I stood in the center of my kitchen; one hand on the counter and one hand on my head. I could feel the panic welling up inside me. Thoughts of how much I had to do swirled through my mind. I felt like the room was spinning. I could feel the holiday stress creeping up on me.

Then the tears came, and I couldn’t stop them.

They flowed freely down my cheeks as the panic attack took hold. I just kept thinking about all the things I needed to get done. There were dozens of cookies to bake, gifts to buy and wrap, events to attend. All this in addition to our normal activities with school, work, sports, and play rehearsals. There was no way I was going to get everything done. And that realization caused my anxiety to spin out of control. 

That was me last year at the beginning of December. I felt so overwhelmed with all that the holidays involved that I had a full-blown panic attack right at home in my kitchen. I just couldn’t handle the pressure of all the holiday stress. It was too much. 

I feel like the holidays can be this way for many of us.

We want to celebrate with friends and family and to decorate the tree; to sing Christmas carols; to attend all the events; to bake tons of cookies. We want everything to be picture perfect. But it’s not always that way. 

There is the very real pressure of making it all perfect and getting so much done. And it can be overwhelming. Very overwhelming.  

I decided early on this year that I wasn’t going to let holiday stress ruin my season like it had last year.

Last year was such a mess! I felt so stressed and overwhelmed that I couldn’t enjoy any of it. I kept saying how much I hated the month of December and that there was way too much to do. So many expectations and so much pressure to do it ALL and make it all perfect.

So I made the decision that this year would be different. No more panic attacks. No more worrying.

I am taking the holidays back. 

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions (which I’ve never been big on anyway), I’m making Christmas resolutions. And I’m hoping these make my holiday season less stressful this year. Maybe they’ll do the same for you. 

baking cookies early to avoid holiday stress

Bake Early

One of my biggest stressors is making Christmas cookies. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love making Christmas cookies with my family. What I don’t love is the pressure of having to make so many cookies in such a short period of time. 

So this year I decided to try something different. Instead of waiting until December to bake cookies, I started baking in October. I had all of my Christmas cookies baked and in the freezer by November 10th. And it has lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders!

I’ve also decided that I’m saying “no” to being a part of any cookie exchanges this year. I can never bring home cookies in return, due to my son’s food allergies, so why stress myself out over something I was only doing out of a feeling of obligation? No more.

Limit Holiday Celebrations

December always brings about a ton of events. Holiday parties, school/church Christmas plays, holiday light festivals, work holiday parties, and more. I realized last December that as much as I may want to attend all the holiday parties and events, I just can’t. Overcommitting myself for the season is part of what led to my breakdown. So I’ve learned to say “no” and to prioritize. My family has decided which two events are the most important to us, and we will be attending those and ONLY those. 

holiday gift

Limit the Guilt When it Comes to Giving Gifts

For quite a long time I’ve thought that I had to get the perfect gifts for everyone. I needed to find that gift that would put a huge smile on their faces and fill them with glee. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s fun to watch someone else enjoy the gift you give to them. But we shouldn’t be spending so much time looking for the “perfect” present that it puts pressure on us and causes us stress. 

People love getting gift cards as much as they do an actual gift. Heck, you give them a gift card and they can go buy whatever they want. That’s gotta be the most perfect gift there is!

Buying gift cards will also save you so much time. No need to spend hours schlepping from store to store or staring at a computer screen as you shop online. So this year I’m buying more gift cards than usual, and I’m OK with that. And I’m pretty sure that everyone I buy them for will be OK with that, too. 

The holidays aren’t supposed to bring us stress.

They’re not supposed to be a time of being fraught with panic attacks. The holidays should be a time of peace, joy, and love; a time of being with our cherished loved ones. I could not enjoy the holidays last year because of how stressed I felt. But I won’t make that mistake again this year.

This year will be different. This year I resolve to put holiday stress in its place and to enjoy this season with my family. I hope you resolve to do the same. 

How do you avoid stress during the holiday season? Tell us in a comment!