Less Stress this Holiday Season – More Joy!

The holidays are fast approaching. For some this feels exciting while for others it invokes a deep feeling of stress and anxiety. For many, the holidays add countless additional tasks they are responsible for in a world in which their mental and physical to-do list is already never ending. If this speaks to you, that’s okay, you’re not alone. However, this holiday season there’s an opportunity to approach things differently. To reduce stress this holiday season we can put our values, boundaries and self compassion front and center. This approach will empower us to show up for ourselves so we can be the best version of us for the ones we love.

Holiday Values

Maybe this holiday season you forget the cards, but what will Aunt Mary think? Well, let’s get curious with that. This holiday season there’s a real opportunity to get clear on your family value vs. what the rest of the world expects. Let’s look at holiday cards as an example.
Why do you send holiday cards? If it’s because you enjoy getting the family together in this way and treasure the photos this experience creates, do it. If instead, you send them because everyone expects you to and it’s something your family has done forever, but it doesn’t have any real significance to you, don’t send them.
Over the next few weeks spend time with the decision makers in your house (partner, parents, children, etc) and discuss all of the things you have traditionally taken on during the holidays. Discuss why you’ve done them in the past and if they are valued enough to continue doing. Do these things bring your family joy or do they simply add stress?

Are they a part of your holiday tradition because they are important to you or do you do them because they matter to others? Becoming really clear on this will help you choose the tasks and activities you choose to participate in this year and why you are making those choices.

Going through this exercise will give you more freedom and flexibility to say no, if that serves you.


What are boundaries? According to boundaries expert, Nedra Glover Tawwab, they are rules, expectations, needs, and desires that help you feel safe and comfortable in life and in your relationships. When we find the courage to create a boundary, there’s a chance there might be backlash. As women, we often let the worry and concern over the potential backlash hold us back from honoring our needs. When we betray ourselves in this way, it can leave us feeling frustrated and resentful towards others.

This holiday season there’s an opportunity to leave the resentment behind, but in order to do that we need to be able to separate our needs from the opinions of others.

Once we are clear on what our needs are we can then communicate those needs to the ones we love in a very clear way so that they understand why the boundary needs to be created for us. Here’s an example.
You celebrate Christmas and for years your family has been expected to travel that day. Your children don’t love this because it disrupts play time. You and your partner would rather stay in your holiday pj’s all day then get dressed up. This is not to say you don’t love spending time with your extended family. However, if you’re being honest with yourself, this day would feel better spent at home. Despite this, year after year you continue to pack up and travel. This year you’ve become really clear on your values and what’s important to your family and you’re ready to put a boundary in place, no travel. You know this is going to upset a lot of people, how do you communicate it?
“This year we’ve come together as a family and we’ve reflected on what’s really important to us around the holidays. One thing that came up was how disruptive travel feels on Christmas day. We all would prefer to stay home and enjoy our gifts and each others company this year. We know this might feel difficult as we’ve always traveled to see you, but we really want to try it out. Celebrating with you is very important. We see two options: First, you can come to us. We would love to host you. Second, we will travel the day after Christmas and celebrate then.”
This approach invites the people you love into your why and provides them with a deep understanding around how this boundary/decision maps to your values. It also provides them with options and doesn’t close the door completely. In some cases, doors will need to be closed completely and that’s okay.

We don’t have any control over how others will react to our boundaries, but we can be very intentional around how and why we make them, which makes it easier to detach from the reactions of others.

Self Compassion

It’s easy to put a lot of pressure on ourselves around the holidays. After all, it’s “The most wonderful time of the year.” This pressure can come with negative self talk. Questioning why we didn’t do more or beating ourselves up over forgetting little things.
This year we can make a few small changes to build in more self compassion and time for ourselves. On a weekly basis we can carve out five minutes to remind ourselves how busy this time of year is. We can express to ourselves how difficult it is to keep up with the additional tasks and pressure this season creates and give ourselves permission to be human. This permission can help us be more forgiving to ourselves when things inevitably don’t go as planned. By granting the permission we can hopefully choose grace and compassion over blame and guilt. We can also ask for help, here’s an article that prepares you for making that ask. 

As parents (moms especially) it can be common to forget about making time for ourselves this time of year. There’s a real opportunity before the holiday craziness sets in to set aside time for ourselves.

First, we have to go back to the values and decide what we want that to look and feel like. For some, it may be a stress free day off from work to go shopping. While for others it’s making sure we get together with friends to celebrate. Maybe it’s watching a holiday movie in solitude. Whatever this “me time” looks like for you, make it happen. Ask for the help you need. Create the boundaries that need to be in place for you to do it.
There’s no denying this time of year is filled with more. By living into our values, creating boundaries and practicing self compassion, we can find more joy and less stress this holiday season.