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How to Avoid Getting Overwhelmed

headIt seems like life speeds up from November through January.  And it’s easy to get caught up in the cyclone.  But here are some suggestions for how to stay calm in the holiday storm.

1)  Set realistic expectations for yourself.

If you have a new baby, for example, don’t plan to host Christmas dinner.  Or if  you do, make it a potluck.

Even if you don’t have a new baby or what you might think of as some other valid excuse but you want to scale back, give yourself permission.  Generally, people are understanding of others.  The trick is how to be understanding of yourself, and respect your own limitations.

2)  If people want to be judgmental, screw ’em.

This goes hand in hand with #1.  Since most people understand that you’re sometimes going to do less, the ones who don’t are not your problem.  Well, they are something of a problem, but it’s a manageable one.  The way to manage it: Screw ’em.

Sometimes we push ourselves too hard because we’re imagining what our harshest critics would say.  Instead, think about what the majority of people would say, the ones who love and care about our well-being and sanity.

3)  Organize, and prioritize.

If life is moving so fast that you feel like you just need to try to keep up and you don’t have time for organizing and prioritizing, rethink that.  The time spent getting organized will be well worth it in the long run.  It’ll save you unnecessary stress and trips.

4)  Take advantage of the vast online retail world, with its ability to compare prices and the many free shipping deals.

You’re not being lazy; you’re being smart.  And you’re being eco-conscious by not having to drive around.

5)  Use coping skills.

Mindfulness and breathing exercises can be your best friends.  Here’s a great quick guide:

6)  Delegate.

You don’t need to do it all.  Rely on your partner.  If your kids are old enough, ask them to pitch in.  Other people like to feel valuable.  And they probably like that you’re not getting as snippy because you’re not as stressed out and overwhelmed.

Sometimes people think they’re helping others by doing everything.  But there’s the fallout to consider.  Those other people need to be around you when you’re stressed and overwhelmed.  They’re breathing in those fumes.

7)  Take a moment to reflect and be grateful.

That’s what this time of year should, ideally, be about.  That can often get lost in the commercialism and the craziness.  But remembering will make it all feel more purposeful and worthwhile.

Overwhelmed woman image available from Shutterstock.

How to Avoid Getting Overwhelmed

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2013). How to Avoid Getting Overwhelmed. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Dec 2013
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