‘Tis the Season to Be Jolly… Right? - three people walking in the street in the city while it is snowing

‘Tis the Season to Be Jolly… Right?

Nina Candido
November 3, 2022
November 3, 2022

Everywhere we look there are signs of the approaching November and December holidays. From decorations to recipes to sales, we are under siege—it’s impossible to “forget” the holidays are coming, fast. And expectations to create the perfect holiday experience are found in tv talk shows, print and digital ads, and social media posts.

Our marching orders are clear:

  1. Decorate homes to perfection—twice. After all, Thanksgiving decorations can hardly pull double duty for the many and varied December holidays.
  2. Prepare meals and desserts that will be the envy of Iron Chef.
  3. Host gatherings that delight and impress.
  4. For overnight houseguests, create a 5-star resort experience (perhaps with room service!)
  5. Attend as many events as you can (try to say “yes” to everything).
  6. Find the perfect gift for everyone on your list.
  7. Wrap each gift as if it will be displayed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  8. Complete everything within budget despite record inflation.
  9.  Accomplish everything without letting anything else slip (work, school, relationships, fantasy football).
  10. Most importantly, be jolly throughout!

The clock is ticking:

21 days ‘til Thanksgiving (November 24th)

45 days ‘til Hanukkah (December 18 – December 26

50 days ‘til Festivus (December 23rd)

51 days ‘til Christmas Eve (December 24th)

52 days ‘til Christmas (December 25th)

53 days ‘til Kwanza (December 26th  – January 1st)

53 days ‘til Boxing Day (December 26th)

58 days ‘til New Year’s Eve (December 31st)

But no pressure.

Every year, as I’m packing away decorations at the end of December, I vow to start shopping earlier next year, cut back on gift-giving, and slightly tweak Christmas Eve’s Feast of the Seven Fishes to Feast of the Fish.

Every year by mid-November I’m on a collision course with stress and anxiety, while being jolly becomes an elusive dream.

And we all know anxiety and stress take a tremendous toll on our health. With so much at stake, not least of which is wanting to fully enjoy the holiday season, it’s not too late to take steps to reduce holiday-related stress.

Three key areas to focus on are planning, prioritizing and self-care.

Creating Your Holiday Plans

Planning has been shown to be an effective coping mechanism through proactive coping, which combines thoughts and actions. Making plans (deciding to visit family for Thanksgiving) and taking steps, (booking flights early) have the tangible benefit of avoiding the stress associated with scrambling to find last-minute flights because you decided in November to travel for Thanksgiving. 

Many people naturally resist planning because they think it’s too rigid or restrictive. The response to that perception is the reality of being restricted by the time, energy, and effort that must be diverted from enjoying the holidays to dealing with all the tasks that won’t take care of themselves.

As a life-long planner, I can speak firsthand to the benefits of having a plan to follow, with the peace that comes from having confidence everything is taken care of. It allows me to sit back, relax, and enjoy being in the moment. In other words, I can be jolly because I’m not distracted by the huge effort it takes to find a last-minute flight, nor am I experiencing anxiety trigged by the worry that I may not succeed.

Planning starts with creating a comprehensive wish list of everything that would make the holiday season perfect. When making the list be sure to get input and insights from people you share holidays with so events and activities you may want to participate in are included.

This list is The Plan and should be as detailed as possible. 

 For gift giving, at a minimum include:

  1. who (everyone on your gift list),
  2. when (the date of the holiday or the latest shipping date if applicable),
  3. how much (budget for each gift or gift recipient).

For food preparation, include:

  1. what (name of the dish and ingredients, along with buying information for specialty ingredients),
  2. how much (budget for dishes and/or for events),
  3. when (date dish will be served and date dish will be prepared if it can be made ahead),
  4. how long (prep plus cooking time).

For holiday events, include:

  1. when (dates and times),
  2. where (venue),
  3. how long (event duration, getting ready, and round-trip travel).

For decorating, include:

  1. when (dates),
  2. how long ( time for each date),
  3. what (include budget for purchased items).

Follow a similar format for other activities, such as making visits to family and friends.

Prioritizing Your Holiday Plans

Prioritizing involves a reality check for everything on the plan. Questions to ask:

  • Is there enough time for everything on the list?
  • Are there any date or time conflicts?
  • Is the total budget realistic for our financial situation?
  • Is any help needed?

To help with prioritizing, add activities and events to a calendar as you would meetings (block out the time you’ve estimated). This makes it easy to see conflicts and dates that are over-committed. If possible, move things to different days. If not, a decision about which activity is the biggest priority needs to be made, which means eliminating or reducing other activities. Finding days that are overcommitted is also an opportunity to ask others for help!

If the budget is at risk, it’s important to quickly identify and make necessary adjustments. Some things that can help manage a holiday budget include:

  • Spread purchases over time rather than running up credit card debt.
  • Reduce the number of items or the price of items originally planned.
  • For holiday meals, ask guests to help by bringing side dishes or desserts.

Ensure Self-Care Is Part of That Plan!

Update the plan with any changes, and then add self-care to the plan. Scheduling time for activities that support our wellbeing and help to better manage stress is important any time; during the holidays with a multitude of added stressors it’s critical.

With self-care added to the plan, it’s complete, and should be locked. Make a commitment to follow it as closely as possible. Every evening, check the next few days and confirm it’s still realistic based on progress to date and unexpected changes that may have occurred (remember, ‘tis cold and flu season!). If necessary, make changes, but only in response to something that wasn’t anticipated.

Making a plan and then being mindful about following it allows you to pace your activities and spending, reducing the likelihood that stress and anxiety will encroach upon a joyful holiday season. Including regular self-care helps manage stress reactions and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Employers Can Help Employees Get the Most Out of the Holiday Season

Work is such a significant part of everyone’s life it shouldn’t come as a surprise that employers can play an important role in helping their employees successfully navigate the holiday season. Some things employers and managers should do include:

1. Have conversations with employees about their anticipated time-off needs during the holiday season.

2. Ensure everyone is using allotted PTO time.

  • Having conversations early will prevent or reduce conflicts that may arise for the more popular dates to take off. 
  • Check-in with employees during one-on-ones.
  • Include questions about how employees are managing holiday planning and preparation.
  • Ask employees what kinds of self-care they have included in their daily schedule.
  • Ask about their stress levels and remind employees about EAP services or other programs in place they can tap into.

3. Encourage employees to use stress-busters throughout their workday.

4. Schedule workplace events such as:

  • Chair yoga.
  • Guided meditation Zoom sessions.
  • 15-minute Chair massages (offer gift cards for remote workers!)
  • Arrange to have therapy dogs visit the workplace.

Enjoy the holidays!

For more on coping with holiday stress, check out this article.


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Nina Candido
Nina Candido
Nina Candido is a Sr. HR Leader with success working to achieve transformative outcomes in organizations experiencing rapid growth or M&A activity. She is a builder focused on unlocking individual and organizational potential and is passionate about creating environments where employees can thrive and grow beyond their own highest expectations.