Combat Holiday Blues: Planning Tips for a Stress-free Festive Season

Too many decisions -- or compromises -- to make around the holidays? Here's how to get the holidays you want, starting now

Credit: Flickr / dylan20

Don’t go fetal wondering where to go and what to do this Christmas

Holiday stress can be almost entirely avoided if you make a concerted effort to plan now, rather than waiting until December, when screaming and whining (and that’s just the adults) can be heard throughout the land

Let’s face it. December is supposed to be fun and festive, but it all too often turns into a festival of dread.

What happens if you and your partner’s parents both want you under the tree, and neither will take no for an answer? Maybe it’s your first Christmas separated, and you can’t agree on who gets the kids when.

On the other side of the coin, many of us are facing bleak holidays without partners, family, or friends. Below, tips on how to create the Christmas you want, with a little help from the world. 

  • Plan early. Sit down, by yourself or with your family, and imagine the holiday you want, rather than the one you feel pressured to have. Decide what you’ll spend on gifts, including those obligation gifts for officemates or relatives’ far-flung adult children. How much travel do you want to do? When? With who?
  • Take turns. I’ve written before about how to make decisions. If whose house to spend Christmas in is a constant source of conflict with your partner, simply choose to alternate years – whatever the circumstances.
  • Gather fellow strays. If you’re alone at Christmas, ask around: plenty of other folks are in the same boat. Host an “orphans’ Christmas” – many folks at family do’s probably wish they could be there!
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen. It’s a cliché for a reason: connecting with those in truly difficult circumstances helps us put our own situation in perspective. Whether we’re feeling alone or as if hands are pulling us in all directions, serving others takes our minds off ourselves and makes us realize how lucky we really are.
  • Rediscover the spirit of Christmas. A candlelit Christmas Eve church service, going caroling in the snow, the walk to the local lot to pick out and drag home your own tree, your annual cookie exchange with friends – all of these return your attention to what this holiday is really all about.
  • P.S. Still can’t decide? In a pinch, Mexico’s a pretty good place to spend Christmas — and as far from family (or the lack of it) as you can get!