For many years, I’d wake up on December 26th completely exhausted. Though I love Christmas and its trimmings, I’d spent too many nights staying up late trying to get ready for the holidays.
After one particularly hectic holiday season, I vowed to make the Most Wonderful Time of the Year enjoyable again. Since then, I’ve found ways to reduce stress, add more joy and not feel like roadkill by the time the season ended.
This journey also led me to discover the sure-fire way for YOU to have the holiday season of your dreams—step by step.
The Guaranteed Way to Have a Merry Christmas
If you find the holidays stressful, you’re not alone. Surveys show that most Americans report that the gift exchanges, holiday parties and more can negatively affect our mental health.
It seems that even though we all have full and busy lives, our love of holiday traditions makes us believe that we can fit in the decorating, cookie baking and merriment on top of our normal schedules and routines.
Rather than blindly jumping into the sea of holiday craziness, I’ve found that creating a plan can help navigate the waters like a pro.
Celebrating the Christmas you’ve always wanted is a three step process:
1. Envision YOUR ideal holiday season
2. Infuse joy into your activities
3. Prioritize your time, energy and efforts
Keep reading as each of these are discussed in detail below.
Step 1: Define YOUR ideal holiday season
Setting your intentions is a great way to get clear on what you want to happen and how you’d like to feel.
The great news is you are (likely) very experienced at setting intentions for Christmas. If you ever wrote a letter to Santa or had your kids write one, that is essentially what you were doing.
Anyone reading the letter (Santa or otherwise) would know EXACTLY what the author was hoping to find under the tree on Christmas morning.
CLICK HERE to download worksheets for Your Best Christmas Ever.
STEP 1a: Define the Activities that Would Make Your Season Awesome
Similar to writing letters to Santa, you can paint the picture of the kind of the holiday season you WANT to have.
Start by thinking about the events/activities/moments that make your Christmas happy.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the first time you’ve done them or the 30th time, identify things that get you excited just thinking about them. Which ones makes you say, “THIS is my favorite part of Christmas!”
Here are a few scenarios to consider:
- A formal sit-down Christmas dinner surrounded by family
- A holiday cocktail party for your best friends
- A romantic evening with your partner
- An afternoon spent baking cookies with the kids
- An ornament exchange with co-workers
- An afternoon spent volunteering at a local soup kitchen
- Wrapping gifts with your partner
- A good book and a hot toddy in front of the fireplace
- Watching Hallmark movies with your family
As you consider the above, note the items that make you say, “YES! I’d love to do that!”
STEP 1b: Define how you want to feel this holiday season.
Though we all feel many emotions in any given hour, what sentiments would you like to feel most during the holiday season? Which ones would bring you joy?
Here are some to get you started:
- Connected to Family
- Connected to Community
- Cozy at Home
Take a moment to write down those sentiments that resonated or add others that came up for you.
Another approach that may be helpful is to think about what you DON’T want to feel during the holiday season. Knowing that you don’t want to feel overextended, rushed or anything else is equally valuable.
Step 1c: The Ghost of Christmases Past
Now that you have things you want to do and a better sense of how you want to feel, fine tune your intentions for the upcoming Christmas by reviewing prior holidays.
Was driving to visit relatives in far-flung places a wonderful family experience or did you arrive cranky from all the traffic?
Did the Saturday night holiday show you saw with your girlfriends fill you up or leave you stressed because you still had so much to do at home?
Does the memory of your kids, snuggled up in matching Christmas PJs, watching holiday movies fill your heart with joy or did you wish you had volunteered as a family to work at the soup kitchen.
There’s no right or wrong answer to these questions. Whatever works for YOU is correct.
STEP 1d: Refine Your Intentions by Using the Past as a Guide
Go back to the intentions you set earlier and include any highlights from the past you’d like to recreate and nix the moments you don’t want to relive.
This updated list makes clear what your intentions are for the upcoming Christmas season.
(Note that it may be valuable to include your partner/spouse and family in the exercise as well.)
Download worksheets for Your Best Christmas Ever by clicking here.
STEP 2: Infuse Joy into Your Holiday Activities
For most people, the feeling of the season is just as important as the activities. We all want more joy, but our definitions of joy are likely very different.
Use the sentiments you identified earlier to see how you can infuse them into your must-do holiday activities. Also, consider how the feelings you don’t want to experience can influence your holiday planning.
For instance, let’s say you want to feel more connected to your community. You might weave that sentiment into your activities in the following ways:
- Purchase all gifts from local businesses
- Cut down your Christmas tree at a local farm
- Volunteer at a non-profit in your area
- Host a neighborhood potluck and sing carols
- Deliver cookies to your neighbors
Infuse your definition of joy into more holiday activities can fuel your soul this holiday season!
STEP 3: Creating the Plan to Make it Happen
Let your intentions serve as your true north for the season. Use this information to create a plan for how the weeks until Christmas will unfold.
Review your must-do activities and identify each step that is required to make it happen. Next, schedule each of the steps on to a particular day/time in your calendar.
For example, let’s say one of your must-dos for a happy holiday season is to see your kids, dressed in matching jammies, leave out cookies they baked for Santa on Christmas Eve.
You might schedule the following activities on your calendar:
Nov 30th, 9pm: Order kids matching jammies
Dec 5th, 8p: Open and wash new jammies
Dec 23rd, 3p : Bake 2 batches of Christmas cookies
Dec 24th, 10am: Locate the cookie plate
Of course, you already know all the things that need to happen. The power in putting them on your calendar is that it reserves that time for you to accomplish them.
(And yes! Being mindful to complete these tasks at the scheduled time is key to making them happen!)
CLICK HERE to download worksheets for Your Best Christmas Ever.
Bringing it All Together for the BEST Christmas Ever
By being clear on what’s important to you and planning for it, you are well on your way to having the Christmas season of your dreams!