Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone, but maybe you need to hear this…
The holidays are full of magic, food, and joy. Holidays are twinkling lights, festive events, and carefully selected and wrapped packages under the tree.
Holidays are also made up of anxiety, chaos, and overspending. At least mine are. So just in case we’re in the same boat, here is my attempt at making the holidays more enjoyable, more magical, and less about expectation, stress, and obligation.
Our beautiful holiday season can become chaotic, consuming, and full of obligations, no matter how many times we say we’re gonna “do it better next year”. Next year comes and credit cards are still maxed out, our schedules are stuffed full, and it seems like we can’t possibly do one more thing. Cause guess what? Between the turkeys and the shopping and the thoughtfully placed decorations, we still have to go to work, keep the house clean and maintain some semblance of adulthood (note: I haven’t washed my hair in weeks and it shows). Anyone else?
So how do we keep from going crazy over the holidays? Better yet, how can we actually enjoy the holiday season? I love this time of year….October 1st through December 31st truly is the most magical time of year, but it also has a special grip on my time and sanity.
I desperately want to enjoy all the festivities, connect with my friends and family, and not go into debt or gain more weight. All of this seems really reasonable, I think, but somehow it proves a challenge every year.
What I want – The real Holiday Magic
– Connection with friends and family, without pretense
– A clean and tidy home
– Spiritual connection to the season
– To not feel exhausted and completely overwhelmed
– To remember what I have with gratitude
– To enjoy celebrations but not feel like shit afterward or in the new year
– To not spend beyond my means
– To not let the seasonal depression and anxiety cause total shut down leading up to the holidays
– To enjoy the magic and wonder of the season
You’re committing to an intentional holiday, reserving your energy and time for things that light you up and give you joy.
How to get your holiday magic back
Tips to get everything you want this holiday season
- Connection: Make this about time and enjoying company rather than comparison, expensive gifts, and expectations. My suggestion? Potlucks, minimal décor, stories and laughter to fill your hearts. Eliminate obligation and expectation. Gifts are not necessary. If you want to exchange physical tokens of affection, try an ornament exchange or a sharing of recipes.
- A happy home: Leading up to the holidays always adds to my stress. I want to decorate, I want the house to be clean and I don’t want excess stuff everywhere. So I’m working hard this year to eliminate unnecessary stuff, clean up before the decorations, and to keep decor super minimal but beautiful. And a super pro tip: keep horizontal surfaces (think tables and counters) clear – it will make the house seem more organized and clean.
- Spiritual fulfillment: Whatever your belief system is, this is the perfect time to go inward and connect deeply. We get so distracted with the pretty lights and constant hustle and bustle that it’s easy to forget to stop and reflect. To connect with what matters to you. So take some time to sit quietly, journal and connect with whatever internal power or deity you find most fitting.
- Fighting overwhelm and exhaustion: Seriously, December gets me every time – by the second week, I am wiped out and all I want to do is sleep. This doesn’t make for much enjoyment of the holidays, so I’m being really intentional this year to set aside time for me (which usually means going downstairs early and lighting some candles and enjoying the quiet). I’ve also been going to bed earlier, which seems to be helping me stave off the crazed exhaustion monster. Also, to keep yourself sane, be selective about events and people that get your energy. Don’t overcommit, pick the items that are important to you so you can be present and truly enjoy them.
- Gratitude and giving back: Good grief I’m fortunate. I have a home and plenty to eat and so many other things in my life. And I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you’re also relatively privileged (I mean, you have some access to the internet and a device, so yeah). I hope to be better about volunteering and giving back throughout the year, but the holidays feel extra special to me. There are so many people who are going without in some way and could use a little extra love and kindness. Finding ways to give back is relatively simple, from angel trees to serving dinner, find something that speaks to your heart and take action. I get that you’re busy, but I’d venture to guess that this will energize you rather than deplete your resources.
- Enjoy the festivities: It’s the holidays. They’re supposed to be fun and magical, but that doesn’t mean you have to tank your health and eat everything in sight. I also wouldn’t recommend being on a super restrictive diet during the holidays either, instead, just pre plan. If you know that you love Aunt Susie’s pumpkin pie, plan to have a piece. Because you’ve planned what you’ll indulge in you don’t have to go back for 17 rolls and a sampling of every single dessert ever made. This isn’t about depriving yourself, it’s about making the yummy indulgences worth it and not feeling like complete hell afterward. Also, if you have a schedule full of parties and events, do your best to pack your lunch during the week and make any meals at home hearty, healthy and fulfilling. It’s all about balance, y’all.
- Responsible holiday spending: Oh man, this one hits me hard. I’m really learning how to be better about this. For the first time ever, I’m learning not to use credit cards for Christmas shopping (crazy, right?). And guess what? It’s really challenging for me, but I’m learning a lot and I will just keep getting better and better at this and my savings account will thank me later. If you’re on the same struggle bus as me, give yourself grace, but let’s all agree to start planning earlier next year. Create a budget and start saving throughout the year when there aren’t as many financial demands. Also, PARE DOWN – you don’t need to buy every single item that makes you think of your friend Tina. Buy one or two meaningful, quality items and call it a day. Maybe agree with family/friends to reduce the number of gifts or give only activities or a themed gift this year.
- Surviving seasonal anxiety and depression: This is no joke. The holidays are hard. And if you need help, reach out. Don’t feel like you have to suffer through depression or anxiety alone – a licensed professional could really be the change you need to enjoy your holidays again. If you’re like me and struggling with a lowgrade seasonal depression, though, there are some steps you can take to make the holidays easier and more enjoyable. Be selective with your time (I know, I said it already, but it’s really important). Carve out dedicated time for yourself – put it on a planner and tell anyone in your household who might try to distract you that you must do this to take care of yourself. I promise self-care is not selfish, especially through the holidays when you’re expected to do and be it all. Also on that note, don’t try to be perfect. I assure you that the people in your life that matter would much rather have you show up present and happy than with perfectly wrapped gifts, an immaculately decorated home, overspent bank accounts, and completely wrung out from trying to do it all. Remember that your time, love, and attention is a gift in itself.
- Quality vs Quantity: Let me say it again – I. Love. The. Holidays. BUT some things about the holidays are best enjoyed in moderation. By all means, drink in all the beautiful lights, happy moments, and shared memories you can stand, but when it comes to shoulds and events, moderation is key. Instead of committing to endless parties and family obligations, pick a few things that are particularly magical (nostalgic, special, etc.) to you each holiday season and do those with gusto. Then give yourself the grace and peace to let the other things go. If people push you, just explain that you’re committing to an intentional holiday, reserving your energy and time for things that light you up and give you joy. All of this makes you better able to show up for them, the people you care about, and you hope they understand 🙂 But if they don’t, move on. They’ll get it later, I’m sure. Here are a few things that make my holidays feel extra special: hayrides, decorating our Christmas tree, the Nutcracker Ballet, seeing Christmas lights, and special Christmas Eve traditions with the family that require no fancy clothes, no pretense or excessive activity. Remember, let this time be about wonder and joy and again, and limit the obligation.
Let this time be about wonder and joy and again.
The point of all this is to say, give yourself a pass, and permission to step away. Sometimes it’s just fine to go to bed early, to cut something from your list and to stay home again, to watch a Christmas movie instead of baking those competition-level cookies. No one will remember if you perfectly executed every Christmas expectation, but they’ll remember how much you loved them and how present you were when you spent time together.
Give yourself a break and the freedom to truly relax into the holidays. There’s a special kind of magic this time of year. I’m committing to myself (and hope you will too) to not let it slip away because I’m “too busy” to see it.
Tell me, how are you reducing the noise and making time for magic this holiday season?