Staying Calm Amid the Holiday Hustle: How to Avoid Burnout This Season

The holiday season often brings added joy and meaningful traditions — but for moms, this time of year can also pack on the stress. On top of our regular work and parenting responsibilities, the holidays usher in a flurry of extra obligations, expenses, gatherings, and pressure to create picture-perfect family celebrations. Before you know it, your calendar is jam-packed and your to-do list never seems to get shorter. 

If you're feeling overwhelmed instead of overjoyed, you're not alone — and there are several steps you can take to minimize the unique holiday hassles so you can truly enjoy this special time of year.

Top holiday stresses for moms who work

Being a working parent means juggling a lot, but this is especially true during the holiday season. Some of the top stressors moms may experience include:

Lack of time: Once Thanksgiving week hits, it's off to the races for the holiday season. Trying to balance work, family responsibilities, shopping, baking, social gatherings, and everything else on your holiday plate can leave you feeling stretched thin on time. 

Pressure to create the perfect holiday: Holiday movies and ads are heartwarming and fun, but they often set up impossibly high expectations for magical family celebrations. The pressure to live up to those idealized standards can increase stress levels and make it feel like what we're doing isn't enough.

Mom guilt: Having to miss out on some holiday events, traditions or moments with your kids due to work obligations can stir up guilt. On the other hand, you may feel guilty at work for being distracted by the constant barrage of holiday happenings.

Financial stress: The gifts, food, decor, travel and other holiday expenses pile up fast. For those with tight budgets, this financial strain only compounds the stress. 

Trying to do it all yourself: Moms often put too much pressure on themselves to single-handedly get everything done for the holidays, rather than asking for help.  

Tips to minimize holiday stress

First and foremost, remember that the holidays are meant to be a time of joy and celebration for everyone, yourself included. Start by taking a deep breath and giving yourself grace. You deserve to come out of the season refreshed and renewed for the new year! Despite your best efforts, you likely won't be able to eliminate all holiday stress — but here are some ideas to help you minimize it.

Focus on happiness and quality time: Let go of perfectionistic expectations, and zero in on what actually matters — spending meaningful time with loved ones. Remember that the holiday season tends to zoom by in a flash, so soak in quality moments when you can.

Involve your partner and delegate: You don't have to do it all on your own. Get your spouse or partner to share the holiday planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning and other tasks. If you're hosting, ask relatives to pitch in as well.   

Do less: Pare down your obligations, to-do’s and lengthy hosting duties to a reasonable amount you can truly handle amid your work and parenting responsibilities. Store-bought sides and goodies can be delicious, too, so don't feel guilty if you don't have time for marathon baking sessions. And don't be afraid to say no!

Set boundaries around work and personal time: Be firm about protecting some evenings, weekends and chunks of vacation time for your family amid the holiday hustle. Add events to your calendar in advance so you can plan around them and ensure you don't get double-booked.

Schedule relaxing “me time”: No matter how much you plan, the natural hustle and bustle of the season is likely to be exhausting. Plus, the season of large gatherings can be socially draining. Carve out some pockets in your calendar for self-care like bubble baths, massages or solo coffees out. 

Seek solidarity from fellow moms: Sometimes, when we're feeling down, it helps to know we're not alone. Connect with mom friends or mental health resources that can commiserate about the holiday stressors and share advice. 

Making the most of the holidays

The best thing you can do this holiday season is to let go of the idea of perfection and shift your mindset to embrace the beautiful chaos. Have fun, be silly and enjoy creating special memories with your kids. Remember not to sweat the small stuff — missing one school concert or getting holiday dinners delivered isn’t the end of the world. 

Embrace the holidays on your own terms. Do what works for your family and schedule, and let go of what doesn’t serve you. Stream all the holiday movies out there but know that what they portray is fiction, not reality. Above all, give yourself permission to scale back, set boundaries and do less. Protect your peace by pausing to remember what matters most — spending time together as a family.


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