The Power of ‘No’: Manage Christmas Holiday Stress

St. Michael's Choir Concert at Roy Thomson Hall 2019
St. Michael's Choir Concert at Roy Thomson Hall 2019

I, like many people, love the Christmas season. Activities such as shopping for gifts for family members, attending Christmas craft fairs and concerts, visiting winter festivals and getting together with family or friends for festive holiday meals are things I look forward to each year. Unfortunately, all of these activities tend to occur in the first three-and-a-half weeks of December! This is when our to-do lists are already full with items such as sending holiday cards, attending school Christmas concerts, baking cookies for the cookie exchange or holiday office potluck, wrapping gifts, taking the kids to see Santa, buying a Christmas tree and decorating it before guests drop by for your holiday party. It’s no wonder that many people become run down by the time Christmas arrives or worse, are sick with a cold or the flu.

White Chocolate Cranberry Bars are easy to make.
White Chocolate Cranberry Bars are easy to make.

December Activities Equal Stress

It is only December 10 and I am already feeling the stress! I just had a busy week of attending a Christmas choir concert, getting our real Christmas tree, decorating the tree and house, planning my mother’s upcoming December birthday party, writing and sending Christmas cards and shopping for a few gifts, on top of my work-at-home blogging, writing and digital marketing duties. It is time that I start saying “no’ in order to manage holiday stress before my body breaks down and I catch a virus.

Filter Out Unnecessary Events from Your Schedule

It is very difficult to turn down invitations to holiday events that take place only once a year, especially when they involve family or close friends. The guilt of not attending is sometimes the worst thing to bear! But if we don’t respect our own energy levels and need for downtime, no one else will. So I have decided to determine what are the most essential activities for me this holiday season – the ones where I would experience the largest degree of disappointment if I were not to attend – and I am going to eliminate or say ‘no’ to the other activities, even if they are family events. This has involved rescinding my RSVP to a relative’s dinner on Christmas Eve – an event that will be attended by both of my siblings. This relative lives an hour away so it means a lengthy drive both to and from their home, made much longer and less visible if there is snow on the roads. Further, dinner is typically served around 7 p.m. so it usually turns out to be a late evening. I have decided that enjoying a quiet Christmas Eve at home, nestled beside our nostalgically decorated Christmas tree with a hot cup of my favourite Rooibos tea and watching, It’s a Wonderful Life or some other classic Christmas movie is much more pleasing to me. Knowing that I don’t have to take that long drive on Christmas Eve has already reduced my stress level.

Other holiday activities I am going to be eliminating or modifying include attending our local Christmas market, preparing a much easier holiday appetizer for my mother’s birthday party, baking only one type of holiday cookie this year such as the White Chocolate Cranberry Bars pictured above and giving gift cards to my nieces instead of shopping for presents.

St. Michael's Choir Concert at Roy Thomson Hall 2019
St. Michael’s Choir Concert at Roy Thomson Hall 2019

St. Michael’s Choir Concert at Roy Thomson Hall

One event that I did attend this past weekend (because I determined that I would experience the largest amount of disappointment if I didn’t attend) was St. Michael’s Choir Christmas Concert at Roy Thomson Hall. It’s a concert that my mother and I have been attending for the past seven years. Growing up, Christmas music was integral to our Christmas experience. I, as well as my sister and mother, all played Christmas carols on the piano, while my grandmother sang in the choir and her (second) husband was the organist and choirmaster at our church (Leaside United Church). Hearing Christmas carols at Christmas is a must for me and the St. Michael’s Choir, as usual, exceeded my expectations!

Please let me know in the comment section how you manage holiday stress.


  1. So true, I already forgot my son had a reading party today, then there are concerts, haven’t written cards yet and we are almost moving house sonit just came at the most craziest time. I have decided to just stay calm and know that all shall pass.

  2. It’s true that this season can get to be a bit overwhelming and then suddenly it’s over. It’s a good idea to keep in check how much one can handle – and even enjoy. Would be nice to move some of the events and activities to January as a “let’s get together to celebrate the new year – instead of squeezing in one more thing”.

    • I think that moving some of the December events to January is an excellent idea. January can be so quiet that it would be nice to have one or two events to welcome the new year and space things out a bit. Cheers, Lori

  3. Although most people find January long, I enjoy this month to recuperate from all the festivities of December. Besides, I have two major celebrations in January, my husband’s birthday and our anniversary.

  4. Certainly, it is the busiest time of the year. However, prioritising some events or activities during the months leading to Christmas and after can take alot of pressure off everyone.

  5. These are great tips! I always find myself tied down to so many things during the holidays. I would like a more stress free holiday season.

  6. The thing I look forward to the most in December is our annual family get together. It is always a fun filled day with cousins, aunts, uncles and the kids. 4 generations altogether. January is the time for me to reorganize and plan for the rest of the year… and go back to my diet!

  7. I feel stress for this month actually but instead of focusing stress I do the things to enjoy myself like buying things for myself and spend time to relax & lots of sleep love this post!

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