Look, I don’t want to stress you out. But as of this writing, Thanksgiving is just about 8 weeks away.

And then…

Christmas is 32 short days after that.

Did that get your heart rate up?

Even though we can see those dates zooming at us on the calendar, the majority of Americans don’t prep ahead for the holidays. Take Thanksgiving, for example. The night before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest shopping days for grocery stores, with aisles jammed with people all vying for the last few cans of cranberry sauce and loading their carts with frozen turkeys.1

Then there’s Christmas. In a recent survey of over 40,000 people conducted by Klarna, a leading payment and shopping vendor, 79% of people say they leave their holiday shopping until the last minute, waiting until just a couple of weeks before the big day to frantically start filling their baskets.2

Researchers tell us that when we put off tasks like these, when we procrastinate on big projects with clear deadlines, it leads to higher levels of anxiety and stress.3 So why do we do it to ourselves?

Part of the issue could be that, in our modern schedules, we pack a whole lot into the end of the year. From the time school starts in the early fall, through all the activities that take up a lot of space on the calendar, like football games, back-to-school events, Bible studies at church, fall carnivals, and more, we might just be arriving on the doorstep of needed holiday planning with a whole lot of fatigue and very few ideas for how to make the holidays magical. 38% of people say that their stress increases as the holidays approach.4 (If you’re an Altrua HealthShare Member on certain memberships, you have access to LifeWorks, a counseling and coaching service that can help you manage all those holiday emotions. If you’re not yet an Altrua HealthShare Member and would like to learn more about various features of the Membership, you can contact a Member Services Representative for more information.)

One simple way to help keep the holiday anxieties at bay is to prepare ahead.

Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.
Proverbs 24:27

Budget that banquet: One of the reasons people say they put off getting ready for the holidays ahead of time is because they’re not feeling so great in the wallet. The holidays do bring up expenses like no other time of the year. So what can you do about it? Determine now what your budget will be for your Thanksgiving feast, your holiday decor, your Christmas outings, and all those gifts. When you have a working plan for your budget, it can better help you strategize what you can go ahead and purchase now and what you’ll be able to afford in a few weeks.

Eat the elephant one bite at a time: All that holiday prep is a whole series of little steps. Making Grandma’s stuffing recipe for the turkey? What are the items you can prepare ahead of time and have stashed in the freezer? It doesn’t mean you have to make everything all at once. Consider dedicating just 30 minutes a day, from now until the holidays hit, to knock off a task or two. That might mean getting one gift purchased and another one wrapped. 30 minutes and done. Maybe tomorrow it’s touching up the paint in the guest bathroom in anticipation of when everyone is going to be over for Thanksgiving dinner. Take an inventory of what needs to be done and then break it down into bite-sized pieces you can tackle just one 30-minute block at a time.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin….
Zechariah 4:10

Get honest about the calendar: Keep it in front of your eyes. The days start to fly so fast this time of year that you can turn around twice and discover that you’ve got a turkey to roast in just a couple of days. When you keep countdown clocks on your desktop, when you block out time each day to holiday prep, you’re staying honest about just how much time you have to do the things you feel like you need to do. The other reason it’s important to keep honest while keeping your calendar is because it gives you accountability. Sure, you might feel pressured in the moment to sign up for a dozen things as the clock winds down on the end of this year. But when you keep your calendar as your guide, it forces you to stay realistic about what does and does not fit.

Simplify, simplify, simplify: Part of why we end up procrastinating holiday prep is because it feels so overwhelming. And you know what? It is! We’ve amped up expectations on what our homes and tables and gift wrapping look like to such a degree that it would realistically take a full staff to help pull it all off. If you find yourself putting off what you have intended to get done, or if you discover that all the holiday prep you’re engaging in is not filling you with holiday spirit or joy, you’ve likely got things on the list that need to come off. Keeping Thanksgiving reasonable so there is room to give thanks is smart. Keeping Christmas little so that it can be merry makes sense. Prepare for the holidays to the level that it feels fun and life-giving. And all the rest? Let go of the expectations and the Pinterest boards.

Looking for more ideas to keep your holiday stress under control this year? Be sure and check out this article on the Altrua HealthShare website, where you can find more ideas and inspiration for living a healthy lifestyle.


  1. https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/buffalo/news/2015/11/25/why-people-wait-until-the-last-minute-for-thanksgiving-grocery-shopping
  2. https://wwd.com/feature/last-minute-holiday-shopping-survey-reveal-curious-consumer-trends-1234684998/
  3. https://wwd.com/feature/last-minute-holiday-shopping-survey-reveal-curious-consumer-trends-1234684998/
  4. https://hbr.org/2018/12/holidays-can-be-stressful-they-dont-have-to-stress-out-your-team