It was almost two years ago that I made the decision to reclaim Christmas morning.
It used to be that Dec. 25 meant rising early, getting dolled up and meeting my mom for church, followed by brunch with my extended family. It was a wonderful tradition, but as my nuclear family grew, it became more and more stressful.
So I said no.
Here’s a fun fact about me: Christmas tree time is truly one of my favorite parts of the holidays (and of the year, actually). I could spend hours sitting by the tree, coffee in hand, admiring the lights. So that’s what we do now. We wake slowly, stay in our pjs, open presents and sit by the tree. It’s one of the ways I’ve protected my family—and myself—from the pressures of this busy season. Can you relate?
So many factors come into play around this time of year. There are parties to attend, gifts to buy, old friends to see, distant family to host—and everyday life doesn’t slow down to accommodate. So when I talk with my clients about the holidays, I often hear a twinge of panic in their voices.
Will my family irritate my spouse? Will my kids request expensive and elaborate gifts? I had one client who felt particularly anxious about the sheer amount of indulgent food at her family’s gatherings (and don’t we all).
It can be hard to feel centered and grounded in these moments, so I thought I’d share a few strategies that help me navigate the hustle and bustle.
1. Make a family pact. If you find gift giving with your extended family to be stressful and maybe a little silly, try coming up with a creative alternative. I’ve decided to treat my nieces and nephews to experiences throughout the year, rather than presents on Christmas Day. You could also suggest buying gifts for a family in need instead. I love the idea of philanthropy as an alternative to traditional exchanges.
2. Commit to a percentage of invites—and toss the rest out. One of the things I find most stressful about the holidays is the time drain. Holiday parties are lovely, but saying yes to all of them would mean saying no to things that are more valuable to me. Choose whatever percentage works best for you—10 percent, 50 percent—and go to those parties. Don’t worry about the rest.
3. Recreate a childhood memory. I have so many wonderful memories of sitting by the tree with my siblings at Christmas, so I try to recreate that for myself and my family. What holiday memory do you cherish most? Was it baking cookies with your grandma? Singing carols with friends? Bring it back. If you can’t think of any, consider creating new holiday rituals.
4. Ask for help. Does the pressure of hosting a holiday meal have you feeling overwhelmed? Ask for (or accept) help. Just because you said “yes” to hosting in your home doesn’t mean the responsibility needs to rest entirely on your shoulders. Invite people to bring a dish to share, or ask for help in other ways that would eliminate some of the pressure for you. Everyone loves to pitch in—especially around the holidays—so give them the opportunity to shine.
Ultimately, this is meant to be a cherished, memory-making season. Create a plan that allows you to do just that.
I would love to hear from you: what are you most stressed about OR how have you reclaimed your holiday?
If you need help taking the stress out of the holidays—and life in general—a coach could be a great resource. I’m an executive coach who works with clients nationwide. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.