5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Overwhelm

Crystal Jackson


There was a running joke in my family that I once married the Grinch when my family is, in fact, the Whos of Whoville. For those of you who have never seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas or read the book, you’re completely missing the whimsy and charm of this inside joke. But there was truth to it.

I’m now divorced, but in the decade that I was married, all of the holiday cheer generated in my family came from- you guessed it- yours truly! I was a one-gal Christmas parade all season long. My enthusiasm for the holiday season started early and lingered long after I had packed up the Christmas tree that I always put up and decorated by myself. I’m a person who loves celebrating. Celebrations, in general, are kind of my thing.

Perhaps we’re not all brimming with holiday cheer. In fact, the holidays are a difficult time for many people.

I think it’s important that we try to get what joy we can out of each holiday that comes around.

But for those of us over-burdened and overwhelmed by the frenzied activity of the holiday season, here are some tips to avoid burnout:

#1 Choose one holiday activity that appeals to you.

Do this one thing with intention, totally focused on enjoying it. Forget all the rest.

#2 Say no to an obligation that doesn’t bring you joy.

It could be opting out of an extra holiday event, declining a party invitation, or simply taking on fewer responsibilities during the holiday season.

#3 Say yes to something just for yourself.

Say yes to a self-care day or a nap or a sweet treat. Say yes to time for yourself doing something you want without having to put everyone else first.

#4 Learn to prioritize what you want for the holiday season.

While most of us hate to disappoint others, if your idea of a fun holiday season isn’t going around to eight different family members’ houses, then don’t do it. Seriously. It's a bad idea this year anyway. Don't be a super spreader.

Quit doing things you think you “have to” do. Figure out what you truly want to do that. Make it happen. Even if what you want to do is NOT celebrate at all. Take care of yourself, and let everyone else worry about themselves.

#5 Take the toxicity out of the holiday season.

If there are people who you see at the holidays who make you feel bad about who you are, don’t feel like you have to spend time with them. Instead, celebrate the season with the kind of people whose company you enjoy and who cherish time with you.

Most of us probably fall somewhere between the Grinch and Elf when it comes to the holiday season. While I know we can’t do everything at the holidays, I always enjoy trying to do as much as I can. When I can’t do something, I just let it go and move to another item on my handy dandy merry-making holiday list.

So often as adults, we look at the holiday season as being something for the children.

We tell them about Santa Claus and act like we are too old to believe. We make their holiday magical while we struggle with budgets and obligations and forget that we need some of that magic, too.

We’re not too old or too responsible to feel unbridled joy at the singing of carols or to get positively gleeful about holiday lights or special holiday performances. We’re allowed to indulge in what is looked at as childlike joy any time of year but most especially during the holidays.

Whatever we’re going through, we can still look for ways to make the holidays magical for our children- and for our inner child who still needs each holiday to be merry and bright.


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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails: https://crystaljacksonwriter.substack.com/

Madison, GA

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