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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
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

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?

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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….

  12. 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.

  13. 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!!

    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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