Holiday shopping with traffic and lines

Parties and parties, is there ever enough time?

Piles of packages – in January comes the bill

Rushing and rushing – do we ever sit still?

Cookies, dips, drinks and temptation

Feeling overwhelmed – think I need a vacation

It’s designed to be a time of peace, love, giving, and time with family and friends. However, most people are stressed during the holidays, worrying about eating too much, drinking too much, spending too much, and being too busy.

For many, the holidays have turned into an act of creating the “perfect holiday experience.” It shows up as excessive decorating, the planning of elaborate feasts, orchestrating the perfect family holiday card, and more. This inevitably leads to a sense of overwhelm. It makes you wonder why we have bought into this idea of bigger, faster, better during a time that is meant to make us slow down and savor the treasures we already have.

The good news is that if we approach the holidays with intention, we can create a new tradition and a new way to experience this magical time of year.

Take Sarah, one of my clients who came to me dreading the holidays. Sarah spent an incredible amount of time and money decorating her house, inside and out. She also planned, prepared, and was “hostess” for an elaborate holiday meal for her extended family. She also did a large amount of shopping and seemed to feel the need to top the year before with bigger and better gifts. This left her feeling rushed, overwhelmed, and drained – before, during, and after the holidays.

To help her redefine her experience, we first started with her goals. What she truly wanted was time with family, meaningful connections, and memorable traditions. The first thing I recommended was advanced planning. It’s too hard to break with tradition a week before Christmas. Next, I had her sit down with her family and explain to them what the holidays were doing to her in terms of stress. At first she got resistance because her family loved their traditions. But the more she talked about how the holidays made her feel, the more her family was on board to try something new.

Sarah and her family first changed their holiday meal. They made it smaller, and she involved every member in the family with preparing it. Perhaps the biggest change they made was in the way they gave gifts. They decided to focus on one “memorable” gift per person. They also went around their house and found gently used items that they could donate to those less fortunate.   By not having to rush around and buy a lot of gifts, each person was able to put more creativity and energy into their “one gift” idea. They also had started a new family tradition of giving to others during the holidays. This experience left Sarah feeling less rushed, spending less money, and not giving to others to the point of being burnt-out and resentful.

Take Action

Here are some ways you can redefine the holiday experience in your house.

  1. Start Early – Just after Thanksgiving is the perfect time to sit down and plan your December. If you wait too long, the rush will have begun.
  2. Create a Vision – Start with the end in mind. Imagine waking up on January 1st having experienced a wonderful December that had less stress, eating, spending, and overwhelm. Ask yourself what is important to you about the holidays. What stresses you out? What could you let go of?
  3. Communicate – Once you’ve gotten clear on your own needs, sit down with your family and have an open and honest dialogue about the good and bad of the season. How can you have a great time, but not overstress, overeat, and overspend?
  4. Be Realistic – It’s not easy to break old habits. You may encounter some resistance to change and even experience some personal guilt. You don’t have to change everything at once. Start with at least one area where you can change the way you experience the holidays and expand from there.