Less is More during the Holidays

Holidays are intended to be joyous celebrations. Yet holidays tend to burden our thoughts of having too much to do, not enough money, a hectic hurry, difficult family members, feelings of depletion, and so much stress.

Here are some ideas on how to approach the holidays from a more relaxed and playful perspective.

Meaning of the Season

Focus on the center of the season and let most of the rest of it go. Holidays celebrations should be defined by spiritual meaning, often remembered through traditions we share with family, friends, and our church family. Ask yourself, what is the core meaning of the holiday and what does it mean to you? What do you want to be mindful of and how do you want to experience it? How can the true meaning of the holiday be visible to those around you?


Scale down what you do. With your focus now on the spiritual center, reassess your traditions and invitations and think about what is actually important to how you want your family to experience the season. Ask your family what matters to them and what can be eliminated. Some people enjoy baking as a team, for example, but maybe your family wants a midnight snowball fight or hold a storytelling contest. Give yourself permission to let the rest of it go. Christmas cards, decorating, multiple family visits, etc. can all be re-evaluated and dialed back for a time.

Pitch Perfection

Perfect holidays aren’t possible! Stop hoping for one. When our expectations aren’t met, we become disappointed. Adjust your expectations to match reality. Ask yourself what is realistic and bring your expectations of yourself and the holiday down to that level. Things do not need to be Pinterest perfect to be meaningful and enjoyable.

Invest in People

Focus on people rather than things. Tune in to time with loved ones rather than expensive gifts, lavish decorations, or extravagant meals. Time genuinely invested and activities shared are more memorable and valued than yet more stuff. Time spent together building memories is a gift that will delight for years to come.

Live in the Moment

Be present to whatever you are doing or who you are with. Don’t allow worry and stress to steal the joy of the moment. Give yourself permission to sit and enjoy without fretting about the next things that need to be done. These times together are fleeting and rushing past them can rob us of delighting in the moment.

Care for yourself

Practice good self-care and awareness. The better you care for yourself, the better you will feel and be able to cope with whatever comes your way. Good self-care is essential all year round, but even more so during the holidays or when stress increases. Pay attention to your body and be aware of thoughts and feeling. For example, let’s say you are worrying about several things and feeling tired and restless. You can use this information to be kind to yourself by cutting short an activity to go home and rest, do some deep breathing or have a cup of tea. Self-awareness can help you make wise choices. Be the first to leave the party for once. Take time to de-stress.

Allow rest

Rest, play, laugh, reflect, journal, exercise, color, do yoga, eat nutritious food, get plenty of sleep, pray and tell God your worries. Allow yourself to enjoy activities that help you relax.

“Find rest, o my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:5-6).

Organize and delegate

  • Be organized, break it up, and delegate. Many holiday preparations take time. Start early, plan ahead, and break tasks into smaller pieces.
    • Make cookie dough on Friday night and bake Saturday morning.
    • Put food into the freezer weeks early.
    • Decorate the Christmas tree over 2 or 3 days rather than spending all day on it. Assemble one day, put lights on another day and add ornaments yet another day.
    • Delegating to other family members some of the tasks needing to be done can also lighten your load.
    • A great website is http://christmas.organizedhome.com
  • Think outside the box and be creative in how you approach the holidays.
    • Give yourself permission to make changes where you need to and keep only the traditions that are important to you and your family.
    • Re-evaluate how you celebrate the holidays and practice better self-care so you can experience more joy. You’ll provide yourself the opportunity for Christmas to be a special time to adore Jesus.
  • Prepare for Triggers. Think about what causes you stress and prepare for it to the best of your ability. One trigger might be a difficult family member. Reducing the time you spend with them can make things more manageable.
  • Be Flexible. Things seldom go exactly how we think they will, so be ready to flex with the unexpected. Keep things in perspective and look for the humor. Don’t allow mistakes or mishaps to ruin your day! Ask yourself, “Will this really matter in a year?”
  • Cultivate Gratitude. Choosing to be grateful helps counter the weightiness of what we struggle with. Find things to be grateful for like life itself, loved ones, a pet, the beauty of fresh fallen snow, sparkling lights, a child’s giggle, etc.

May God guide you in this Christmas season to experience his presence as the Prince of Peace.

About the author — Joy Bocanegra, MA, LCPC

Joy Bocanegra is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and works at Chicago Christian Counseling Center in their Orland Park location. She enjoys helping people work through various issues particularly anxiety, grief, codependency, relational difficulties, divorce recovery, and stepfamily concerns. Joy has a holistic approach to helping clients find healing and wholeness. Passionate about group work, she has facilitated groups on several topics including depression, body image, caring for aging parents, spiritual growth, and help for women whose partners have a sex addiction.

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