Monday, December 12, 2016

The How and Why of Enjoying a Stress Free Holiday

It has been a bit quiet here at Townsend House over the past few weeks.  It wasn’t my original purpose to take some time off from blogging, but it happened, and I am enjoying the break.  Giving myself a little bit of time off has helped me realize how much I strive for a stress free holiday.

I love the Christmas season – it is definitely my favorite time of year.  From Thanksgiving right through to the New Year, I love every minute of it.  However, it is also very easy to have it fraught with stress and anxiety.  I want to enjoy the holidays; I don’t want to be stressed out during the holidays.

Why is it important to me to have a stress free holiday?

The biggest reason?  It is more fun to not stress, isn’t it?

When I think of holidays past, there have been some doozies for me.  Trying to do every little thing, trying to make sure we get to all of the parties, make all the cookies, go-go-go. 

Unfortunately, when I start go-go-going like that, I tend to get sick, and it is often on Christmas Day.  How am I supposed to enjoy Christmas with my family when I am sick as a dog and want to go back to bed?  Not fun!


A few years ago I had finally had enough.  I was incredibly sick on Christmas Day and we didn’t have a Christmas dinner that year.  I had had enough.  I needed a change in my holiday season.

I needed to let go of the expectations I had placed on myself to make the holiday perfect for my kids and my family, and I also had to let go of the expectations of everyone outside my immediate family as to what we should be doing during the holiday season.

That was not an easy task.

I remember that year, and that moment ended up being a catalyst for me to make a broader change in my whole life.

To let go of the idea that I was the reason people were happy or unhappy.

For some reason I was under the impression that what I did or did not do was the cause of people’s happiness.  It sounds like a very conceited thing to me now, but I did feel that way.  It was my people pleasing nature that caused me to want to make sure everyone else was happy and satisfied, leaving nothing left for me and my family at the end of it. 

After I was able to come to my own understanding that I cannot make people happy, everyone is responsible for their own happiness, it is a choice, and I was not happy being sick and stressed out on Christmas for the 5th year in a row.

How do you manage to have a stress free holiday?

I have to be honest here, and say that the tips that I have may not relieve all the stress in your holiday.  There are still times when I am running around like a crazy person trying to get something done, or get to a party, or realizing that we have three basketball games on Saturday instead of the two I had planned.


It takes a certain bit of flexibility in order to let that stress melt away.

The biggest tip that I have is to make a list of your most important items.

What are the activities and traditions that make the holiday season special to you? 

I remember growing up my mom would always ask my brother and I what one dish we had to have at Thanksgiving – that without that dish it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving.  And she did something similar when it came to Christmas.  What is the one thing that made Christmas, Christmas?

The one thing that I always looked forward to was our Christmas Eve open house.

Every year my mom would manage to pull off a great open house after the Christmas Eve service at our church.  There was always a ton of food and sweets, and everyone piling into the house to hang out.  They are some of my fondest memories of growing up, and it is the one thing that I have wanted to do since starting my own family.

The difficulty of pulling of a Christmas Eve open house is not lost on me – especially when factoring in all of the other activities. 


Last year I decided what the most important activities we would need to do to make Christmas special for our family.  Then I listed everything else that we did during the holiday season. 

There were some non-negotiables, basketball practices and games, the kids’ Christmas concert.  But then there was everything else.

After looking at the two lists, I was able to narrow down the items that we liked to do, but were not really necessary, and would instead cause more stress throughout the holiday season.

It may not seem that simple to do, especially if these activities have become traditions in your own family, that you may feel bad saying no to, but if doing those activities takes away from your own joy and happiness during the holiday season perhaps it is time to speak up about it.

Having the ability to say no when it matters is something that took me a long time to learn, but I am happier now for it, and so is my family.


When I am stressed, my kids can see it.  When we are rushing around from one activity to the next it ends up not being fun.  I want Christmas to be fun and memorable for my kids, and I don’t think that overwhelming ourselves with activities is how to do that.  I think simple traditions, hot cocoa, decorating cookies, making a gingerbread house, celebrating Advent – those are the types of activities I want my kids to remember.

It isn’t about the amount of presents, or the number of parties or extra activities, but it is about family, and togetherness and really enjoying that time together.

Do you get overwhelmed during the holiday season?  What is one thing that you would like to say no to this year and why?

27 comments:

  1. I do my shopping and wrapping before thanksgiving, so I won't be stressed during December and can just sit back and enjoy the parties, baking and looking at lights.

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    1. That is amazing! Teach me your ways! I always wait until Christmas Eve for my wrapping...my husband hates it, but I have come to accept that as another tradition :-)

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  2. I think having a stress free holiday would be the ULTIMATE christmas present to myself! It's not always easy or possible...but this year is going pretty well so far!!

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    1. I'm so glad it is going well so far! I hope it continues!

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  3. I also strive to have less stress at Christmas time. One major thing that we've changed is that we don't do a lot of Christmas gifts anymore. It's not because we are cheap or poor, but because we realized that wasn't the biggest thing that we valued.

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  4. I dont get overwhelmed, but I do get stressed. Mainly its from things not going according to plan or what I envisioned it would be like. I need to let go of that and just appreciate the moments....

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  5. These are all good suggestions. I've spent a couple of Christmases in bed sick for the same reasons. I keep telling myself to let the stress go, but it's hard.

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  6. I think holidays should be as stress free as possible and we tend to make way bigger deal of them than we should. These are awesome tips and I hope you don't get sick!

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  7. I think sometimes it is a good idea to take a break so you can reduce stress. Life is too short after all.

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  8. My family always have such a quiet Christmas because we live quite far away from all of our relatives - sometimes I wish they could all come over so we could have a really hectic, busy Christmas! Unpopular opinion I know, haha

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  9. All through college I would get sick on Christmas vacation. This year I have to give exams the last two days before break- next week, but I refuse to be stressed. I love the idea of asking kids what two things they need to make the holiday special. I am going to ask my family that- what two things do they each need to make the holiday break special. Thanks

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  10. I have tried to keep things simpler this year. Less decorations, two big shopping trips instead of 15 small ones, and less baking. So far, so good!

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  11. I can relate to so many aspects of this post. I struggle with prioritizing everyone's happiness and putting responsibility and pressure on myself for their mood. I really think it's a paradigm shift in thinking that was necessary for me to really start de-stressing during the holidays.

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  12. My Christmas seems pretty quiet so far this year. We only have a few parties, and our kids want simple things. You're right about learning to say "no," though, it's an important skill for mothers. My holidays were more hectic in past years. I guess that's another change for the empty nest phase.

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  13. It's definitely difficult to make sure everyone has a great holiday season, there can be those of pressure that way, but it can be super fun too!!

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  14. So glad you're enjoying your holiday season and break! It's easier to take care of YOU and then you'll be happier to take care of others! I agree saying no is important from time to time and setting those clear expectations with others so there's no confusion. Well done!

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  15. A stress free holidays sounds wonderful! And it is so important to say no -- I confess I am not very good at it.

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  16. Great ideas! A stress free holiday sounds like a plan. I am awful at saying no, I really need to just let it go.

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  17. I love this. What a great reminder that the little things are what counts. The kids definitely won't remember the number of gifts they get, but the memories together will last. Thanks for this!

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  18. The holidays can be stressful because there is expectation of spending money, making sure you keep in touch with family and make plans can be a lot to handle including just everyday living. I am definitely keeping myself stressfree this year!

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  19. It is SO easy to get caught up in the season and find yourself so overwhelmed. I really try to just keep things simple!

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  20. Lots of great suggestions!!! I did all of my shopping early this year! First year I did that and omg!!! Holiday season is so less stressful!!!!

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  21. I used to get really stressed around the holidays. It was a lot of running around, trying to meet deadlines and keep appointments. I have learned, like you, to just say no to some of it. It has made the holidays so much more enjoyable.

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  22. Holidays used to be very stressful for me, until I started implementing my own rules to it. For example, I give my presents after New Years.

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  23. I love holidays. I got all my shopping done early this year!!! I am feeling so much less stressed than usual!!

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  24. Our holiday tradition is simple. We wake up early Christmas eve, open our gifts, play games, eat food and watch movies like Love Actually. lol!

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  25. I planned less than usual for our holidays this year, and I have noticed I am a lot less stressed! We have still had fun and enjoyed the holiday but there's no need to overdo it.

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