5 Ways to Avoid Holiday Season Burnout

holiday season

If your holiday season is anything like mine used to be, it’s lots of fun but hardly relaxing. Our holidays involve party hosting and potluck meal prepping, gift shopping and wrapping, school and work events, and of course the ever-busy jobs. Since most members of my family and my husband’s live locally, we have multiple get-togethers to attend. On top of that, we want to be sure we have quality time with just our two daughters.

Sound like a lot to juggle? It is. But over the years, I’ve learned to prioritize holiday commitments so my family and I don’t get burned out and lose the magic of the season. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Rethink Family Traditions   

Many traditions are passed down through generations, and it’s natural to want to share customs that make up the warm memories of your own childhood. But what if your spouse or kids just aren’t feeling it? And what if your traditions cause you stress instead of warm fuzzies? It may be time to shift your thinking. I recommend you categorize your current traditions to determine which to keep and which to toss.

  • Nonnegotiable traditions. These are the ones that are important to you and you don’t want to let go. Perhaps that’s Christmas morning with grandparents, a candlelight service on Christmas Eve or family gatherings during Hanukkah.
  • Traditions that bring you joy. These should also be continued. These might include things like ice skating at Rockefeller Center or watching It’s a Wonderful Life.
  • Traditions that don’t thrill you. These are not necessarily meaningful or enjoyable to you. Maybe Black Friday shopping falls into this bucket, or even sending out holiday cards.

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Nothing is stopping you from cutting out traditions or, for that matter, creating new ones you’d prefer. For instance, when my daughters were younger, we opened presents on Christmas morning. But that proved stressful considering the late night at Grandma’s the night before and then rushing off for breakfast with Grandpa on Christmas morning. To create time for our family unit, we decided to celebrate and exchange gifts on Dec. 23 — and that became our special tradition.

Also, I realized that my daughters didn’t enjoy hanging ornaments on the tree. I don’t understand it since I grew up loving that tradition. But I respect their feelings and therefore we don’t use ornaments — we just decorate our tree with lights. Our new family tradition is to collect pins throughout the year, which we put on our stockings. Our pins reflect our personalities and evoke memories of the fun adventures we’ve been on. This unexpected new tradition bonds our family together in a way that hanging ornaments on a tree just couldn’t. What new meaningful traditions can you create?

Shop With a Plan 

When I was a newlywed, my holiday shopping list suddenly doubled thanks to the new family members on my husband’s side. It was financially, mentally and physically overwhelming to shop for so many gifts. To cope, I began keeping a spreadsheet of everyone in our family, along with clothing and shoe sizes, favorite colors, current interests, and even favorite drinks. I’ve kept the spreadsheet going for years now, and I still add to it any gift clues I gather from conversations during the year. This is helpful because it relieves me from having to make all my gift decisions in November and December. It’s also great to have on hand when birthdays roll around.To further reduce gift-shopping strain, consider researching ideas online and purchasing online before braving the holiday crowds. If you do need to go shopping in person, researching ahead of time can help you avoid the exhaustion of wandering the mall for inspiration. You may even be able to plan your driving route to various stores more efficiently.

Rethink Gift-Giving Customs 

If the way your family and friends exchange gifts is losing meaning for you, discuss with your group what might work better. You may not be the only one feeling pressured. Expressions of holiday love can come in many forms: acts of service, quality time spent together, homemade food, and craft sessions. Instead of exchanging gifts, perhaps your group can celebrate the season by spending time together on a wine tour or a spa day, or by volunteering together at a local charitable organization. Or you could draw names. I used to exchange gifts with each of my cousins. We are very close, so each gift needed to be personal and well thought out. As we got older and could purchase our wish-list items ourselves, suitable gifts became harder to find. So we agreed to draw names, helping everyone save money and also giving us more time to focus on a special gift for just one person. We use an online Secret Santa generator since we don’t all live close by. During the holidays, most of my cousins come to the Bay Area, where I live, and we do our gift exchange within a few days of Christmas. To add an element of fun, we wrap the gifts anonymously and take turns opening them and guessing who the giver is. It may sound silly, but it brings us a lot of laughter and good memories.

If you’re short on time, consider wrapping only the children’s gifts with paper. Adults can get the simpler treatment of gift bags and tissue paper. Preprinted labels can also help save you time since you won’t have to write your name repeatedly. You can order labels online or design and print your own using your home computer.

Streamline Potluck Preparations

During the holidays, I typically attend six potlucks in four days, and for each of them, I provide a substantial dish. I used to cook a different recipe for each event — but then I woke up. Grocery shopping and food preparation are much easier when you repeat the same recipe. Plus, it’s typically more cost-effective.

Another tip that helps me during the holidays is to choose a recipe that can be prepared ahead of time. This gives you a chance to get your kitchen back in order before rushing out of the house, and can also help minimize the anxiety of a new dish not working out, since you’ll have time for a backup plan.

Alternatively, instead of making a recipe, you could purchase prepared food. In some families, this is what everyone does, but if yours isn’t that type, ask yourself why not. After all, bringing along prepared food will in no way diminish the quality time you spend with your loved ones, right?

Start Getting Your House Ready Ahead of Time 

Organizing, cleaning, and decorating your house for the holidays takes time and endurance. I recommend you reduce stress by starting the process early. Perhaps with an early enough start, you might even declutter a bit. New items are likely to find their way into your home this time of year, so clearing space beforehand can help prevent an after-holiday pileup. If you’re hosting, don’t wait until the last minute to iron linens or pull out serving pieces. Set out dinnerware and flatware a few days before to ensure all the necessary pieces are washed and available. Most importantly, remember what you’re celebrating as you close out the year. Reflect on who and what you value most!

Your turn: How do you avoid holiday season burnout? Share your advice in the Comments.

Blog written by Patricia Lee, Houzz Contributor. 

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