Raise your hand if you as a mom have ever felt stressed or close to losing your sanity during the holidays or any celebration throughout the year. Okay. That’s a ridiculous poll. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Why do the holidays have to evoke such a brace for battle response from so many moms? There are strategies out there that can guide moms in keeping cool when time, to-dos, and what seems like everyone else around them is against them. Keep reading in my mom’s guide to sanity during the holidays to hear tried and true strategies to lower holiday stress and minimize the amount of freak outs that occur after bedtimes.
I’ve personally found great success with many of these strategies. And, felt that I was actually able to keep my cool during my first Christmas as a mom of a newborn. So, I’m telling you. They work!
Now, no one is perfect. So, I don’t expect myself to be 100% free from ever losing my sanity during times that pile on a lot of responsibilities. You shouldn’t either. However, these must-know strategies can help with making the typical responses to holiday and celebration stress be one that doesn’t have the kids and hubby escaping to any other room that you are not in.
There are two major ways to keeping your sanity during celebrations and holidays:
1) PREPARING for celebrations to avoid losing your cool
Take as many to-dos off your plate
Save your sanity with groceries
What are the tasks that you know that you’ll have before any celebration or holiday? I’m sure that your list, like mine, spans many pages and involves many layers of activity. Thankfully, modern convenience and innovation can help us to avoid some of the mundane, yet necessary to-dos that occur every week. These are the to-dos we can’t escape no matter how prepared we are.
Let’s look at grocery shopping for example. To drive to the grocery store, walk through and shop (probably getting distracted for a little bit in the children’s section), and check out typically costs at a very minimum one hour. This is an ambitious estimate. It typically takes much longer to run errands of that nature. This is all time that can be saved if you don’t have to drive to the store and personally pick up all of your groceries.
Even pick-up orders can save a tremendous amount of time. Now, let’s face it. Not all of us have the budget for Instacart orders or Fred Meyer pick-ups (even though Fred Meyer’s, like many other grocery stores, are currently offering free pick-up due to COVID-19). However, if it’s one week in December or a couple of days during a popular birthday month, it’s worth considering how valuable your time and sanity are. Many times, it really is worth giving yourself those couple of hours back in your day to prepare for your other millions of to-dos or to take some time to just be around your kids.
Use Costco to your advantage
Another way to remove some of your timely to-dos is Costco. In some areas, Instacart orders are possible, but the reality is that it is so much cheaper to shop in the warehouse. The reason that Costco made it on my how to keep your sanity list is because of the great, party-sized pre-prepped food selections. Save the time on chopping up veggies or preparing salads by purchasing a veggie tray or fruit platter. Planning on having hor d’oeuvres, the pinwheel wraps, shrimp cocktail, or various other pre-prepped, you-cook options works great. Who doesn’t like Costco’s cookie tray or pumpkin pie? These are all ways to save time while still creating a tasty menu for your guest.
Now, I will still always spend the extra time to make the pumpkin pie recipe that’s been in the family for generations, and I’ll always opt for my Grandma’s chocolate crinkles and Russian tea cakes. I value the traditions that run deep in our family. But, if there isn’t a tradition attached to it or no major emotional value, I have no remorse for cutting the homemade corners with Costco.
Keep yourself sane while during the holidays with help around the house
Another common time-consuming, must-get-done every week, activity: house cleaning. Never at the top of anyone’s fun list, this is another item on the massive to-do list that can’t be done in advance. Instead of powering through yourself, because that’s just what mom’s tend to do, enlist the help of your spouse, kids, maid service, etc.
Obviously, spouse help and, most of the time, kids’ help is free to the family budget. As a part of the family, that is a fair contribution! So, find ways to divvy up the responsibilities. Are there chores that your little ones can do? Teenagers? Adult-aged children? The later two should be able to do pretty much EVERYTHING… This is a great way to teach your family the work it takes to have fun and make life enjoyable. It also teaches good housekeeping and if executed in the right manner, can be a way for the family to bond together. It could even become a challenge or competition.
Here are some ideas of how to incorporate a challenge or competition while tidying up the house:
- Individual challenge: Each family member or a team of family members (depending on age) will be assigned a room. Give a signal that the competition has started. Individuals or teams compete for fastest, cleanest room. Be sure to include cleaning expectations prior to starting the challenge so that each room is actually cleaned to the desired standard. For this challenge to work, you’ll need equally messy rooms and happily competitive family members. Also, setting the example as the parent, or “competing” against your children can be a great way to make this activity fun. Offering desirable rewards can also increase buy-in.
- Family challenge: For the more team/work-together approach, you could pick a room as a family and set a stop watch. As soon as the stop watch starts, as a family, decide on how to divide and conquer. Each family member can take care of some tasks in that particular room and when the room is clean, time stops. Keep record of the time it takes per room to create times to beat in the future or set family challenges throughout the house. Either way, this teaches children to work together, listen, delegate, and remain focused. Be sure to take fun breaks in between rooms and maybe even include some tasty treats. If it’s Christmas time, this would be a great time to sample those cookies. Ultimately, the end result is that mom is not working overtime to clean up after the family and prepare for gatherings. That’s a win!
The little ones are more capable then we typically think
Have a toddler or younger? My little one is only 16 months old now, and is not ready for a cleaning competition or challenge. In fact, there’s not much that she can do yet. However, these are all great times to develop the building blocks for future housekeeping skills and family contributions. She helps me put pillows back on the couch, picks up her toys, can wipe up small water spills, and knows how to lightly dust. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but she’s only 16 months old. She has a lot of time to grow and she loves accompanying mom while I clean, which ultimately is the real game changer because it still gives me the cleaning time.
If maid service is in the cards, this can also be a way to take some simple, yet time consuming tasks off your list and let it be handled by a professional. It’s not for everyone. It’s not for me… yet. But, once it is in the budget, that will definitely be a consideration for me as I approach the busier celebrations and holidays like Christmas and the month of July (birthdays/anniversary month).
Manage stress by making a list and actually check it twice (check off the boxes anyway)
There’s something motivational and encouraging when we see boxes checked and tasks complete. There’s actually psychology to back it up. To-do lists can lessen anxiety and promote productivity! That’s enough reason right there to start writing/typing things down. I personally love a good old fashion sticking note or kitchen drawer notepad. However, Trello is a great way to digitize a to-do list. Trello offers collaborators, multiple checklists within the list, and to-do lists can be archived, so when you are planning or preparing for the same event next year, your list is already created.
Keep your cool by starting early!
Nothing stresses out a mom more than time or the lack thereof. Time is the one thing that every mom is deprived of. We don’t get enough time for sleep, enough time for ourselves, enough time to cook, clean… you get the idea. So, if we cheat ourselves of time by starting the planning and preparing process late, we are essentially setting ourselves up to lose our marbles each and every time that we have any moderate amount of celebration planning to do. Starting early takes away the pressure of time. It gives you time to enjoy the process too. There’s absolutely no reason to become a cranky Grinch-mom, if the preparation and Christmas cheer are started early. Check out Getting Ready for Christmas in November to Avoid Being Grinch-Mom for a bunch of Christmas specific strategies to support a stress free holiday season.
I love birthday parties! Planning my daughter’s first birthday was actually quite enjoyable, and I did it all by starting early. I learned a lot of lessons too. Be sure to check out 11 Tips for Planning Baby’s First Party, so you don’t have to learn those lessons for yourself the hard way.
2) Keeping your sanity by utilizing a variety of mom-approved coping strategies
Schedule time for yourself to decompress
Make time for yourself part of your daily routine. Even if it has to happen before your kiddos wake up, during nap time, right when you or your spouse gets home from work, or after bedtime, it is worth it. Schedule in you time. Just 15-30 minutes can make a huge difference. This can be an incredibly valuable time to recharge, decompress, and remind yourself of the priorities in life. Without this time, it can be so incredibly easy to fall into the trap and the rut that many find themselves in during the holidays or any moment leading up to a big celebration. You can avoid all of this unnecessary stress and enhance your calm simply by creating time to do something that you love. Whether that be, reading a book, browsing Pinterest, taking a bath, or doing some cleaning, you are worth it momma!
Breath. Your stress will just melt away.
We’ve all heard this one. Take deep breaths. Be in control of your breathing. Calm down. As hard as it might be when you’re getting down to the wire – breath. When your guests are about to show up, and your toddler drops their poorly sealed sippy cup spilling all of the contents all over the floor – breath. Getting upset, frantic, or angry does little good in that situation. It was an honest mistake caused by the preparer of the sippy cup, not the toddler. These are the moments, where you can really shine like a super mom and remain calm by practicing relaxation techniques that involve deep breathing. The science is there and it is outstanding!
Minimize stress by continuing to prioritize exercise
This can be such an easy activity to put by the wayside when time becomes rare. However, the physiological side effects can actually negatively impact your ability to use any of your time anyway. Exercise is proven to increase memory and brain function, so by exercising, you actually allow your body to tackle the massive to-do list at its most optimum point.
Keep sane and focus on your priorities
One of the best ways to keep your sanity during the holidays is to focus on what is really important. Does the giant, long list of never ending to-dos matter? Or, do the smiles on your kids faces and the loving look of your spouse matter most? As mom’s we put ourselves through all of these grueling preparations each and every holiday. The reality is that the reason we do this is to make memories with our family. Is any item on the list worth the happiness of the people that you’re doing all this for? If not, then it may be okay to skip it and try again later.
For example, Christmas definitely tends to get blown out of proportion. What is it that we really want out of Christmas? For me, it is to celebrate the birth of Christ with my most cherished family and friends. As long as that is happening, then me, as a mom, is winning! I don’t mean to get all end of the movie, Grinchy on you, but Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Or a Pinterest style decorated tree. Or even all of the gifts that are wrapped so neatly. Christmas is really a whole lot more. And, that more is family and friends. Everything else is just icing on the gingerbread house.
Simplify for sanity’s sake
Are there traditions that no one in your family even knows why it exists? Is the family stuck in a traditional rut?
Are you planning a full scale, five course meal for Easter for a family that is more of a eat on paper plates in front of the TV group. It is actually okay to simplify where you can. If it doesn’t hold some kind of emotional value to you or your loved ones, it should be highly considered for the chopping block. Instead of an elaborate meal for Easter, ask your family what food they really want and maybe spurge for that food. This last year, for mine it was lamb chops. We roasted some mini potatoes and served it with a salad. That was it. So, simple and so yummy!
Does your youngster really just want to have a great time with his best of friends? Skip the huge party at [fill in the blank]. Instead, opt for an epic movie night or a Nintendo gaming tournament. Just make sure there’s tons of tasty snacks around. Our mini-me’s take a lot of direction from their parents. So, if they’re used to seeing the keep up with the Joneses mentality in their life, then there’s a good chance the Nintendo tournament won’t work. However, if they are encouraged to set their own path and happiness and see that modeled day in and day out, it’s actually possible that what they want to do for their birthday may surprise you.
Taking a closer look at the menu, scale of celebration, and simply what your family wants can be an easy way to cut some corners that no one even cares about. All the while, promoting your sanity and saving you more time for what really matters.
Stick to traditions when it makes sense
On the flip side, why reinvent the wheel every year. If your family enjoys a tradition, and it’s not too financially or stressfully impactful, there’s no reason to make a change. Many people find comfort in traditions. And, when your kids grow up and move out of the house, the meaningful traditions will be what they fixate on when it comes to any celebrational memory.
For example, I remember how my family always let the birthday boy/girl choose the meal. My brother would always ask for chicken katsu or some kind of Japanese dish. I would ensure that we had a special pasta or Italian dish. Still to this day, as adults with our own kids, we still gravitate to similar dishes and still make it a big deal to ensure that the guest of honor gets their absolute favorite meal!
Similarly, my family had our personalized stockings that my mom would pack out with loads of tasty treats and small trinkets and toys. Each Christmas morning, we would take our picture by the tree and our bursting-at-the seams stocking and open up the stocking items before anything else under the tree. When we got older, we loved our stocking tradition so much that we started filling my parents, coordinating, homemade stockings. Now, four generations have coordinating stockings and enjoy keeping that as a focal point of our Christmas morning.
And, change traditions when it is feasible
Being okay with changing traditions is another way of minimizing the chance of a complete loss of sanity because, as mentioned before, by simplifying or nixing a tradition, you cut out on your own stress. AND by allowing others in your family to encourage a tradition, the ownership shifts from you to the family member who suggested the new tradition.
As an example, my husband grew up getting to open one stocking stuffer each Christmas Eve. Honestly, I don’t quite understand it, because how would Santa get the presents before Christmas Eve night. Plus, then the insinuation is that parents do the stockings and Santa does the actual presents (which goes completely against the Claymation that teaches everything about Santa), then the parents are essentially passing off the much more valuable credit. All of that aside, I let him have his tradition. Because of this, he is in charge of making sure that there is time to do the stocking Christmas Eve tradition. He is also responsible for ensuring that the stockings are in fact full on time. Thus, this removes one more thing for me (mom) to coordinate.
If you’re looking for new fun fall traditions, be sure to check out Family Fun Activities this Fall for some awesome ideas of what you can incorporate into your family’s fall festivities.
Ask for help way before you feel on the brink of losing it
Sometimes harder than it may seem, asking for help is probably one of the most important ways to minimize stress and thus maintain a sense of holiday sanity. I’ve included quite a few examples already. No one is expecting you to be a super mom (even though you totally are already. Just ask for help in any area that you start to sense the beginning of a massive sanity losing breakdown. Your family loves you and most likely will benefit greatly from your sanity.
Learn how to say no to save on stress
Let’s face it. We only have so many December weekends and summer nights. Especially, during the season, where everyone, and their mom, seems to be planning an event of their own, it becomes important to be able to say no when it really is just going to add more stress than it is worth. It doesn’t have to be an absolute no. It can be a… “well, we’re pretty slammed this month, but what about a get-together in January.” Or, “we have events planned each weekend this month, and we really want to make sure that we have time for the kids, what about…” We all only have so much time, we have to prioritize it properly. This is when it becomes really important to prepare for the holidays in advance by taking inventory of your calendar.
Similarly, we only have so much time to prepare for events and celebrations, so being able to say no to task items that are simply just too much can be another way to avoid the mom-stress-break down.
Keep expectations reasonable for an enjoyable celebration
One of the biggest killers of joy is unmet expectations. And, one of the biggest contributors of stress, is unreasonable expectations. This is where talking about seasonal or celebrational expectations in advance with your spouse or family is so crucial. If everyone is on the same page, then it becomes easy to all work towards the same expectations together. Thus, limiting the chances of being let down and losing your calm.
My husband and I were instructed to do this during our premarital counseling. We took it to heart after hearing our pastor’s Christmas morning muffin fiasco. And our first year of married holidays turned out fantastically. Still to this day, we have a quick discussion of expectations, wants, desires, and stress a week to a month prior to the holiday or celebration. It only takes 5-10 minutes of time, and saves hours of stress and tears.
Just let it happen and let it go
Any modern parent is all too familiar with the popular Disney song from the movie, Frozen. As a mom, you’re expected to love and nurture your children and be a supportive wife. You are not actually here to be an event planner, even though we as moms are actually really good at it. During these events, plan ahead, and then, just have fun and enjoy it. Once the event or holiday starts, make it your all out mission to simply be present and have fun. When things don’t turn out the way you expected or planned, go with it. At that point, you will truly be able to avoid any unnecessary stress and keep your calm, because you are actually calm. One burnt tray of cookies doesn’t have to tear you down.
Finally, make time for fun
Preparing for Christmas is fun. Planning a birthday is fun. Decorating for the Fourth of July is fun. So, let the planning, preparing, and event having process, be fun. Involve those you enjoy being around, focus on the priorities, and let it be. It will be amazing how easy it becomes to keep your sanity during the holidays when fun is your priority.
Yes, you as a mom can keep your sanity while preparing for the holidays!
That’s what all of the holidays and celebrations are for, right? To enhance life, make it more enjoyable, and make it fun and out of the ordinary. So, next time, you start to feel yourself boiling with frustration, take a moment to remember some of these helpful strategies and tips from this guide to a sanity free holiday season. And remember that you’ve got this momma. Your cool is worth it, because each holiday and celebration really is all just for fun.
Be sure to check out my other celebrational tips in Let’s Celebrate and subscribe for momma life hacks that you need to know.
The Mama behind Momma Life 2 the Fullest
Hi Mama! I’m so glad that you are here! My name is Ashlyn and I am a wife, full-time mom and full-time university faculty among other less important titles, such as coffee junkie, outdoor lover, craft and Pinterest enthusiast, energetic traveler, activities planner, and to-do list master. I find that my day sometimes feels like a swirl of diapers, meals, meetings, chores, etc. And, I created this blog as a landing spot to share my experiences and purpose to live this crazy mom life to the absolute fullest.
I was born and raised in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I was homeschooled for the majority of my childhood, which offered me some unique traveling and cultural opportunities. I earned my degree in English and my Masters degree Instructional Design. Before landing my current, work-from-home job, I also taught in the classroom as a 9th grade English-Language Arts teacher.
When we had our daughter, I knew that I wanted to do everything I could to be as present as possible for my little one, so that’s when I found my current flexible-schedule, work-from-home job at an online university.
Mom life is a true gift from God. We were selected to be our little humans mommies, and that is a tremendous blessing and a huge responsibility. This life isn’t meant to just get by. This life is meant to live to the fullest, and our children deserve the most present, life-breathing versions of us.
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