3 Practical Tips to Eliminate Stress + Stay Present During the Holidays

The holiday season: tinsel, ornaments, food, family, and a little dash of chaos, am I right?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season; then, when all the festivities are over, you’re left wondering who, what, when, where and how it all happened?!

I don’t know about you, but this is when the guilt of not really being in the holiday season sets in. We tell ourselves we needed to do more and be more, but above all else we wish we would have really been there more.

Thankfully, over the years, I’ve acquired some tips I’m thrilled to pass along. By following these you’ll overcome the post-holiday season guilt and find yourself truly experiencing the holidays, stress-free, alongside your family and friends.

1. Create a Cash Budget

First, my most unconventional tip to eliminating stress and staying present during the holidays: put yourself on a cash budget.

With a cash budget you know exactly how much money you anticipate to spend and how this total fits your overall budget. Racking up credit card debt does nothing but give you anxiety on your next bill cycle and can lead to resentment toward the recipient of the gift.

To create a holiday cash budget, try this:

Take out plain envelopes and label them accordingly.

Try categories like:

  • Holiday Dinner
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Charity
  • Decorations
  • Friends

Allot cash to each category and keep it in the envelope. When the money runs out, no going back for more. Also, save your receipts and keep a running total on the front of your envelope, this way your money is always accounted for and as the years progress you’ll be more and more precise with your budget.

A cash budget keeps you in line with your money and eliminates time spent checking bank balances, credit card limits, and working extra hours to cover the debt.

2. Shop Early

I’m that girl, December 22nd, rushing to the mall to pick up gifts. (I know many of you are right there with me…)

For me, shopping at the last minute typically goes a little something like this:

“I need these gifts in three days. Oh my goodness there are so many people here. What if I can’t find what I’m looking for? Why did I wait until the last minute? Next year I’m starting in August. Will they even like this? Am I just getting this because I have to get them something? I’ll just make sure the gift receipt is in there. Oh, but what if they return it? I didn’t do well enough…”

I could go on and on.

Shopping early keeps “last minute stress” response at bay and promotes more of a peaceful calm as you enter the holiday season; less crowds, no feeling the pressure of a deadline, no overwhelming feeling of guilt, and knowing you got the job done.

If you’re not sure how to start shopping early, here are some ideas:

  • Have your friends and family create an Amazon wishlist so you can purchase gifts you know they’ll love and can have them delivered straight to your door.
  • Get together with friends and map out a Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping plan (A+ if you make that happen next year, shopping early for me is more along the lines of, like, December 10th!)
  • Buy the “best” present first so the pressure is off
  • Make a list of categories your gift recipient likes, that way you’re not tempted to put off your shopping because you “don’t know what they like or what to get them”
  • Have a race with your best friend to see who can get their shopping done first. Loser treats the other to coffee or dinner.

3. Start a Tradition

My final tip seems cliché, but really, starting a holiday tradition will keep you in the present by eliminating the “unknown.” How many holidays have you spent trying to scramble together last minute party ideas, plan who is bringing which dish, and trying to decide whether to decorate cookies or build a gingerbread house?

Having a set tradition creates a healthy anticipation rather than overwhelmed stress. Oh, and not to mention, as the tradition continues, those participating will know exactly what needs to be done, eliminating confusion and giving the opportunity to best prepare.

How about this idea?

Start a holiday party with friends where you each participate in a white elephant exchange. For dinner everyone brings their favorite frozen pizza and tastiest pre-made dessert.

Easy, simple, and fun! No stress over buying each friend a gift, no pressure to get the “perfect” gift, no one has to worry about cooking, and I mean, who doesn’t love pizza and bakery desserts?!


The holidays can be so overwhelming we miss the memorable experiences with our loved ones. By following these tips, you’ll be able to stay present this holiday season. It’s amazing how a budget, planning, and a tradition or two can really turn the holiday season from chaos to cheer.

I hope you enjoy these tips, and let me know if they change your holiday season.


About the Author:

Katie Smith has a lengthy list of titles and hats, but above all of them, prefers to be known by the way she loves and helps people. If asked, she will be proud to tell you she is the following: a gym-owner, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner specializing in digestion, a Celiac, a holistic lifestyle educator, a yogi (teacher in training), and a self-certified kombucha connoisseur. She enjoys living life tucked away in the mountains of West Virginia alongside her husband and fur baby, Penny. Find more about Katie at her website , Facebook, and Instagram.

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