Creating a Simpler Christmas
Do you remember Christmas when you were little? When, if you were lucky, Christmas was full of excitement. Some time off from school to spend with family and friends, gifts, decorations, lovely food, playing games and watching Christmas movies in your pyjamas.
As you get older, it can get more complicated. Being an adult comes with the responsibilities of having to plan and organise, and Christmas can lose some of its magic and sparkle.
Nowadays, society puts an overwhelming amount of pressure on us to have the 'perfect' Christmas full of stuff and busyness - and it's easy to get caught up in the must-have/must-do Christmas culture.
We stretch ourselves, and our budgets way thinner than is comfortable for us. So it's not surprising that we don't look forward to it in the same way as we did when we were children.
We're afraid that if we don't buy lots of presents, and don't fill our calendars with lots of days out, parties and activities to create the most fantastic fun during the holidays, we (and our kids) are missing out. What we are actually doing is setting an unhealthy precedent for ourselves - and our kids.
For years I struggled with massive amounts of anxiety and overwhelm around Christmas. I thought it was just normal - everyone's the same at Christmas, aren't they? I didn't know I had any other choice apart from just getting through it. I spent all my energy trying to create the most magical picture-perfect Christmas.. By the time I made it to January, I was exhausted, and Christmas had all felt like a bit of a blur.
Over the past few years, I have realised that I have a choice. I can do things differently. I learned how incredibly freeing it is to do less - to only do the things that we love to do, to commit myself fully to my family and to have the mental space to be present and enjoy the Christmas period.
If you want to go big this Christmas and do it all, it's your family's thing, and you have the resources available - do it!
But, if you're stretching yourself too thin and you're feeling really busy and weighed down by it all, you're missing the point. If you feel anxious and overwhelmed at Christmas, it's important to slow down and listen to your needs.
Firstly, you need to know that it's OK to simplify. You can give yourself permission to let go of the unnecessary wherever possible. There are lots of different elements and traditions associated with Christmas - family, gifts, decorations, parties, children's school plays, cards, entertaining, advent calendars, and even elf on the shelf.
You don't have to simplify the whole of Christmas all at once; you can pick and choose which of these elements you love the most and the ones you do not enjoy so much.
"Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things that we value the most and the removal of anything that distracts from it" ~ Joshua Becker.
This is one of my favourite simple living quotes to live by, and I believe it should also be applied to Christmas expectations and the traditions that we choose to participate in.
Everyone has different family situations, budgets, and ideals to be considered, so there isn't one set of rules to follow, but here are some steps to think about to help you trade in some of that stress for joy this holiday season.
BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT CHRISTMAS
First of all, ask yourself - What's important to you at Christmas? What do you love to do? How do you want Christmas to feel?
A big part of creating what you want is simply recognising it.
For me, it helps me to remember my childhood before I let the responsibilities of adulthood take over. When you're a child, you're not distracted by the pressures of shopping and entertaining. The little things mean the most - spending time with your favourite people, staying at home in your PJs all day, leaving treats out for Santa... More often than not, our most valued memories have nothing to do with the busyness and 'stuff' excess. They have everything to do with the people we love.
How much of the holiday season involves you attending, doing or buying something out of sheer obligation? Stop and think about it for a second. Is it out of obligation, or does it truly add to the happiness of Christmas?
Talk to your family about what they want their Christmas to look and feel like. You don't have to do everything that comes up, but it's good to start the talk and find out what's on their wish lists. Maybe some of those little things that you didn't think were important and were pushed aside amongst all the unintentional busyness - actually were important, loved and missed by others.
PRIORITISE YOUR TRADITIONS
Allow yourself a break in traditions if they don't all fit with your budget or your calendar this year.
Maybe you don't want to buy presents for the whole of your extended family or cover the house top to bottom in decorations this year. Maybe your Christmas tradition this year could be to make or bake small, thoughtful gifts for your extended family and friends.
Christmas traditions can be simply - going for a lovely long walk, getting cosy in your home and hanging out with your favourite people, or doing something to give back to others in your community.
You don't have to overcomplicate traditions. Decide what's going to feel good for you and your family this year and let the rest go, or if you can't let them go completely - simplify instead of jumping in to try and juggle all the things you think you must accomplish or making a list of all the things that we always do and then powering through them just because it's what we always do.
Make a list of everything you usually do and would like to do this year - traditions, entertaining, events etc.
Re-read your list several times, circling the essential traditions and must-do's that are in line with the vision that you created in step one and eliminate the rest (guilt-free).
There are, of course, some things in life that are just part of loving the people in our lives.
FOCUS ON YOUR VERSION OF CHRISTMAS - NOT SOMEONE ELSE'S
Stop comparing your Christmas to others. Don't look at what others are doing on social media and all its unrealistic perfection, and feel the pressure of FOMO and comparison.
Looking at what others are buying their kids or where they are taking their children and feeling like you're not doing enough to celebrate is not helping you or your family in any shape or form. Consider your schedule, your work commitments, your budget, and what matters to you.
Just because everyone else is doing it with ease (or at least appearing to) doesn't mean you have to. Just because some of your friends are going into debt to finance their Christmas, doesn't mean that you have to. Just because your neighbours appear to be buying up the whole of Amazon and stockpiling presents, doesn't mean that you have to.
You can happily celebrate within your means and enter the New Year with peace. You can choose a simpler approach and spend the time and money with the most important people in your life, not on them.
There are hundreds of little ways that you can simplify your Christmas. From how much money you spend, to how many parties you attend.
Simplifying anything isn't an easy task. It means staying true to yourself, what you need, and what matters most to you and your family - while the world around you spins itself into a Christmas frenzy.
Each small change you can make adds up to a simpler, more intentional and less stressful Christmas.
Whatever you do - and however you choose to celebrate each year - being intentional about what you spend your time and money, and to whom and what, we give our attention, means more than anything than money can buy.
If you're feeling overwhelmed and anxious about Christmas this year, I urge you to do this one thing - commit to doing one thing differently this year. You'll be so grateful you did.