How to Avoid Getting Overwhelmed by Christmas


Are you traumatized by current events? Feel like you cannot get caught up? Did you just trip on your rotting jack-o-lantern on the way down your front steps to collect the latest 25 lbs of gift catalogs from the mail?

Don’t worry. I’ll help you get through these two months of Christmas preparations and avoid getting overwhelmed by Christmas with these incredibly useful tips, particularly given that I never celebrated Christmas. So… you know, maybe not that useful, but watch out…

Because like it or not, Christmas is coming!

Christmas Is Coming!
Illustration by and with permission from Deborah Sigel.

*Please note: This post is intended as a tongue-in-cheek take on preparations for Christmas and the questionably useful feedback you get on the internet. I’ve never celebrated Christmas, but do over-plan anything I get involved in. I hope you enjoy the humor.*

As with All Traumatic Events, Avoid the Use of Social Media

Social media is a hot spot for oversharing about how much everyone wants to overachieve this Christmas. This can be triggering for folks who want to celebrate, but in a slightly more reserved way, or for those who need to be encouraged to take a step back.

Are you doing a gift exchange? Have you bought the special decorations that all the cool moms got? Are you doing enough with your extended family? Did you schedule extra seasonal family photos that cost more time and money than you have? Are you doing the Elf-on-the-Shelf, Smurf-on-the-Counter, or the ever-popular Dead Camera on the Bookshelf correctly? ARE YOU DOING ENOUGH!?

Friends, to avoid getting overwhelmed by Christmas, turn off social media so you can focus on what YOU really want to do this Christmas. Breathe. Now feel free to return to all the other sources of anxiety in your life.

Don’t Overshine, it Freaks People Out

We all want to be proud of the work we do and the cool things we make and often show them off on social media or in group emails. This is great, except during the two critical months before Christmas.

A casual, “Look at my robot that decorates the tree all by itself” post can be triggering for other overachievers. While it’s fun to watch them spin out of control, you might need them to be sane friends later. Instead of sharing your robot creation online (and you were already warned about social media) consider keeping your personal photo album online private, and sharing your amazingness throughout the year (especially after Christmas).

Illustration courtesy of Deborah Sigel

Or write an article for Vermont Moms about your creative Christmas endeavors. Find out how here.

Prioritize What You Want to Do This Christmas with a List (Remember the Things that actually Make You Happy, if You Can)

Make a list of what you want to accomplish for Christmas. Are you getting a tree, baking cookies, knitting some sweaters, or shopping for the entire extended family, office, crossing guard, and neighborhood? Put it in a list in order of priority. Here’s my to-do list for Passover, a holiday where we cook up a storm, clean the entire house, remove anything made from grain, and swap out every piece of cookware, plate, and utensil for a different set intended only for this 8-day holiday.

Now get real. To avoid getting overwhelmed by Christmas, figure out what accomplishments would you be happy with (or at the very least, satisfied with). Draw a line there. This is a personal choice, and not everyone will have the same thoughts on what must be included. Anything below the line becomes a “nice to have,” an optional activity should you get through the stuff above the line sufficiently early.

Think about this holiday thing again.

What’s more important to you? Having a good time with the people closest to you, or baking 8 dozen cookies and angrily crying because no one appreciates the time you put in?

What can you do to simplify your to-do list so that you can truly focus on what you want to get out of the holiday? Think about this in order to avoid getting overwhelmed by Christmas.

If you’re a DIYer like me, consider buying something as an act of supporting a local artisan, rather than seeing it as giving in. What else can you outsource or remove from your list entirely? Can you delegate tasks to your spouse, kids, or local family? Can you work with a friend to split duties and then share the results?

Reduce Your Christmas Music Consumption to 20 Minutes a Day

Did you really need another reminder of the impending holiday? You could indulge in all of the music right now, and be burnt out by the time Christmas comes. Or, you could save it up for the big day. That way, you also don’t have to publicly admit that you really aren’t a huge fan of a lot of Christmas music. At 20 minutes a day, you’ll still get to hear your kids’ latest renditions at the dinner table. But you’ll need to immediately switch the radio station in the car when you hear Christmas music, and avoid pretty much any store.

Still want more music in your life? How about kid-appropriate Christmas music parodies, keeping in mind that your kids will repeat everything they hear at school. Will this actually work? Likely no. But by aiming for 20 minutes max, maybe you’ll only hear 3 hours.

Blessed is Thy Curbside Pickup

Avoid getting overwhelmed by Christmas while also avoiding the commercialized guilt of not doing and buying more, and save the money you have. Plan your purchases ahead and do curbside pickup. Skip those enticing endcaps and you may feel a bit better.

As a side benefit, you won’t have to hear more Christmas music or gag over the overwhelming scent of cinnamon-sprayed branches in the craft store entryway. Nor will you have to hear whining from your kids about that thing they want that is made of 2 million small pieces and will be abandoned in 10 minutes after opening that you don’t want to pay for.

No curbside pickup, no go. Check out online delivery options, including Myti for local Vermont shops with delivery, for your needs.

The Best Gifts (Are Really Cheap)

Not sure what to get your little ones this year? Our latest research shows that hybrid heat pump hot water heaters are hopping off the shelf! Go find someone who ordered one and you’ll find the biggest set of cardboard boxes your kids could ever dream of. Add a well-supervised cardboard cutter and glue gun, and for under $10, you’ll have weeks of play fort, boat, and maze building.

Extensive cardboard crafting went into this castle with cupola. Photo courtesy of Deborah Sigel.

Also consider the magic of giving your kids their own personal ball of yarn, personalized sponge, dead old computer, box of random stuff from the junk drawer and a glue stick, or your old Lego Technics you’ve had at your parent’s house for 30 years. Yes, you could buy a $100 plastic toy, but in the end, they’ll leave it on the floor just like everything else.

Want less crud to end up embedded in the carpet? How about a family trip to go hiking, exploring a place you’ve never been to, the science museum, or a rock climbing gym?

Use Appropriate Greetings

Already tired of checkout clerks wishing you a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays in the middle of November? That’s ok. It just means it’s fair game to warmly and enthusiastically welcome every holiday with a specific greeting. Game on. Consider a belated “Happy Holloween!” in response. A good “happy birthday,” “l’shana tovah”, or even “have a great summer” can be fun too. Need something more seasonally appropriate? It’s never too early to wish someone “Happy New Year!”

What Do You Mean There’s No Ham!?

It’s late Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and you’ve forgotten to buy everything for the meal. If you live in a major city, you may be able to find a kosher or halal market that is open. Hot tip, no matter when you go, your local kosher or halal markets will always be out of ham… no matter how emphatically you ask. Sorry about that. All out.

Make it More Than a Day

Do you feel let down and exhausted on the day after Christmas, like you’ve been working non-stop on a major project that’s now over and no longer needed? Well, that’s because you have done exactly that. Rather than stressing for 2 months over one day, what if you could focus on what brings you and your family joy, and spend 2 months (or more), doing those things together (or apart)? Just a thought.

Water that Tree

I don’t actually know anything about Christmas trees, but I’ve seen some really dramatic videos showing how fast dry trees burn. In all seriousness, keep that tree watered, check the batteries on your smoke alarms, and know where your working fire extinguishers are.

I hope these poorly researched pieces of advice from a Christmas outsider make your two-month journey to the holiday an overwhelming success, and one where you can avoid getting overwhelmed by Christmas. Until then, Happy Labor Day! 😉

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cartoon drawing of a Christmas tree monster

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Deborah Sigel
Deb is a mechanical engineering consultant, STEM educator, artist, and parent in the Burlington area. She is also the co-owner of the Vermont Idea Company. Deb has designed parts of Mars Rovers, astronaut tools, underwater robots, and eye implants that enable the blind to see. She has years of experience teaching fun hands-on STEM workshops and camps focusing on fundamentals of engineering (often by destroying things) and empowering kids to build their own giant creative things with tools. She currently teaches Arduino and Space Design courses to high school students at the Governor's Institute of Vermont. As an artist, she loves learning new ways to make things and integrating those new skills into her art. She dabbles in illustration, woodworking, silversmithing, sculpture, fabric, food, and more. In her free time, you can find her picking blueberries, inventing a new toy (like an interactive phone switchboard for her preschooler), or making kreplach and challah with her kids.


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