Tips for Simplifying the Season and Reducing Holiday Stress

Every year we meet again. Hello holiday stress! We are dear old friends. Every year you come to me almost instantaneously. As soon as the Thanksgiving dishes are cleared, I can feel you waiting outside the front door. 

I think I speak for us all when I say, I had no idea how much time and effort my mother put into the holidays as a kid. As a single mother she especially  went above and beyond to make Christmas special for us. Amidst all the sparkle and excitement for presents, I remember seeing her stressed, but didn’t exactly know why. I remember being grateful to all be together, but feeling as if she wasn’t truly there with us.

woman dealing with holiday stress I’ve been caught up in creating the picture perfect holiday too. Perfectly posed and designed holiday cards, centerpieces, elaborate meals yielding way too many leftovers, and overspending to the max just to ensure I’ve done and given enough. 

Holiday stress ranges rampant out there, and while it’s typically Mom who bears the burden of meal prep, baking, decorating, gift wrapping and the like, it no doubt creates so much stress, tension, and conflict impacting partnership, parental, and sibling relationship dynamics across the spectrum. We do so much! For what? So we can end up at each other’s throats? How is that exemplary of the holiday spirit?

Not to mention all the waste. The food, wrapping paper, packaging – even those cute cards you send. The paper used for printing, envelopes and even the card itself eventually just ends up in the trash. Is it all worth it?

I’m at a place in life where I say no it’s not. 

All the stress is not worth sacrificing my joy. All the stress is not worth sacrificing being conscious and present with my daughter. It’s not worth the aftermath and I’ve decided it’s time to do the holidays differently. 

There is a lot of talk about not comparing yourself to others and doing things your way, and this is one of the opportunities where we get the chance to walk the walk. 

Why not reimagine the holidays? Why not cross some of the daunting things off your list and free yourself from holiday stress? It’s been 5 years since I sent a holiday card, and I haven’t regretted making the decision to stop. Let’s face it. Your friends and family don’t need a card to know you love them. This is just one idea of something you could cross off that would save yourself time, energy, money, hassle, and a cramp in your wrist. 

As a mother I want to give my daughter special holiday memories too. The thing is we can’t do it all and we shouldn’t set the bar for ourselves so high. It’s unfair to you and it’s unsustainable. 

Here are some strategies to simplify this holiday season so you can reduce stress and actually enjoy yourself. 

Create a Budget

For years I never went in setting any limits for myself financially. I just bought what I wanted for people and then dealt with the aftershock later. Or, even when I was tring to be mindful, I would keep grabbing little things here and there and didn’t realize how much it was all adding up to. Be intentional about creating a budget, and limits for gift giving. You can find lovely and thoughtful gifts at any price. 

Make a List, Check it Twice

Write down all the things you do during this time of year. Think about all the gatherings you’re hosting or planning to attend, what do you need to bring or buy in preparation {think, hostess gifts, holiday outfits etc}. Look at the LONG list of commitments you already have and widdle it down. That’s right! Take some pressure off yourself and really think about how much energy and capacity you are going to have to do all of these things. It’s ok to say no to invitations that will create more holiday stress. It’s ok to do less.

Communicate to Reduce Holiday Stress

Once you know where you are and aren’t spending your time and energy, communicate with your family and friends. Let them know you’re scaling back. Be vulnerable to the fact that maybe it’s been a stressful year and you just really need to relax and do less. Communicating up front helps people manage their expectations of us, and relieves additional pressure {and guilt}.  

Take a Family Vote

Spice of the holidays with one or two REALLY fun activities. Not 10 mediocre ones. If we want to get the most out of the holiday season without burning ourselves out, we have to be intentional about managing our time and energy. Come up with a handful of ideas for quality time with the family during the holidays and let everyone vote on what they want to do most.  

Schedule in Self Care

If it’s not on the calendar it won’t get done. Most likely the time we have free gets sucked into other duties and responsibilities. Protect your energy and set aside time in advance just for yourself.

This year, give yourself a gift. Simplify, and really enjoy the season. Life is too short to live through holiday stress year after year.


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Kimberly Smith
Kimberly Smith is a Mindset & Resilience Coach and the founder of Encompass Life Coaching. She is a native New Yorker, proud Houstonian, truth seeker, mental health and DEIJ advocate, mother, yogi, and dachshund lover. Kimberly was born in Phoenix, Arizona, raised in upstate New York, lived in Florida where her daughter Amelia {June 2014} was born, and now proudly calls Houston her home. She is degreed in Sociology and Psychology, is an internationally certified life and career coach, and previously spent over a decade in corporate talent acquisition and staffing helping professionals level up and pivot their careers. Now as an entrepreneur, through coaching services, speaking, and writing, Kimberly helps ambitious women, mothers, and entrepreneurs stop stressing and focus, so they can flourish within their careers, families, businesses, and relationships. Kimberly’s clients move through self-doubt, build a positive and resilient mindset while increasing energy and confidence, and crushing their personal and professional goals. Kimberly is a servant leader passionate about dissolving the stigma around mental health, advocating for diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, and is dedicated to empowering others to live more authentic lives full of passion, purpose, courage, freedom and adventure. In her free time, Kimberly can be found sweating it out in a hot yoga class, running the White Oak Bayou trail, enjoying live music, exploring Houston markets, museums, and restaurants, or snuggling up on the couch to watch documentaries with her two dachshunds Winnie & Doyal. You can connect with Kimberly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or grab Kimberly’s free Mindset & Affirmations bundle at


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