Intentional Living

8 helpful tips to a low-stress, simpler Christmas

Woman sitting on sofa at home relaxing with a Christmas tree in the background.

Christmas is often anything but simple.

It’s easy to get swept up in a flurry of activity—decorating, gift buying, and overcommitting to holiday events.

But this busyness comes with a hefty cost.

It threatens to turn Christmas into a stressful blur rather than an opportunity to soak up the holiday magic and be fully present.

Fortunately, we can take steps towards a simpler Christmas.

Read on for 8 actionable tips that’ll bring more joy and less overwhelm to your holiday season.

family gathered in living room in front of Christmas tree with text overlay

1. A simpler Christmas starts with embracing less

Consider doing less over the holidays rather than succumb to default busyness.

Carve out time to brainstorm your family’s top Christmas priorities. These are the activities you anticipate bringing the most value to your holiday season.

For example, top priorities may include your household’s most cherished holiday activities, spending quality time as a family, and connecting with friends.

Once you’ve identified what activities matters most, write them down and keep this information handy.

Your Christmas priority list will serve as a useful guide. It’ll help you decide which holiday activities are definite yeses versus best saved for another year.

And don’t let a simpler Christmas stop at taking on fewer holiday commitments.

Also, think about how you can simplify holiday tasks and activities without losing their essence.

For example, consider:

  1. Baking two rather than six batches of holiday cookies
  2. Enjoying a hot chocolate at home when your family needs a holiday breather
  3. Hosting a potluck rather than preparing the entire meal yourself
  4. Paring down holiday decorations to your absolute favourites

Not all holiday activities have to be elaborate to be meaningful and memorable. Rather, it’s often a simpler Christmas—one that allows you to truly soak up the little moments and be fully present—that brings the most joy.

Action step:

What are some ways you can simplify Christmas this year? Consider making a list of top priorities to guide your holiday planning. Also think about ways to scale back some of your regular holiday activities.

Two sweet blond haired siblings drinking cups of hot chocolate
Photo by FatCamera

2. Decrease holiday stress

There’s a lot to love about the holiday season.

But there are also inherent stressors—like the long line-ups, incessant rush, overspending, and pressure to make the holidays picture perfect.

With these multiple factors at play, it’s easy to find ourselves extended well beyond our limits.

Ideally, we’d be able to soak up the best parts of the Christmas season and avoid the rest. While this is a hefty goal, a simpler Christmas is within our reach.

A great first step is recognizing—and accepting—our personal limits.

From this place of self-awareness and self-repsect, we can set up systems that allow us to decline—or at least modify—the holiday tasks and activities that bring us down rather than up.

Strategies for a lower-stress Christmas may include:

  1. Keeping a calendar of holiday events to stay on top of commitments and avoid jam-packed schedules
  2. Setting a Christmas budget and tracking purchases to avoid post-Christmas debt
  3. Shopping online or at a quieter mall time to avoid sensory overload and long lineups
  4. Pairing less desirable tasks, such as gift wrapping, with something fun like a festive beverage, favourite holiday music, or time with cherished others

It’s not easy to accept our limitations and change old patterns. But these are essential steps towards a simpler Christmas—a pared down holiday season that’ll help us better show up for ourselves and others.

Action step:

Do you set unreasonably high expectations on yourself during the Christmas season? What strategies might help you lighten your holiday load—such as dropping or modifying tasks?

Young woman writing down Christmas priorities as a step towards a simpler Christmas
Photo by.Kostikova

3. Schedule in downtime

We all need opportunities to relax. This is especially true during busier more stressful times.

The thing is, jam-packed schedules and endless to do lists easily squeeze out downtime over the holidays.

The result?

We find ourselves constantly on the go.

Incessant busyness is draining at the best of times but even more so when Christmas may offer a rare “break” from life’s regular demands—such as jobs outside the home.

I’m talking about those holidays that leave you in need of a post-Christmas rest to recover from the December blitz.

So, rather than allow your schedule to be filled to the brim, get intentional about creating a simpler Christmas.

Early in the holiday season, start tracking commitments. This includes both home activities (e.g., decorating, gift wrapping, hosting) as well as outside the home plans (e.g., Christmas parade, photo with Santa, holiday concerts).

Record these commitments in a calendar and be sure to include protected blocks of time to simply veg out.

The key here is to schedule downtime as a non-negotiable—even when tempting holiday opportunities arise or you’re worried about saying no to a family member or friend.

And a gentle word of warning!

When your protected block of free time arises, don’t let other activities creep in. This includes no multitasking like wrapping presents while watching Netflix—especially if this combo robs you of true relaxation time.

Action step:

What can you do to ensure you have some restful downtime this holiday season? Do you think keeping a calendar of holiday activities—and scheduling in downtime—will help?

Young woman relaxing on window sill in christmas decorated home
Photo by Viktor_Gladkov

4. Don’t let self-care slide

During the hustle and bustle of Christmas, it’s easy to lose sight of what brings us joy on the daily.

And before we know it, our self-care needs have been pushed to the wayside—sometimes without our even fully noticing it.

At least not at first.

But lack of personal care eventually catches up with us—eroding into our holiday cheer and our relationships with others..

The thing is, impactful self-care doesn’t need to be expensive or time consuming. Rather it’s often the simple acts that are most likely to help us feel better.

For me, these personal pick-me-ups include writing before the kids get up, staying hydrated throughout the day, and fitting in physical activity.

Before the holidays even start, write down some of your top self-care activities. Then figure out how to schedule theses pursuits into the holiday season—despite disrupted schedules and Christmas-related commitments.

And get your family members on board!

Finding drips and drabs of personal time can be challenging for busy mamas at any time of the year, nevermind during the hectic holidays.

So, we need to work as team family—striving for a simper Christmas and divvying up holiday-related tasks to ensure all family members get time for self-care during the holiday season.

Learning to take better care of ourselves can be challenging—even at the best of times.

But investing in self-care is well worth it, helping you feel your best over the holidays and beyond.

Action step:

Take some time to think about what self-care acts help you feel your best. Then consider how to make sure you find time for these activities over the holiday period.

For example, consider adding self-care to your holiday calendar as non-negotiable events and enlist the help of family members to ensure your personal time is protected.

Happy woman enjoying fresh air during walk in winter nature as part of Christmas self-care
Photo by Zbynek Pospisil

5. Minimize holiday clutter

The holidays often come part and parcel with a lot of material stuff.

And all that physical clutter can take a heavy toll on our wellbeing such as leaving us distracted and on edge.

Excessive clutter also eats up a lot of our time and energy, necessitating amped up cleaning efforts and prompting frantic searches for misplaced items.

And let’s not forget the post-holiday clutter aftermath. All that extra stuff doesn’t just disappear after Christmas wraps-up.

Fortunately, there are ways to keep holiday clutter at bay.

These strategies include:

  • Pack up fall and/or regular decor to make room for Christmas favourites
  • Consider a one in one out policy for holiday decorations and other Christmas-related items
  • Have designated home areas (like closet space) or bins for holiday goods such as wrapping and baking supplies—a strategy that keeps these items easily accessible and saves you from buying more than you need
  • Take inventory of your children’s belongings (e.g. toys, clothes, personal care items) to guide gift purchases
  • Declutter toys to make space for new ones, donating those no longer in use
  • Let extended family and friends clearly know about your household’s gift preferences——rather than leave this purely up to chance

A little upfront planning towards a simpler Christmas can save us a lot of time and effort in the long run!

Action step:

Holiday clutter isn’t inevitable. What steps can you take this holiday season to stop stuff from dampening your holiday joy?

Mother and two sons carrying a box of donations in front of Christmas tree
Photo by FatCamera

6. Find ways to meaningfully connect with loved ones

We often spend more time with others over the holidays.

Kids take a break from school, parents claim vacation days from work, and extended family members visit from afar.

But this increased togetherness doesn’t necessarily equate to quality time. In fact, heightened stress levels and disrupted routines often spark conflict.

All this discord can leave us feeling very discouraged and wondering if we’re better off spending less rather than more time together as a family.

But the truth is, conflict is a natural part of life. And seeing disagreements as such helps us handle it constructively—with worries in check and hearts open.

Another factor that detracts from quality time together? The pressure to make the holidays “picture perfect.”

It’s hard to live in the moment—and embrace opportunities for connection—when we’re consumed with getting decorations just so, purchasing the best gifts, and being an exemplary host.

So, how can we stop stressing over perfection?

By accepting that the holidays don’t have to be—and never will be—perfect.

Letting go of unrealistic expectations frees us to embrace the imperfect perfectness of our families both during and outside the Christmas season.

Action step:

What steps can you take over the holidays to meaningfully connect with love ones? Do you think that embracing a simpler version of Christmas—one that includes pared down expectations—would help?

Family including mother, father, two kids and dogs posting for Christmas photo
Photo by evgenyatamanenko

7. Maintain key routines

It’s hard to stick with routines over the holiday season.

Schools go on break, work schedules change, and packed holiday agendas derail regular meal and sleep routines.

Add in more tech time, less exercise, and countless hours cooped up indoors (often together)—and we have the perfect set-up for cranky kids and equally irritated parents.

This isn’t to say we should maintain routines 100% of the time. A sprinkle of spontaneity helps keep life enjoyable.

And let’s be honest. Even perfect planning can’t prevent routines from getting thwarted at least some of the time.

So, the goal here isn’t one of routine perfection bur rather of minimizing the number and impact of schedule disruptions.

When it comes to achieving this goal, the 80/20 rule—or what I’ll call the “reasonable principle”—can help.

Applied to routines, this principle means sticking to regular schedules at least 80% of the time and letting things slide the other 20%.

And this is where some planning can really help.

For example, if you anticipate late nights on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, clear the days before and after of obligations that’ll get in the way of restful sleep.

Also, don’t leave regular meals, exercise, and outdoor time to chance!

Rather, schedule these stress-busting activities into your days with the same level of commitment you’d give to important holiday events.

Action step:

Do you find regular routines tend to fall to the wayside over the holidays? If yes, what are some steps can you take to keep important family routines in place this Christmas season?

Little girl sleeping with teddy bear in arms in bed with christmas tree in background.
Photo by svetikd

8. Modify expectations

We can get very invested in maintaining cherished holiday traditions—and feel disappointed when they don’t turn out as we expect.

But change is an inevitable part of life.

We enter new life seasons that bring joy but also challenges and sometimes even heartache.

And it’s completely natural to feel a mixture of joy and sadness over the holidays.

Family members get sick and move away, work demands expand, and financial hurtles arise. These factors can add significant stress to an otherwise magical time.

Children also naturally move through different stages of development, some of which can kibosh even the most well-established holiday traditions.

For example, Christmas crafting is a holiday tradition I’ve loved since childhood. However, this activity fell to the wayside when our third child was born months before Christmas. I still vividly recall trying to complete holiday crafts with my then 4- and 6-year old children. Let’s just say the baby had other plans and the end result was a lot of tears and mess rather than joy and completed projects.

And it’s not just the newborn stage that can can thwart Christmas plans.

Older babies and toddlers decompensate without naps, school-aged children can be highly competitive and comparative, and teens often have their own agenda for the holiday period.

It can be really hard to modify—and even let go of—cherished holiday traditions.

But by accepting life’s inevitable shifts and challenges, we’re more likely to find joy during the holiday season.

Action step:

Do you anticipate any life circumstances that’ll make it difficult to pursue or enjoy your regular holiday traditions?

How can you modify Christmas activities to make them more manageable? Would putting some activities on hold this year help make for a lower-stress Christmas?

Little girl and her mother cut snowflakes from white paper
Photo by Kostikova

A simpler Christmas is within your reach

The holidays can be a wonderful but overwhelming time of year.

However, with the right strategies in place, we can lessen Christmas stress and make room for more joy.

In this post, we’ve covered some key steps towards a lower-stress, simpler Christmas.

These strategies include:

  1. Embrace simple
  2. Schedule in downtime
  3. Don’t let self-care slide
  4. Minimize holiday clutter
  5. Find ways to meaningfully connect with others
  6. Maintain key routines
  7. Show up for the holidays as best you can

Which of these tips resonate the most?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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