Christmas: It’s the Most Stre-ess-ful Time of the Year!

by Kassandra Lamb ~ Christmas is indeed the most stressful time of the year. So I’ve compiled, from previous posts, the most helpful hints for dealing with holiday stress.

And just for fun, I’ve created some new lyrics for this old classic!  See below and sing along.

It’s the most stre-ess-ful time of the year!
There’ll be much to and froing,
And tempers a blowing
When loved ones are near.
It’s the most stre-ess-ful time of the year.

It’s the crab-crabbiest season of all!
With the holiday shopping
and pushing and stomping
when crowds raid the stores.
It’s the crab-crabbiest season for sure.

There’ll be parties for hosting,
Uncle Joe’ll be boasting,
after he’s had enough beer.
There’ll be scary Aunt Glory
and Gramps telling stories
of how he shot the reindeer!

It’s the most stre-ess-ful time of the year!

Can you imagine Andy Williams singing that?!? 😀

Joking aside, this is indeed the most stressful time of the year for anyone who celebrates Christmas. Some years I’m tempted to take up Buddhism.

Barring that, here are my top six tips for surviving the holiday season!

#1 ~ Spread Out the Stress

The impact of stress is cumulative. A lot of stress in a short period of time is much more detrimental to our health and sanity than the same amount of stress spread out over time.

So do as much as you can as early as you can.

(For more on how I handle shopping early, in a somewhat obsessive-compulsive but nonetheless organized way, see this post, Are You a Pre-crastinator?)

#2 ~ Lists, Lists, Lists…

Christmas is the most stressful time
meme created on

Santa and his elves aren’t the only ones who should be making lists and checking them twice. There are three ways that lists can save your sanity during this most stressful time of the year.

First, ask your family members with whom you exchange gifts to make up a wish list. We’ve been doing this for years in our clan. It makes shopping so much easier. One is not bound by the list, but it’s there as guidance and a safety net, as needed and desired.

Second, make a list of the people you give gifts to and which gifts you plan to buy/have bought/have ordered, etc. for each person. No need to stress over whether or not you’ve forgotten someone if you have a list!

And third, make a list of the things you need to do to get ready for the holidays. Do this no later than November 1st (okay, it’s a little late this year, but do it now anyway). It is so satisfying to check things off as you get them done, and that often makes the rest of the list seem less overwhelming.

My list normally looks something like this (although this year, there will be no traveling to my son’s; we’ll be Zooming instead):

  1. Start shopping (no later than October).
  2. Make travel arrangements (we go to our son’s for Christmas).
  3. Decorate house.
  4. More shopping.
  5. Find that person in the store who keeps playing It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year on the loudspeaker and strangle them.
  6. Wrap gifts (no later than early December).
  7. Pack clothes for trip.
  8. Take dog to kennel.
  9. Load car.
  10. Drive to son’s house.
  11. Hide gifts in guest room closet and booby-trap the door to keep grandkids out!

Those of you without grown children (who are willing to feed you on Christmas) may have grocery shopping, thawing the turkey, and stuff like that on your list. Maybe even baking things.

(Note: Back when baking was on my list, it involved Pillsbury tubes of dough.)

#3 ~ Decorations

Decorate for you and your family, not the world. Unless you totally get off on decorating (I know a couple of people who do), keep it simple. Ask yourself what is most important for you and yours?

For years I struggled with those #%@&* outside lights, stringing them over trees and bushes and freezing my tuckus off in the process. Today, the inside of my house is a Christmas wonderland, because I enjoy putting up those decorations. But outside, there’s a wreath on the front door and a pre-lit table tree in the dining room window. That’s all my neighbors are getting from me.

And you know what? None of them have complained yet.

Christmas is the most stressful time

And when it comes to decorating the tree, make it a family affair. This was hard for me when my son was little, because I tend to be a perfectionist. But I soon learned to let him hang his favorite ornaments in clumps near the bottom. I could always move them around a bit after he was in bed. He never seemed to notice.

Also, unless you have a strong family tradition of waiting until Christmas Eve, put the tree up early on. Again, the more things you can get done early during this stressful time of the year, the better.

#4 ~ Food

Take a look at your traditional menu and ask if you really want and need all those dishes. Do you need white potatoes AND dressing AND sweet potatoes?

A few years ago, I paid close attention to who ate what when we sat down to eat, and I noticed that I was the only one who took more than a token helping of the sweet potato casserole, so I dropped it from the menu the next year, and nobody even noticed.

Also prepping as much as possible ahead of time can reduce the stress on Christmas Day. I learned this from my grandma. Every year, she came over to our house on Christmas Eve. She made the dressing that night, and prepped the turkey. The next morning, Mr. Turkey just needed to be transferred from the fridge to the oven.

#5 ~ Take care of yourself!

Pace yourself. Dealing with this most stressful time of the year is a marathon, not a sprint. If you try to do too much in one day you will wear yourself out, and be tired and grouchy the next day.

Take a break. Read a book! 🙂 (photo by David, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia)

If you want to be super-organized, you could mark the day you plan to do certain things on your list. Then on any given day, you are only stressing about that day’s chores.

Also this time of year (and especially this year), getting too fatigued and stressed out can lead to illness. Getting sick is definitely not going to help!

So schedule proper rest, eating, relaxation breaks, and some exercise into your days.

My mother used to wear herself down to the nub by Christmas Eve. My brother and I would hide in our rooms that day. She was so exhausted and cranky, if we landed on her radar, who knew what would happen? (Usually an explosion over some minor infraction.)

I’m five or six here, I think. You can’t see my face but I’m grinning at my new doll family.

By the next day, she was much better and we always had a great Christmas, but much of what she had done to prepare for it wasn’t really what made it special for us.

The specialness of Christmas came from having a whole day of relaxation and freedom to play, and the undivided attention from the adults in the family. Everybody was in a great mood and we had a blast.

Oh, and there were new toys, of course.

#6 ~ There Is No Report Card!

Christmas should not be a contest or a performance for which we receive a grade. If you have someone in your life who tends to be that judgmental, you have my permission to uninvite them for Christmas.

If that’s not an option, then practice some lines you can fire back if they comment or even just glare at you judgmentally.

Something like “My house may not be perfect but my kids are happy.”

Or maybe “What would Jesus do?” to remind them that judging is definitely not in the spirit of the season.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Oh, and don’t forget to ENTER our Happy Holidays Contest!

Ends this Sunday, December 13th!

Prizes are this cute “tree of books” ornament* and a virtual stocking of FREE ebooks, all quick reads for the holidays.

*Note: A Happy Holidays ornament can be substituted if desired. U.S. residents only will receive the ornament; an international winner will receive ebooks only.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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  • Reply
    K.B. Owen
    December 8, 2020 at 9:13 am

    Wow, Kass, you’re scary organized, LOL! Your plan only works as far as you have cooperation from your family, though. I start pestering my family in early November for Christmas ideas, but they don’t give me much to go on unless I nag them, which I really hate doing. And to be fair, the two youngest are usually dealing with college projects and final exams by then and really can’t think of anything else.

    By the weekend after Thanksgiving they’ve usually given me some sort of list, but it’s only after I’ve jumped on those and ordered everything that a ton of other ideas spring to their minds that they THEN pass along. *head desk* I’ve learned to hold back on ordering an item or two for an extra week, just in case. But then, of course, one’s flirting with the delivery timeline. Complicating things is the fact that our youngest has his birthday Dec 30th, so that’s an extra gift idea I need.

    I don’t mind being the one who decides/orders all the gifts but my own, and it can be fun in its own way, but the responsibility can be stressful sometimes. And of course this year let’s throw in all the pandemic stressors…ho ho ho. It does make one stop and think about what’s REALLY important.

    I wish you a very Merry Christmas, Kass!

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      December 8, 2020 at 12:21 pm

      Honestly, I scare myself sometimes…lol

      And yes, cooperation from the family is a perpetual issue. This year made worse in our clan by my son and DIL having Covid (they are much better, btw—phew!). They just this weekend realized that Christmas is just around the corner and everything has to be shipped this year. So suddenly, they’re scrambling.

      A very Merry Christmas back atcha, Kathy!

  • Reply
    Rachel Burke
    December 12, 2020 at 2:48 pm

    Holiday stress is real. I especially agree that you have to take time for self care – particularly this year – to get through it.

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    December 12, 2020 at 11:16 pm

    Definitely, self-care is really important this year, Rachel. Thanks for stopping by!

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