallet. There are lots of free community events this time of year, including nativity festivals, Christmas tree lightings, and holiday concerts. Also, if you mutually agree with your family members that there is a gift dollar limit, you’ll find that all of you will be more creative with your gifts. Think of giving a gift of your time, which doesn’t cost any money, like offering to give a back rub to your husband each Sunday, taking the dog for a walk for a month, or babysitting a friend's kids for free to give the parents a break.

5.   Get some daytime rays

While some of your holiday stress may come from being busy, it may also be because this time of year, people often do not get enough sunlight. Without regular daytime sunshine, you can experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Take a mid-day walk, even if you have to bundle up. Use a clear (not black) umbrella if you’re getting your daytime rays in the rain; even on a cloudy day, you’ll get bright light at just the right wavelength to help you feel better. Coupled with exercise and eating right, a bit of sunshine each day and reconnecting with nature can make a big difference.

Above all, take time for your family. It’s so easy to get caught up in the calendar of events, and before you know it, family time has been lost. The easy-going time with kids and loved ones is the best way to remind you that life is full of many, simple joys. 

Terra Wellington has been a guest on such programs as Chicago’s WGN, The Daily Buzz, The Montel Williams Show, WCBS’ This Morning, and Martha Stewart Radio. She is the author of The Mom's Guide to Growing Your Family Green and the former wellness editor of Fit Body and Real. In addition to contributing to numerous magazines and websites, she’s an actress and mom. More at and Twitter: @terrawellington.