Talk to just about anyone when December comes rolling around and they’ll tell you they’re incredibly busy, swamped, even teetering at their max capacity. The holidays are notorious for being so busy that by December 26th, people are exhausted and ready to get back to reality. But what if, instead of maxing ourselves out and looking forward to the end of the most wonderful season, we could find a way to enjoy this special time—and lose some of the busyness that keeps us feeling harried and missing out on some of the best parts of Christmastime?
Personally, I’m one of those people that says yes to just about anything and everyone, until things start falling away from me and I feel like I can’t keep my head on straight. I forget deadlines, double-book my time, and end up disappointing myself and others. But over the past few years, I’ve been learning how to safeguard my time a little better around the holidays. It’s definitely still a work in progress for me (there are only so many weekends in December, and so many festivities to celebrate), but here’s what I’m focusing on this year.
1. Learn the value of saying ‘No.’
I thrive off social interaction, so every invitation feels like a must-do to me, whether or not I actually want to join in. Though I am extroverted, not every event gives me energy, or feels beneficial to my soul. During the holidays there are so many “extras” and most of them look great on the surface, but many won’t bring my family peace, and will likely only make us feel rushed and overwhelmed.
I’ve learned to be choosy about what we say yes to—for me, it’s helping out with the children’s choir at church (something that takes an hour each Sunday morning), a few Christmas parties with friends, and one or two other Christmas events. Sure, there’s something going on just about every night in town, and honestly, they’re all probably really amazing. But so is sitting by the fire and reading Christmas stories with my kids, or teaching them about what Advent means, at home, at our own pace—and those are things (and people!) I actually care a great deal about. I’d rather invest in the people around me than check all the holiday boxes of twinkle-light shows, ice-skating and cocoa, and Christmas parades.
So this year, pick a few things that are definite yes-es and consider a few events that you’d maybe like to go to, and feel the freedom to say no to the rest, in favor of spending time doing things that nourish your soul and your relationships with others.
2. Mindfully reflect
Maybe you’ve said no to the big Christmas stressors, but you’re still swamped with work or other family obligations that you simply can’t ignore. Instead of collapsing on the couch at the end of a long day, take the precious few moments of down-time you might have to consider what you’re thankful for, and reflect on the goodness of the holiday season. It might seem like something small, but intentionally taking time for prayer and noticing the blessings in your life can make the time you do spend running around town feel a little more meaningful. Blocking out time for yourself can be the lifeblood of the holidays when it seems like there’s not enough time for just about anything!
3. Manage your time efficiently
So you’ve got a calendar full of commitments that are just non-negotiable? Let some of the smaller things go! For me that means putting off a few household chores (and not berating myself for a dirtier-than-normal house), outsourcing some of the labor—like asking my kids to help a little more around the house, or even paying for a little extra help with the winter yard clean up—and taking care of errands and to-dos as early as possible. For the natural procrastinator in me, this last one is a struggle, but the years I’ve actually bought, wrapped and hidden my Christmas gifts early have been the ones I’ve been able to be fully present with my loved ones and not worrying about whether or not I got the right stocking stuffers.
Remind yourself that some things take quite a bit longer than usual during the holidays—there are lots of holiday shoppers buzzing about. When I’m heading to Trader Joe’s during the month of December, I prepare myself for the madness and expect my trip to take longer than usual, and be more chaotic than I’d like. Leave early, give yourself wiggle room and remember to stay mindful when things get hectic.
4. Check your heart
Many of us love the holidays and savor every minute of the cheery time of year. But it’s also easy to forget why we’re even buying gifts and rushing around like crazy in the first place. Ask yourself what the purpose of each event, party, or to-do list item is. Is it because you love someone that you’re baking cookies for them, or is it because you feel obligated to extend a nice gesture? Adjust your motivation and move forward with your plans, or perhaps cut out the things you’re doing simply because you feel as though you should. Perhaps make a list of things you’d like to do to show your neighbors and friends how much you care and are thankful for them, then pick one and focus on it! Let everything else that’s not done for the sake of love, generosity, and gratitude go, and make whatever you’ve chosen to focus on mean something to you!