November 21, 2023

Your Best Holiday Season Yet: Part 1

It’s that time of year. 

The time when people run around like chickens with their heads cut off, pulled in too many directions and just ready for the whole season to be over. I hear you loud and clear. I was talking to a friend at the beginning of November and she told me she didn’t have a single free day in December. Whoa. It makes my chest tighten just imagining that for my own schedule. It’s been years since I’ve felt like that and now it’s a truly calm and peaceful season for me. It didn’t happen overnight, it happened over the course of a few years of really listening to myself, questioning everything, pushing back, making time for the things that really matter to me and letting go of the rest. If you are feeling like taking back control of the holiday season, read on and see if there is anything that could work for you. Baby steps.

Setting Holiday Intentions

Before we officially embark on the holiday season, let’s get some clarity around what you really want from this next month of life. In an ideal world, what would you like? There are many things that happen during the holiday season that are out of your control (like the date of a school choir concert). And there are many things that happen during the month that are within your control. Let’s remember this as we start setting some intentions. Here are some questions I like to ask myself.

How do you want to feel on the inside? Calm and at ease or frazzled and exhausted?

How do you want to present yourself in the world? Kind and caring or crabby and irritable?

How do you want to spend your money? On shared experiences and togetherness or on physical items?

How do you want to interact with others? Do you want to be over scheduled, running late and rushing to the next event, or do you want to be present and connected?

If you are religious, what activities bring you closer to feeling connected to your faith?

Do you want to participate in any charitable giving or volunteer work this season?

It’s so important to get clear on all of this because as the season rolls on, there will be MANY opportunities to fill your time and open your wallet for celebrations, parties, gift exchanges and more. How will you know what to accept or decline if you don’t know what you actually want? In order to create the holiday season you want, you have to have some sort of plan or direction on where you want it to go and what you want it to look like. You don’t get in the car without knowing where you’re headed and navigating the holiday season (or any part of your life) shouldn’t be any different.

Let me give you some examples from my own life. I know I want to connect with people in a meaningful way. I want to be present and able to have conversations and feel peaceful in my interactions. Knowing this means I need to make sure to not over schedule myself. I can’t be present when I’m rushing from one thing to another. As events come up, I have to be mindful of saying yes to too many things. It’s really hard to decline parties when I know it will disappoint someone but during this season I really have to be careful to not run myself ragged. For me, I also prefer smaller group events where we can really chat and catch up so it makes it easy to say no to those larger events where I am one of many and might not be missed. Thinking ahead to where our money is going means it’s easier for me to decide where to put our financial resources. Whether you are trying to free up your time or money this season, setting some holiday intentions will help keep you on track.

Using these north stars to be clear about how you want to spend your time (and money) will make saying yes very easy and will also make saying no very easy. With that in mind, we need to do an audit of how you’re actually spending your time. Before it’s crazy, pull out your calendar and get everything listed. I’m talking about school events, neighborhood gatherings, church festivities, sports schedules, social parties, gift swaps and more. If you don’t have a date for something but you know it’s going to pop up, make a note and try to do some legwork to find out what you can. And, of course, you want to bake time into your schedule for your travel plans and time needed to prepare for traveling. Once you get an idea of everything on your plate, edit ruthlessly. Cut out things that detract from the season or make you crazy to leave room for the things that help you reach your holiday goals in the best way possible. Don’t forget to schedule in a little time to take care of yourself, whatever that means for you! It could be scheduling a manicure before a big party or leaving room on the schedule to just sit and relax. Whatever help you feel like YOU, make sure you plan for it!

Traditions

Lots of time, we live in default mode and do the things our parents did or we keep doing the things that we have always done, just because that’s how it’s always been. Not anymore. You get to choose what traditions you continue and it’s ok to say no to some you want to end. Give yourself total permission to opt out of anything that leaves you feeling drained of energy, money and happiness! When I put it that way, WHY ARE YOU DOING THOSE THINGS? Let it all go. Life is too short to be doing holiday traditions that don’t make us happy. Let’s cut them out so we have room to foster new meaningful traditions. I love this article by Joshua Becker, who says that traditions should ELEVATE, not detract from the season. If something is leaving you feeling out of whack it’s time to let it go.

Need some ways to spend time with people? Here are a few ideas:

  • Host a game tournament with your friends and family
  • Plan a dinner & a movie night out supporting a local restaurant and theater
  • Participate in a holiday 5K or biking event
  • Set up a cookie swap party
  • Host a holiday trivia night
  • Volunteer with friends somewhere nearby
  • Go out for a wine tasting or beer tasting night
  • Meet up for a holiday concert or performance
  • Host a holiday pj party featuring a hallmark holiday movie & popcorn
  • Find a local hike to get some fresh December air & pack some holiday snacks to enjoy
  • Host a gift wrapping open house, enjoy seeing friends come and go
  • Plan a local holiday scavenger hunt, losers buy dinner
  • Throw a potluck party and make vision boards for the new year
  • Drive around and see neighborhood lights, or rent a large bus or van and get a bunch of people
  • Have a gingerbread house decorating party (pro tip, use leftover Halloween candy!)
  • Host a group where you learn about holiday traditions around the world
  • Plan an outing to a local museum
  • Participate in a craft class with friends (candle making, chocolate making, painting night out, options are endless)
  • Dress warm and have a fire pit karaoke night
  • Have some laughs at a comedy club night
  • Throw a themed dinner party (murder mystery, Red Carpet, lumberjackl…again, so many options)

Alternatively, if you are removing a tradition from your calendar you might just want to keep that blank space for something fun to come up at the last minute. You don’t need to fill your December as packed as can be. It’s ok to leave room for the unexpected. Give yourself permission to cut things out and not fill the time right away. 🤯

The Elephant in the Room

I’m talking about holiday cards. This is a tradition that people complain about A LOT. I think it’s been around 6 years since we sent out a family holiday card and I don’t regret it one bit. It was tough to let it go at first but it’s been such a nice way to take the holiday stress down a notch. Like I said, there are some things we can’t control, others we can. If you’re feeling like you have too much on your plate, it’s ok to take a break from sending cards. You can always pick it back up another year. Our family still marks the passing of time by having our family photos taken each year even if we don’t send holiday cards. If you love sending cards, I’m happy you love it! Please don’t let me convince you to stop. I’m talking to all the people out there who complain about it and do it because they feel the pressure. For me, sending holiday cards can be an expensive undertaking, especially by the time you add the postage. Instead, we use the money to donate to a charity. This year, we attended a fundraiser for Empower and gave a donation, which was matched by my husband’s company. That is an outcome I can feel really good about. Less stress for me. More money for their mission. Win-Win!

If you can’t quite let go of the holiday card tradition, that’s totally OK. Instead, let’s come up with a plan to make it less stressful and burdensome for you. Can you take advantage of sales early in the season so you save some money? Can you use a company that addresses the cards for you? Can you enlist the help of your kids? Is your address list up to date? Could you host a party where everyone brings their cards over and you all work on them together while you listen to holiday music? What are some ways you can press the easy button or make this more fun?

Whether you are a new family starting to craft a holiday season of your own or a family with established traditions and events on the calendar, now is the perfect time to revisit what you want out of the season and make it happen. Let’s make this your best holiday season yet!

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