9 Ways to Reduce Stress at Christmas: Enjoy the Holidays Again!


Do you find that stress at Christmas makes the holiday difficult to enjoy?

I definitely do. Here’s the thing: when it comes to love languages, I’m not a gifts person, I’m an acts of service person. I don’t feel love by getting presents and giving them–I feel love by having people do things to make my life easier.

So being told “It’s Christmas! So we get to make a meal for 29 people, rush from house to house to see everyone, and then spend the next week cleaning up!” made it really difficult for me to enjoy Christmas for a while.

It’s not that I’m a scrooge as much as I’m just overwhelmed. The sheer amount of stress at Christmas that I face with everything to do makes it difficult to be in the moment and simply enjoy time with family.

This year, however, I’m determined to be different. I even put up Christmas decorations. I haven’t done that in 4 years–this is a big step. But the bigger step that I’m taking is that I’m simply going to start saying “NO.”

Now, when it comes to family and Christmas it can get tricky. I firmly believe in the importance of family-time at Christmas, and sacrificing a bit of self-comfort for the family as a whole. I think that’s simply part of having a family!

But that doesn’t mean that your Christmas needs to be dictated by others’ wants. This is something I’m recognizing more and more these days. So here are 9 things you have my approval to say “no” to this Christmas to give you more time for what really matters–quality time with the people you love, remembering God’s gift to us.

Finding stress at Christmas to be overwhelming? Here are 9 things to say no to so that your holiday stress shoots down to zero!

1. Too many commitments

You only have so much time. If you have 7 Christmas parties to go to on top of 6 different friends and family members to visit over a 8 day period, it’s simply not going to happen. Or, if it does happen, you’re not going to get much quality time with any of them.

Set a limit for yourself. Say, “This year, I will say yes to 3 visits over Christmas” and then stick to it. (Besides, who says you can’t do late Christmas with friends in January?)

2. One person making the entire meal

A Christmas meal is a lot of work. Seriously, it’s crazy–I do not understand why it’s usually just one person who makes it. Besides, most families have a special recipe each person makes anyway, so why not just all bring your favourite thing to make?

The turkey can be done by someone different each year, but why not have it that Aunt Margaret brings stuffing, Uncle Dan brings the potatoes, and John brings the salad? Potluck Christmas sounds great to me!

3. Negative or abusive people

One tricky part of Christmas for a lot of people is that not all family is encouraging and loving. And I want to say something here not everyone will agree with:

If you seriously dislike your family because they are just really negative people who tear you down, it is perfectly acceptable to limit your time spent with them.

I’m really lucky to have a fun, vibrant family and I recognize that. But I have a lot of friends who seriously struggle with family. And I think that if someone is a bad person, there should be consequences. And that consequence can be that if they are manipulating or emotionally abusing you, they no longer get you in their life. I think that’s OK.

(Now, we’re not talking about someone who’s just got a personality that’s hard to love–we’re talking just plain-old bad people. Not annoying–mean. There’s a difference.)

4. Expensive gifts for people you don’t even really know

Are you in one of those families who expects you to drop $100 for your aunt’s brother-in-law’s step-sister because, “well, she’s family!”?

You don’t have to. To placate your family members and help everyone feel loved, I suggest finding a cute DIY project like dyed bath salts or something that can be made up at very little cost but is still a lovely gift. But say no to holiday stress by saying no to unnecessary spending.

5. Travelling long distances 

This especially applies to people with kids. I believe it’s important to see family at Christmas whenever possible. I truly do. That’s one of the most important traditions for me–spending time with family.

But if your family lives 10 hours away and they expect you to come down for only one day at Christmas every single year without ever doing the trek out your way, it’s OK to say no sometimes, or to offer to host instead!

Sometimes family lives far away. It’s really unfortunate if you can’t spend time together every year, but sometimes that’s just reality. So do your best to get good time with family, but if sometimes it needs to be a no, then it needs to be a no.

6. Missing out on the quiet times

Somewhere along the way we lost “Silent Night” and got “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Although I have nothing against Rudolph, for me Christmas is a time of joyful reflection, not the chaos that we’ve all accepted as reality.

Say “no” to activities that aren’t necessary and will take away from that quiet time that Christmas is about. Instead, sit and drink a chai tea while listening to Christmas music, or snuggle up and watch a Christmas movie with someone you love. Choose the quiet.

7. Mountains of presents

My family always did 3 presents each for Christmas: Gold (something we wanted), Frankincense (something to help us take care of ourselves), and Myrrh (something to help our spiritual development). If you’re overwhelmed finding presents, try to minimize the number of gifts that you buy so that you can pool the funds and buy just a few things that you know they’ll really love.

8. Empty traditions

Traditions are important–they’re so much of the beauty of Christmas! But there is such a thing as empty traditions. If you find yourself stressed at Christmas, ask yourself which traditions are meaningful and which ones you do simply for the sake of tradition. Then start to prune away.

Not all traditions need to continue–and minimizing what you do to only what is meaningful can help the Christmas season become much more relaxing.

9. Sacrificing your family’s needs for others’ wants

So often I see friends spending hundreds if not thousands over the holidays because it’s what’s expected of them by their family, but they simply don’t have the money. So they struggle, they go into a bit of credit card debt, and they feel the stress for months before and after.

Family requires some sacrifice, definitely. If you’re always comfortable and never inconvenienced, then it’s likely time to stretch yourself a bit. But a bit of inconvenience is very different than a family member not respecting your needs. Sit down and figure out this year: what are my needs? What are things that I cannot compromise on if I want to stay healthy financially, psychologically, and physically? 

Christmas is meant to be a time where we can sit and reflect with family on the love of God, that He would send Jesus to us in the most humble of situations. 

When we clutter our Christmas with things we feel we “should” do, or anxiety about whether or not we did everything right, we miss out on the quietness that we need to truly remember why we celebrate.

Don’t say “no” for the sake of saying “no.” Do it so that you can say “yes” to Jesus–say “no” so that you can have the time and mental energy you need to hear him this Christmas season.

What are some things you need to say no to this Christmas? What are you most excited for? Let me know in the comments below! 

Finding stress at Christmas to be overwhelming? Here are 9 things to say no to so that your holiday stress shoots down to zero!

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