Are you feeling overwhelmed by your gift list? Are you stressed out at the idea of hosting Christmas dinner? Or maybe you are dreading the traditional family Christmas outing? Then, this is the sign that you need to simplify Christmas and enjoy this special time of the year. Here are 6 things to let go of to spend a stress-free holiday season.
Christmas is sometimes also the time of a phenomenon known as holiday perfectionism. Indeed, we often carry over our already existing perfectionism into the shiny holiday season. We want to get the perfect gifts and organize perfect events with sophisticated meals and activities. Maybe we want to wear the perfect outfit too, and possibly attend as many events as possible.
Of course, there’s nothing against the desire to spend a fabulous holiday and make people around you happy. However, if this starts to prevent you from actually enjoying what you are doing it’s becoming a problem. Feeling overwhelmed and beating yourself up when things don’t turn out as you imagine are signs that you urgently need to simplify Christmas.
Perfectionism often goes with a feeling of guilt when we consider we haven’t reached our goals. We feel guilty for not writing as many Christmas cards as we planned to, for not getting our children the “right” gifts or because we said no to an invitation.
Guilt as such is not an issue. A healthy amount of guilt helps us discipline ourselves, reach our goals and make sure we support others. Nevertheless, if it gets to the point that you are beating yourself up and neglecting your wishes and needs, it’s starting to become a problem.
It’s important to identify where these feelings are coming from. If you feel guilty for buying your kids too many gifts because it doesn’t match with your values, you could take the conscious decision of finding solutions to avoid this next year. However, if you feel guilty for turning off an invitation because you prefer to spend a relaxed evening with your family or just by yourself, you might want to question these feelings.
I used to be a real people-pleaser and even think that was the right behavior. Today, I have realized that doing everything for others at the detriment of my own needs is not feasible in the long run. Of course, helping and supporting other people is a good thing which should be encouraged. However, people-pleasing is different as it is an unhealthy way of giving. You are sending the wrong message out to the world: My own needs don’t count.
It took me years of self-reflection to understand that I needed to prioritize myself to be able to give in a healthy way. Isn’t it much nicer for your hosts if you are happy to accept their invitation? Isn’t it more significant to do fewer things but to fully enjoy them?
Overthinking and overcomplicating
We are so prone to overthinking and overcomplicating things during this joyous season. We usually want to be a great host, offer a sophisticated four-dish menu in a perfectly decorated house. Or maybe we want to plan several Christmas activities to entertain our kids and make the best of the holiday? That might be a well-meant idea but it would make your children much happier to do less and have a more relaxed parent.
So how about planning a stress-free holiday this year? You could replace some of the events with low-prep activities or ones that are more relaxing for you. Or you could consider pairing up with one or more families if it makes the event more enjoyable for everybody. Children enjoy simple activities such as watching a Christmas movie snuggled in and sipping a hot chocolate or baking Christmas cookies with friends.
Traditions you don’t like
Traditions can be both good and bad. On the one hand, they can bring people together to share special experiences and be a way of passing down values and beliefs. On the other hand, they are sometimes associated with stress, as well as the pressure to do it right and to stick to it at any price.
So, why is it that we often stick to customs that we don’t even enjoy or find any sense in – or worse: that are stressful and complicated? Usually, it’s out of habit and/or because it gives us a sense of belonging. Sometimes, it’s due to some people around us who are more rigid about sticking to traditions.
What about honestly questioning these traditions and just picking the ones that work for you and your family? You could even establish new traditions of your own! Remember that the priority is to spend special moments with your loved ones not stressing out to observe a tradition.
Even though Christmas is supposed to be all about giving and sharing; it’s also the period of the year when we are most prone to fall into the trap of consumerism. It’s so easy to go overboard with gift-giving, buying Christmas decorations and elaborating sophisticated events. So what can we do to avoid this?
What about rethinking your gift-giving? You might want to try the Flexible Four Gift Method for your kids or even opt out of exchanging Christmas gift with some people. This can ensure a less materialistic and more stress-free holiday. You could also buy second-hand gifts (this works very well for toys) or opt for non-material or at least mindful gifts such as experiences.
Or have you ever thought of giving your time to a friend or to charity? You could also prompt your kids to give away some of the toys they don’t use any longer.
As in other areas of our lives, what is important is to keep in mind what is good and healthy for you and your family. Prioritizing your well-being and sticking to your values are the best ways to spend a stress-free holiday.