Christmas decorations come out in early October, laid out disconcertingly near the Halloween ones. Our family Secret Santa draw happens around the same time. I add a new tab to my annual gift list spreadsheet to start noting potential ideas (because, of course, I have a spreadsheet 😅). I set intentions in my businesses and help my clients set theirs as we all consider what’s possible (and reasonable) between now and the end of the year.
The second the clock ticks over into November, Mariah Carey horrifies us with Christmas music (I've never recovered from my time in retail listening to the same 10 songs on repeat for 8 weeks 😂).
Weeks away, and all the things that come with the holiday season begin to take up space in the back of my mind. The crescendo of the season threatens to escalate.
I have written about holiday stress before, most recently:
- 7 Ways to Reduce Overwhelm and Set your Holiday Season up for Success
- 5 Steps to Reduce Stress This Holiday Season
Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas, the season has far-reaching impacts with its juggle of tradition and expectation.
For many, the holidays are a chaotic time with layers of different types of pressure. There is a fine line between joy and dread, and you may jump from one side to the other, depending on the circumstances.
Some of these circumstances you control, and others you don’t.
I’ve been thinking about the ones you do and the pressures we put on ourselves. Sometimes, the frenzy of the holidays is something we unintentionally orchestrate. We bend to all the ways we think we need to perform, do and be and much of the season's joy is leached away.
What if, this year, you stopped and took some time to consider what you do have control over? What if you thought about what you wanted out of this particular year, at this specific time of your life, and focussed your time, energy and attention on that?
What if you could give yourself the gift of calm this holiday season?
Let’s talk about how.
Don’t be afraid to change things up
It’s easy to get stuck doing the same thing every year… just because it’s the same thing you do every year. Sometimes traditions are lovely and are things you look forward to every year, while others start to feel rote.
Take this opportunity to check in on your annual traditions and responsibilities. Evaluate why you do things the way you do, their purpose, and who they are for.
Is there anything you do every year that you are tired of or that is already causing some anxiety?
For example, some of the things you used to do for your kids every year might not fit anymore now that they are older. Or maybe this year, with inflation and the rough economy, travelling over the holidays like you usually do is too expensive for your budget.
- What are your annual family traditions?
- What about them do you enjoy?
- Is there anything you dislike?
- If you could change something, what would it be?
- Is there something new you want to try?
Ask your family the same questions. You might be surprised by what they tell you.
Don’t be afraid to change things up, even if only for this year. Who knows, you might even discover some new traditions!
Reconsider your “have to” and “should do” lists
Every year, you get to decide what matters and what doesn’t in this particular time of your life.
Think about the stories you tell yourself about what you should do and what you have to do, and consider if these stories are true. The commercial narrative of what a “good” Christmas looks like with festive parties, a tree overflowing with gifts, an immaculately decorated home and cookies galore might be in your head. It can feel like a lot of pressure to spend time, money and energy you might not have.
- You don’t have to host anything. Full stop. If you don’t feel up to it this year, that’s okay.
- You don’t have to go to everything you’re invited to. Your friends will still love you if you can’t attend their Christmas party.
- You don’t have to decorate every inch of your house. Some years, it feels fun; other years, it’s exhausting. Maybe your kids are old enough now to help more, or perhaps you do something more straightforward.
- You don’t have to spend outside your budget. Maybe it’s a kids-only gifts year, a homemade gifts-only year, or even a no-gifts year. How much money you spend on gifts is not a reflection of how much you love the people in your life.
- You don’t have to bake a million cookies or make a feast for 12. Maybe this year, you buy cookies, and Christmas dinner is a potluck.
Or maybe you go hog wild with hosting, attend all the parties, Christmas will explode in your house, you will buy all the things, bake all the things, and have a huge dinner... but you don't have to.
You might get pushback from people who want things to be a certain way or have expectations of you. That’s okay. You get to decide what works for you, given how things are for you right now. Pick the battles that matter to you and let the others go.
Work on letting go of the shoulds and reduce those pressures.
Prioritize and make space for your “want-to” list
What do you want to do?
Among the shoulds and have-to’s, what about the holiday season do you enjoy? Who do you enjoy doing it with?
Do those things.
It seems silly to say, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in the fervour of the season and forget that among all of the commercialization, it can be a lot of fun, too. When you let go of some of the pressure and are open to doing things differently, you make space for things you enjoy. You get to decide to focus on what matters, who matters, and prioritize them.
Map out the next few weeks
Once you have a better handle on your should-do/have-to/want-to lists, it’s time to get a clear idea of your availability from now to the end of the year and where things fit. You can figure out what to realistically put your time and energy into in the weeks ahead.
Much like mapping your ideal week, you can:
- Map out your known commitments that you’ve decided to keep—things like kid's events, family get-togethers, and work schedules.
- Add any additional responsibilities related to those events. Like purchasing a Secret Santa gift or making cookies to bring. When will you/could you do those things?
- Then, map out the things you want to do—traditions you want to keep, new things you want to try, and (most importantly) time to rest.
If it looks overbooked, do another gut check for everything you’ve committed to and ask yourself if anything needs to change. You are allowed to change your mind!
You are not meant to book every moment of your life from now until the end of the year but rather prevent yourself from overbooking and over-committing.
The Gift of Calm
Over the next few weeks, there will be many decision points where you can stop to ask yourself if you want to commit to something, say no, set a boundary, or reconsider. There will be things you decide are unavoidable, too essential to change, or the ones you want to do.
The point is to have made all of these decisions with intention. There will be stressful parts, but that’s just everyday life.
Give yourself the gift of calm this holiday season by being thoughtful and intentional about what matters to you and what you have control over.
Do what you can to let go of the pressure and do what brings you joy.
Are you feeling overwhelmed and ready for a change? Not sure where to start? Reach out, and let's talk about how I can help.