Do your holidays need a major overhaul, a moderate makeover, or maybe just a few tweaks? No matter what your goals are, we have a plan that can help you fill this season with more meaning, love, and joy.
This time of the year is often portrayed in the media in one of two ways. First, we have The Hallmark Channel version, jam-packed with perfection, snowfalls, mittens, romance, and pure bliss. On the other hand, we have The Christmas Carol version, full of irritation, miserliness, and a forced grin-and-bear-it attitude.
Is it possible to have something in between these two extremes—something simple and happy?
Fortunately, the answer is yes. You can create a holiday season that will leave you feeling fulfilled rather than frazzled. How? Start by choosing which of the following holiday plans works best for you: a full overhaul, a moderate makeover, or a few tweaks.
A FULL OVERHAUL
Have you ever tried to give up a bad habit, such as smoking? For many people, going cold turkey is the most effective approach. Rather than tempting themselves with a few cigarettes, they stop completely and start reaping the benefits of their decision sooner.
When making changes to your holidays, some of you might do best with a “cold turkey” approach—this involves big, sweeping changes. This plan is for you if it’s not enough to simply cut out a few obligatory events. Instead, you want to attend only a couple of events, only the most meaningful ones. This approach is for you if you don’t just want to cut back to 10 gifts per child. Instead, you’d rather give them one or two gifts each, or you’d rather go on a family excursion instead of exchanging gifts at all.
For you hardcore holiday overhaulers, we have a few tips to motivate and inspire:
1. Stop worrying about appearances.
When Paul Ryken and Sandra Rosenau married in 2014, they were living a comfortable, but unfulfilling, life in Sydney, Australia. By 2016, the pair had overhauled their life and become “location independent,” working full-time on the road and running their website Minimalist Journeys (minimalistjourneys.com).
Currently in Europe, Paul and Sandra know all about taking big leaps to make meaningful changes in life. As this relates to the holiday season, Paul says that it all begins with your state of mind.
“We stopped worrying about what others thought about us,” says Paul. “It may seem selfish, but you need to take control of your happiness first.”
Instead of worrying about what others will think or trying to keep up with the Joneses, ask yourself what is truly best for the health and happiness of your family. More presents and more parties probably isn’t the answer.
2. Make it less materialistic.
As minimalists, Paul and Sandra have found that experiences are more important for them than physical gifts. They recognize, though, that for some people, giving gifts is a way of showing love and affection. In that case, communication is key.
“Have a conversation with your loved ones before the holiday season approaches and look for ways to remove the stress that comes with the usual gift of giving,” says Sandra. “You can agree to only one gift per person, with the givers and recipients randomly paired up. Or you could just have a nice meal together, or organize an experience you all share together.”
3. Rework the holiday feast.
With more people experiencing food allergies and dietary restrictions, traditional holiday meals often need an overhaul too. Ask guests ahead of time what they can or cannot eat.
“Don’t go overboard on the options, and label them if you have a buffet,” Sandra notes. “Ask guests to bring their own food if they have severe allergies. If you are heading to a party and have certain needs, be kind to the host and either let them know beforehand or bring your own dish.”
4. Remember the big picture.
“Holidays have become so commercialized. Ads are everywhere, telling you what to do and what to buy,” says Sandra. Instead of rushing around, slow down and get some perspective. “Stores are packed with people buying presents and heaps of food. People go into debt for the holidays, and everyone is stressed out. We need to remind ourselves that this is not what the holidays are about.”
A MODERATE MAKEOVER
This may be the plan for you if you aren’t ready to give up holiday gifts, or if you don’t want to go head-to-head with your mother-in-law about changing the annual holiday feast. While you’re fed up with all the hassle, stress, and overindulgence of the holiday season, you aren’t ready to rock the boat. Instead, you’d like to find a way to incorporate changes that will make the season more authentic, memorable, and meaningful.
1. Start small.
Often, family and friends get upset when you want to make changes to holiday traditions, warns Laura Spawn, who promotes simpler, intentional living on her website Simply Clearly (simplyclearly.com). Making your newfound minimalism requests known can cause others to feel judged or as though you don’t care anymore about long-held holiday traditions. To combat this, Laura suggests going slowly and focusing on small changes.
2. Focus on starting new traditions instead of ending old ones.
“Try to have conversations with your family about starting new traditions that include them, without necessarily saying outright that you want to discontinue old ones,” Spawn says. Areas like gift giving and large, formal meals are likely to be debated if you go into the conversation discounting their value.
Instead, “introduce a new tradition, such as everyone bringing a side dish to dinner, or exchanging gifts under a certain amount of money. This will start moving your family toward a simpler holiday season,” says Spawn.
3. Bake only the best.
For some people, baking is a joy. For others, it’s a chore. If you find it to be an overwhelming task, marrow down the baking list.
“I’ve drilled down our holiday treats to our two most loved recipes,” says Spawn. “The kids and I usually spend one afternoon baking, then delivering some to our nearby neighbors and friends, with plenty left over for us to enjoy as well.”
4. Take a break and get some fresh air.
Self-care is important year-round, but especially during the hectic holidays. One of the best ways to refresh your mind, body, and spirit is to spend a few moments outside.
“A brisk, five-minute walk can really clear your mind and help combat the feeling of so much pressure—even if it is enjoyable holiday pressure,” says Spawn.
3-Step Strategy to Enjoying the Holidays
Whether you change your holiday season in big or small ways, here are three tips guaranteed to make this season more enjoyable.
1. Practice being fully present.
Challenge yourself to really focus on the person, event, or activity you are involved with, even if just for a few minutes at a time. Not only will you enjoy the experience more, you’ll likely remember it later.
2. Give something away.
Whether it’s that set of Grandma’s china that you know your cousin loves or fresh flowers for an elderly neighbor, give away something meaningful. Not only will it spread joy to others, but it will make you happier as well.
3. Stay home.
Plan downtime for yourself and your family. Before Thanksgiving rolls around, look at the calendar and schedule in time to chill during the busy weeks ahead. Plan nature walks, reading time in front of the fireplace, and other fun but quiet breaks. When someone calls or texts with an invitation for those time slots, you can honestly say, “No, I’m sorry. We already have plans.”
A FEW TWEAKS
If you’re pretty satisfied with your holiday traditions already, or if you have a fairly stress-free approach to life year-round, then you may only need some tiny tweaks and changes to make your holidays more joy-filled. For Katy Wolk-Stanley, living simply and consciously is a way of life. Wolk-Stanley, who runs the popular website The Non-Consumer Advocate (thenonconsumeradvocate.com), is all about tiny tweaks and changes to make the holidays more joy-filled and less stressful.
1. Decide what is most important.
First things first: get clear about your priorities, says Wolk-Stanley.
“For me, keeping the holidays simple is about establishing priorities, and this is going to be different for everyone, and different from year to year,” says Wolk-Stanley. “I get stressed out when there’s too much on my plate, so I’m very deliberate about not accepting excessive numbers of invitations or agreeing to host too many events.”
2. Don’t give up your normal routines.
To maintain your overall health and well-being, make time for the self-care practices that keep you going throughout the year.
“Stick to your normal routines as much as possible,” Wolk-Stanley advises. “Prioritize time to decompress, and make plans to keep yourself healthy and well.” This might look like a morning walk with a family member, she says, or excusing yourself from a stressful situation and treating yourself to a few moments alone at a local café.
3. Let yourself feel mixed feelings.
The holidays can be joyful and sad simultaneously—and it’s okay if you have an array of emotions. “Oftentimes loved ones are no longer with us, which can bring issues of grief,” says Wolk-Stanley. “Anticipating these normal emotions is important, as is reaching out for help as available.”
4. Don’t make things harder than they need to be.
Elaborate and exhausting traditions aren’t always better, so go ahead and embrace low-stress traditions without feeling guilty.
“My family has a Christmas tradition of splurging on a fancy Chinese restaurant dinner each December 25, which came to us from my stepfather, who is a proud New Yorker,” Wolk-Stanley says. “This tradition takes the pressure off of all of us, as no one has to cook a huge meal, and no one has the burden of hosting.”
Simplifying your holiday season takes a little work on your part. But making the changes—whether minor or major—will be worth the time and effort!
This CREATION Life featured article is brought to you courtesy of Vibrant Life.