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The Exhausted Woman
with Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC

10 Ways to Manage the Holiday Chaos

Holiday exhaustionThe holidays should be several days of reduced work activity set aside to celebrate with family and friends. But all too often, these days are jam-packed filled with obligations, deadlines, expectations, responsibilities and crisis. Instead of letting the exhaustion take over, try these ideas to simplify.

  1. Make a list and check it twice. The first list is all of the must do’s, have to’s, and want to’s. This is not about order for now; it is about getting as much down in writing as possible. The second go around should eliminate any unnecessary or unrealistic items from the list. Sometimes just seeing the items in writing can bring clarity and reduce tension.
  2. Separate task time from people time. Personality often determines whether a person is more task-oriented or people-focused. During stress, a task-oriented person focuses on completing more jobs and often ignores people-focused activities. The same is true in reverse for those more fixated on people. It is important that both sets of time are equally addressed.
  3. When everything can’t be done, do things that are in crisis first. This could include an overdue project, handling an accident, or picking up a stranded kid. Then do things that have consequences for not completing. Attending mandatory functions, scheduling future appointments, completing tasks that result in income, or paying bills are examples of significant items. Last do things that help to celebrate the season such as watching a holiday performance, decorating, or shopping for friends and family.
  4. Calendar everything. All of the items above should be scheduled. If it is not on the calendar, then it is not happening. Make this a golden rule with the exception of crisis or emergency situations. This will help to set appropriate work and home boundaries. There are many on-line calendars and apps to help organize time. Allowing a spouse, assistant or children to have access to the calendars can eliminate unnecessary scheduling conflicts.
  5. Set boundaries. It is especially important to set boundaries with money, food and drink during the holidays. Excess use or abuse of these items can cause unnecessary stress which is likely to negatively impact close family members. Once a boundary is set, stick with it.
  6. Don’t waste time. Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest can be huge time wasters. When every second counts, leave these seconds for the worst moments of a day. Energy levels tend to be low with additional demands on the season so be protective of high spurts of strength. Reserve the most productive times in a day for the most important tasks and people.
  7. Reset expectations. Use the above items to determine appropriate expectations. This is a good time to let go of beliefs that are limiting and not empowering. For instance, a spotless house with no repair problems might be unrealistic. Instead, do only what is absolutely needed and leave the rest for the New Year.
  8. Make decisions once. Revisiting or reliving past decisions is exhausting. This is not the season to over-analyze each choice. There will be time for contemplation later in preparation for the next year. But for now, let the decisions and their consequences or rewards be sufficient for today.
  9. Know triggers. Emotions such as anger, fear, anxiety, or loneliness tend to run a bit higher during periods of stress. Understanding triggers and then actively avoiding them can reduce tension. Make a plan to address the responses at a later time when things are calmed down.
  10. Find some peace. Don’t allow tasks or people to steal the joy of the season. Be judicious of time, intentionally carving out precious moments for reflection, meditation, and celebration. The holidays should be remembered as time well spent with family and friends. Keep this thought at the forefront of each day and to achieve a peaceful, not stressful, holiday season.


10 Ways to Manage the Holiday Chaos


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APA Reference
Hammond, C. (2017). 10 Ways to Manage the Holiday Chaos. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 26, 2019, from