I think we all sense that the holiday season, with all its joys and stresses, is right around the corner. This year, more than ever (hello supply chain issues and inflation!), is a great time to start thinking about how to simplify your holiday routines and traditions. I encourage you to peruse the following ideas and see if any of them inspire you to tweak your holiday season this year.
Take a few moments to think about what the holiday season means to you.
At Wellview, we are always talking about and asking “Why?” Knowing your why becomes the first step to carving out a holiday season that reflects your values and what is most important to you. What traditions do you look forward to? What are some adjectives to describe how you want to feel during this holiday season? When the season is over, how do you want to feel? What do you want to make sure you experience this holiday season?
One interesting thing I’ve noticed throughout the years is that the things that are most important to us during the holidays are NOT the things that create the extra stress. Most of us find the gifts emotionally and financially taxing, and yet, that’s not what we consider most important. So what is most important to you? A family tradition of making popcorn and watching Elf? A religious service on a special day? Buying presents for a family in need? Take some time to consider what will give you energy and joy this season, versus what will deplete you, and include more of that into the next few months.
Set some boundaries/limits.
Now that your intentions are clear, it’s time to consider boundaries. These don’t have to be limited to purchases, although they definitely can and should be. You can also set limits around how many parties you and your family will attend, how many people you will host, how far you are willing to travel, and how many nights away from home you desire. We want to set these boundaries early, before we get enticed by the pleasures, busyness, and distractions of the season, and our intentions ( #1) seem like a distant memory.
Remember, you are being marketed to.
I use this line all the time in coaching, but please remember, there are many people who work full-time to market to you, your emotions, and your neuropsychology. They get paid to sway you to make decisions that may or may not align with your values and the vision that you want. I say this not to be a Debbie Downer, but so that you are aware when you are out and about and suddenly feel motivated to behave in a way that might not reflect what you really want for this holiday season. The pull and the sway are real, and these people are professionals. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Starbucks, with your “Christmas in a cup” concoctions!)
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
I’m pretty sure I borrowed this line from The Minimal Mom on YouTube, but it’s a great way to think about our behaviors and their lasting impact. In short, we have access to more resources now than in generations past. We can order things online and have them delivered the next day. Our kids want a new video game, and click, it’s there on their tablet. We want food, we open an app, and boom, we have food. It’s an amazing time to be alive, and yet, with all this ease and ability, we seem to be less and less happy.
Great joy and satisfaction come when we delay our gratification and just wait, and I think collectively, as parents and as a society, a lot of us are failing to pass this lesson onto the next generation. Nowadays we can give, and give a lot more than in times past. But just because we can give excessively or unnecessarily, doesn’t mean that we should. Sometimes the best gift to give our children and each other is practice in being patient, or giving less so we can appreciate more.
For the next two months, instead of automatically buying things for yourself, write down what you want and ask for them for holidays.
This one goes along with #4, or practicing the long lost art of waiting. My husband is the worst at this, and it makes the holidays very challenging. What do you give someone who can buy themselves whatever they want, whenever they want it (and usually do)? Now may be a good time to experiment with waiting and creating a holiday gift list, just as we did as children. Take photos of the items you would normally buy, start a list, and give it to your family when they ask you what you might like this holiday season.
Too much of a good thing is too much.
I’ll never forget our 2012 Christmas. Our sons were young and we were still finding our path in terms of family holidays. My husband and I stayed up late creating a huge train track around our tree and living room, and we made sure to have the trains going when the kids woke up. There were a lot of toys that year, a lot of decorations, and, naturally, a lot of stress. When my two year old woke up, he looked around at all the energy and stuff in the room and his first words were, “Too much!” The noise, the visual, everything, it was too much for him.
I learned an important lesson that morning. While our intentions were good, too much of a good thing is still too much, and it was stressful to our (albeit more sensitive) kids. That day I became committed to paring things down to what mattered most to our family. Presents, most of which they wouldn’t remember in two to three years, took a backseat to the traditions that they would remember, and hopefully, pass along to their own families.
Get creative with your gifts.
There is great joy in thinking outside the box and getting creative with your gifts. Our former church hosted a “Breakfast with Santa” each year on the first weekend of December. Not only could you see Santa and get a cheap pancake breakfast, but you could also knock out some of your holiday shopping early on. The church basically had an indoor garage sale, with the added element of gift wrappers. We would each get $5 to buy gifts for everyone in our family, and I have to tell you, those are some of our most loved and treasured gifts (see the duck clock below, which may or may not work, but I love it all the same). So much joy and surprise can be found when we give gifts that are unique. Think outside the box a little, and have fun with gift giving once again.
Rethink gift cards.
Let me start by saying the gift card is my go to gift. It’s easy; it’s minimal; it checks all my boxes. I also know that the gift card is the most universally appreciated gift, especially amongst teachers and those you may not know too well. That being said, the cost of gift cards can add up quickly. Not to mention the fact that the Three Wise Men brought actual gifts, not gift cards 😉. If you are like me and tend to get busy and want something easy, I challenge you to revisit #7 and get creative with your gifts. Set a limit (#2) on how much you will spend on each person, and challenge yourself to stay within those boundaries.
Add unique and meaningful coupons.
While I remember seeing pre-printed books of coupons in the Hallmark Store growing up, this idea really came to life when one of my friends told me her gradeschool sons’ favorite gift was a coupon to stay up until midnight one night out of the year (which they usually used for Superbowl Sunday). As a mom, I have a lot of rules, and the coupon books we give our kids each year is one of their most cherished gifts. There is something very exciting about getting out of yard work (the most hated chore), staying up later than normal, or getting 20 extra minutes of technology during the week. Best of all, this gift costs nothing! All you have to do is search for a “free holiday coupon template” and you will see many different templates to choose from and personalize.
Ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?”
Of course this is Marie Kondo’s magical idea, but I use it during the holiday season as well. When I pull out decorations, I notice if anything annoys me, or if I think, “I hate this” (and, yes, I have kept decorations for years even though I literally hated them). When we get an invitation, I notice my energy; am I excited and looking forward to it, or am I already losing energy thinking about it? There seems to be an increased amount of decisions and opportunities and things to look at during the holiday season, so as much as you can, surround yourself with the things that bring you joy, not stress.
I hope that there is at least one idea on this list that inspires and/or encourages you to have a more simple and sane holiday season this year. For more inspiration, here are some previous holiday blog posts that may support your holiday intentions. As always, if you need additional support, ideas, or encouragement, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are here if you need us!
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