Its early December, and some already are overspent, overindulged, and overwhelmed. But stress doesn’t have to be a part of the holidays, if you keep things simple.
The holidays are a microcosm of our whole life, says Janet Luhrs, author of The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living. “If you’re out of control then, you’re probably out of control in the rest of your life. The holidays are a perfect time to get off autopilot and take a step back.”
Start by calling a family meeting to discuss the holidays. At the start of the season, gather with those you care about and with whom you celebrate the holidays, Luhrs recommends. Then talk about what’s important to you, what rituals bring you closer together.
This also is the time to discuss budgets, gift giving, decorating, meals, and other potential holiday stress points. “In my family we used to race around buying gifts. Now we give each other gifts of our own time and service,” Luhrs says. Such gifts might include a coupon for cleaning, baby-sitting, or pet care, taking an elderly friend to lunch or a play, and taking a child ice skating, sledding, or to the zoo.
Setting limits on spending, or donating to charities instead of exchanging gifts, can simplify holiday gift giving. But simplifying your holidays doesn’t mean pinching pennies or giving up traditions you love. “Simplicity isn’t about doing without,” Luhrs says. “It’s about deciding what’s really important so that youre left with what you really need and what you really love.”
Holiday meals can be stressful if you try to do everything yourself. “I’ve been doing a potluck Christmas dinner for years,” Luhrs says. “Not only does it take the pressure off me to have everything perfect, it makes the meal more of a family event because everyone gets involved.”
Create simple, inexpensive traditions for your family, Luhrs suggests. “I know a family that spreads the celebration over the month of December,” she says. They decorate the house together December 1, and each night they light a candle and read a holiday story together. On Christmas Eve they all take a walk together, have a special supper of finger foods, and then exchange handmade ornaments.
Santa Claus still comes on Christmas morning, but that’s not the entire focus of the holidays for them.