Happy Holidays? Take stock to avoid the Christmas overwhelm

In every aspect of our lives, no matter how trivial, we are confronted with a dizzying array of things (stuff) and choices…too much stuff and too many choices.

       - Kim John Payne, Simplicity Parenting


When you think about how much choice you have in your life, how does this make you feel?

Do you see it as a positive thing? That you have so many options to choose from for almost any decision you want or need to make?

Or does it make you feel slightly stressed and somewhat overwhelmed?

I’d hazard a guess and say the latter.

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In his book Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne argues that too many choices and too much stuff doesn’t end in happiness – it doesn’t matter what the advertising tries to make you think!

When you have too much choice and too much stuff, it can be overwhelming.

And this is rarely more evident in our lives than at Christmas.  

It all steps up a gear around this time of year doesn’t it?! And I don’t know about you but it feels to me like the gears have been in motion since October!!

The anticipation of how amazing John Lewis’s Christmas advert is going to be, the Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts encouraging you to grab a bargain in something that you probably weren’t even thinking about buying in the first place (and that seem to span the weeks before and after the actual Friday and Monday!)

The notices in BIG RED CAPTIAL LETTERS reminding us of last ordering dates, last posting dates, the only dates left available to book your Christmas party, not to mention the very last date by which you have to have ordered your turkey if you don’t want to go without on Christmas day!

I can feel the sense of overwhelm as I type.

The thing is, if you can feel it then there is a high likelihood that your child can feel it too.

Take some time to notice their behaviours at this time of year. Do they seem a little out of sorts? More so than usual? Irritable and snappy? Nervous and anxious? Unsettled and overreacting to things that wouldn’t normally faze them?

Kim John Payne says that when children accumulate enough pieces of stress, with enough frequency, they can behave in a way that doesn’t look all that dissimilar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Now of course I’m not saying that your child is going to get PTSD as a result of all the Christmas overwhelm! Or that if children experience any stress at all then this might happen to them. Stress is a normal part of life and they will always experience it.

The difference between those ‘natural’ stresses and the ‘imposed’ stresses are just that – some are naturally occurring (i.e. you can’t do anything to stop them) and some are self-imposed (i.e. you can do everything to stop them).  

The distinction is important: Kim John Payne talks about his experience of working with thousands of children and families, and he found that the cumulative effect of the little imposed stresses had an impact on their ability to be resilient, emotionally, mentally and physically.

So, although we might not be heading towards PTSD with all Christmas overwhelm, I’m not sure that anyone wants to be impacting negatively on their child’s ability to be resilient either.

See this as your reminder to take stock, slow down and think about what a happy Christmas would look like for you and your family.

Then do whatever you need to do to make that happen.


If reading this has made you think and you want to find ways of slowing down a little and reducing everyone’s stress levels (yours included!) then have a read of Claire’s post on how to have a more mindful Christmas this year.

And if you’ve been feeling like it’s been getting to you and have any other seasonal stress-busting ideas to share, then we’d love to hear about them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


Here’s to a happy, stress-free holiday season!


Claire TaylorComment