Note: This article on simple holidays is by contributing writer, Tammy Strobel.
When I was in my twenties, my holidays weren’t simple. Instead, they were filled with lots of “shoulds” and too much stress. For example, my husband and I overspent on holiday gifts because we felt like we “should” buy presents for everyone in our family. As a result, we mismanaged our budget and felt overwhelmed during and after the holidays.
Simplifying our lives and setting boundaries helped us simplify this special time of year. I don’t overspend on gifts at the mall anymore, and that feels good. Instead, we focus on savoring experiences like good meals, nature walks, and conversations with loved ones.
I still struggle with “shoulds,” feelings of overwhelm, and sadness during the holidays. For instance, I wish my step-dad was still here to celebrate the holidays with us. He created holiday traditions that brought loved ones together and we strive to do the same. As the holidays approach, I will use the following tips to reduce feelings of overwhelm and infuse more joy into our celebrations. I hope the suggestions below benefit you, too.
The Art of Simple Holidays: Reducing Overwhelm, Increasing Joy
1.) Prioritize and plan
Prioritizing and planning helps me feel grounded during the holiday season. For example, my mom recently suggested that we take a trip during the holidays. Planning a trip is a great way to change up holiday routines that feel stagnant. We also talked about staying home and trying something new, like going on a long bike ride on Christmas Day. Engaging in new experiences can make the holidays feel more fun, playful, and joyful.
2.) Rethink gift giving
We’ve tried to adopt a mindful and creative approach to gift giving. For example, over ten years ago, we talked to loved ones about limiting or not exchanging holiday gifts. Some loved ones liked the idea of not exchanging gifts, and we were excited about that! Other loved ones wanted to continue exchanging presents.
Since none of us need more stuff, we give loved ones gift cards to coffee shops, local restaurants, or donate money to charities or foundations. We’ve also gotten creative over the years. We’ve made gift baskets that were packed with homemade treats, teas, cider, and other consumable goodies.
3.) Respect your budget
We try to eliminate financial stress during the holidays, and our loved ones share the same sentiment. Engaging in candid conversations about finances and budgeting isn’t easy, yet it’s a crucial aspect of keeping our holiday experience simple.
4.) Go Internet-lite
The holiday season is a good opportunity to try a digital detox. When I spend time with loved ones, I try to avoid looking at my phone. It’s distracting and doesn’t give me the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations. Storing my phone in my bag or in another room deters me from picking it up. This practice allows me to fully engage in conversations. And, I spend less time online.
5.) Learn to say no
Author Anne Lamott says, “No is a complete sentence.” As a recovering people pleaser, this is a mantra I refer to frequently. It’s essential for me to remember that it’s okay to say “no;” especially during the holiday season. For example, I’m allowed to say “no” to:
- party invitations,
- family events,
- holiday parades,
- and other celebrations that don’t align with my preferences or energy.
Coming to this realization has been a revelation.
6.) Plan downtime
By saying “no” to events and social gatherings, I make space for downtime. Some of my favorite ways to spend downtime include reading novels, snuggling with my cat, and resting. Even during the hustle and bustle, I take naps and don’t feel guilty about putting myself to bed.
7.) Ask for help
If you are hosting a large celebration, ask for help. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to do everything alone. Likewise, if you are a guest, ask your host how you can help. Doing things like baking a desert, setting up tables, decorating, or doing the dishes is a wonderful way to contribute to a gathering.
8.) Connect with loved ones
Connecting with loved ones is the best part. I love taking long bike rides with my husband and going on long walks with friends. Also, rewatching classic films like Elf is a delightful way to connect with family. Plus, it’s fun to laugh and chat during a movie that we’ve all seen before.
9.) Practice gratitude
Recently, I talked to my mom about the holiday season because I felt overwhelmed. She offered me excellent advice. She said, “It’s only October; concentrate on being present and cultivating gratitude. When the holidays arrive, prioritize love, kindness, and gratitude.”
Her advice resonated with me. I’m committing to not overthinking the holiday season, and continuing my gratitude practice.
10) Reflect on joy
Before the holiday seasons arrives, I open my journal and respond to the following prompt: What brings you joy during the holidays? Responding to this prompt reminded me that prioritizing joy and taking care of myself is essential. As Courtney Carver said, “Take care of yourself over the holidays. It’s the best gift you can give yourself and everyone you love.” I’d encourage you to set aside 15-20 minutes and answer the prompt above. I hope your answer helps you prioritize joy during the holiday seasons.
Resources to help you simplify the holidays
Looking for resources to help you simplify the holiday season? Explore the resource list below:
The following articles include tips that will help you reduce anxiety and slow down during the holidays.
- 25 Simple Ways to Take Care of Yourself Over the Holidays
- 5 Slow Living Holiday Gifts (just for you)
- Holiday Anxiety? 5 Ways To Stress Less And Enjoy The Holidays
I’m a fan of Life Kit; it’s a podcast produced by National Public Radio (NPR). Below is a link that will take you to holiday themed “Life Kit” episodes. Each show focuses on different topics like shopping secondhand, spending less, hosting meaningful gatherings, and more. Happy listening!
The book list below isn’t specific to the holidays. However, these books remind me to prioritize rest and joy during the holiday season. I hope they help you, too!
- Microjoys: Finding Hope (Especially) When Life Is Not Okay by Cyndie Spiegel
- The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
- Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver
- Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain
- Rest Is Resistance by Tricia Hersey