Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year….for children, anyway!

For adults, it can be pretty stressful.

Yes, there is joy in those brown paper packages tied up with string. But all that planning, shopping, cooking, and coordinating of schedules and holiday visitors can take its toll on a person.

There is a strong link between thoughts, behavior, and emotion. That means that oftentimes, stress is related to our perception of the situation.

Sometimes we get stuck in unhelpful patterns of thinking – patterns like “All or Nothing” thinking, jumping to conclusions, emotional reasoning, personalization, catastrophizing, and filtering out the positive.

You know what I’m talking about. How many mornings have started out far from Pinterest perfect, and brought on a bad attitude that lasted until dinner?

There have been mornings where I have literally cried over spilled milk.

But, honestly, milk is kind of a pain to clean up.

I remember one morning a few years ago. It was the last day of school before Christmas break. I had forgotten that I had signed up to bring in a snack for the school party. I also was scrambling around trying to wrap teachers’ gifts, all while trying to feed all the babies and make sure the big kids weren’t late for school. Again.


In the middle of all this, my fifth child – who was just about 18 months old at the time – spilled an entire bowl of cheerios all over the teacher gifts/Christmas party snack/counter/floor/herself.

Of course, it was an accident. And as my mother always used to tell me when I was growing up, accidents happen.

But in this moment, I just wanted to cry. All I could think of was how much I was falling short.

I felt like a failure.

I was all or nothing thinking, jumping to conclusions, emotional reasoning, personalization, catastrophizing, and filtering out the positive…..all at the same time.

Luckily, this situation taught me some valuable lessons. Thinking through it in retrospective, I learned how important it is to focus on all the things that are in my control. The problems that morning did not stem from my daughter’s spilt milk. They came from my lack of planning and preparation for the day. Therefore, I have tried to prioritize my work and personal obligations to help me prepare for the day ahead.

I have also learned that it is helpful to recognize how thoughts can impact my behavior and emotions. If I am focused on thinking about how I think I am failing my children – or, more realistically, falling short of my idea of a Pinterest perfect Christmas – I am not going to have the right response.

I’m more likely to give in to the stress around me.

I’m more likely to cry over split milk.

If you can relate, here are some more stress reduction strategies you can try:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Sleep well (aim for 7-8 hours!)
  • Exercise (aim for 150 minutes of physical activity each week)
  • Write in a journal
  • Reward yourself

Give these a try.

And have yourself a Merry Little (Pinterest-free) Christmas!