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Holiday time brings up a lot of stress for most people. What if I told you it was possible to actually enjoy the holidays this year without all of the stress and overwhelm? Yes!! It totally is. This is the first in a series of posts over the next few weeks to talk about How to Ditch the Holiday Overwhelm. We are going to be covering some great topics, so make sure you drop back by every week to get the latest. Up first is boundaries and constraints during the holidays.

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Before we begin, let’s go over the definitions. A lot of people get these two confused.

**These are the definitions per Google**


Definition: a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line

Boundaries are like an if-then statement.


  • If you come over to my house unannounced, then I won’t answer the door.
  • If you yell at me again, then I’ll leave your house.
  • If you are late again, then I’ll leave the restaurant.



Definition: a limit or restriction

Constraints are like rules. Think of them like rules to make your options more limited or decisions easier. You can have rules for things you do and things you don’t do.


  • I don’t eat dairy products.
  • I go to church every Sunday.
  • I don’t drink Soda.
  • I only drink water.

In this blog post, I will specifically be discussing constraints. These will help you limit the overwhelm of the holidays. If you have trouble with boundaries, I strongly recommend you read/listen to the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud. It's amazing. It was recommended to me by my therapist and is life-changing. I don’t say that lightly. It’s amazing. It is a fairly quick read too.

Dr. Cloud discusses boundaries in a way that is easy to understand. He also discusses it from a Biblical perspective, which helps a lot too. The only thing I will say about boundaries though is they can’t be silent. They don’t count unless the other person knows about them. You can’t just start a boundary and not tell the other person. But seriously, do yourself a favor and get this book! It’s amazing.

Without further ado, let’s discuss constraints. You can create constraints around the holidays to reduce overwhelm and simplify the holidays. I highly recommend you and your husband discuss the holidays and create your constraints together.

So, the holidays obviously create a ton of overwhelm and stress for families. Part of the reason is everyone you are trying to be nice to everyone because it only happens once a year and no one has constraints. You say yes to anything and everything that comes your way.

You feel obligated to say yes, then, get frustrated or talk under your breath about not wanting to do XYZ. I don’t blame you for trying to be nice, but when it ends up with everyone stressed and overwhelm, it’s not really worth it then, is it? Constraints help you to enjoy the holidays.

When you don't limit your options, you spend a lot of wasted energy and brainpower trying to make decisions. For example, I love Diet Coke. I know whenever I go out to eat what I'm drinking. I don't stand at the soda fountain all day wondering what to drink. I'm drinking Diet Coke. There's no chatter and flip-flopping around with the choices. I have one option only and that's Diet Coke.

That’s the magical secret to the holidays. You need to create constraints around the holidays. Here are some questions and examples to help you get started creating your constraints.

Questions to ask:

  • What do I want my ideal holiday to look like?
  • What do I like about what we already do?
  • What do I wish was different?
  • What can we change to make things easier?

Examples of holiday constraints:

  • We don’t go anywhere on Christmas Day. We prefer to stay at home.
  • We only go to one place a day. If there is more than one event a day, we will go every other year to each event. For example, if your mother and mother-in-law both host Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day, year 1- mother-in-law's house, year 2- mom's house. 
  • We will be home by 8 to get the kids in bed at a decent hour.
  • You don’t cook. So, you buy the stuff at the store, pay a local mom with a side hustle to bake for you, or pay or buy the supplies for your mom or the host (if they have extra time) and they can cook it for you.
  • You could make like 5 desserts and make a mixed dessert platter to take to each house.
  • Limit the number of toys for Christmas so you do Secret Santa, so your child has only 1 gift instead of 10 at each house. Instead of a smaller cheaper gift, you do 1 higher-quality gift.
  • Take 2 vehicles to save on time. My husband’s family plays the world’s longest card game. So, when I’m ready to leave, I leave, and he comes home whenever the card game is finished.
  • Only allow people at your house after a certain time. Like grandparents come over after 2:00 pm.
  • Food constraints- only eat until 6:00 pm., only eat at one person’s house, don’t eat desserts, don’t get seconds.
  • We are going to all parent’s events.
  • We will go to the company Christmas party.
  • We will host our friend’s Thanksgiving at our house this year.

**Note: When you have a constraint about someone, tell them. Like if you’re only going to 2 houses this year and skipping the third. Let the third person know ahead of time. Don’t wait until the last minute before telling them. You can also offer up a compromise when you do this. Say we can’t come to your house on this day, but we can come on another day or we can go out to eat together on a different day as well.

When you tell someone about a constraint, don’t throw it off on your or your husband let people know you made the decision together as a family. Constraints are really just about figuring out your ideal holiday and working backward- think reverse engineering. It's about what you plan on doing and what you don't wanna do. It's about making the decision ahead of time when you don't have all of that drama.

When you do it ahead of time without drama, you can really make the best decisions. When you make decisions in the moment when you’re tired and frustrated, that’s when it’s hard. When you make them ahead of time you don’t have to worry. You already know what the answer is when someone asks you to attend an event and you don’t have to “get back to them”. You can answer them on the spot.

Another thing, when someone asks you a question and the first thought in your head is no, don’t make them wait, go ahead and tell them no. Don’t tell them you’ll think about it or all of these other excuses. Tell them no. I can't remember who I heard this from, so I can give them credit for it.

No is a full sentence.

That means you can just say no WITHOUT an explanation. You don't have to explain yourself. You don't have to stutter out an excuse. Just say no and leave it at that.

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