As we checked out at the grocery store at 2 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving, a cacophony of holiday-themed magazines screamed out at us in ALL CAPS: Drop 33 Pounds by Christmas! Sneaky Causes of Fall Tiredness! Create This Unique Crudite Plate! 77 Brilliant Holiday Entertaining Ideas! Holiday Heels That Dazzle! 20 Crafty Gifts Under $20! Wow Everyone: Holiday Hair!
So, let me get this straight…between now and Christmas, I’m supposed to lose more than a pound a day, produce a gorgeous updo, hand-make everyone’s presents, construct a vegetable platter shaped like a turkey for my perfect holiday party (or two), and do it all brilliantly in 3″ strappy stilettos… without spilling the gravy?
We think we might have an idea what those “sneaky causes of fall tiredness” could be. We’re exhausted just reading all of that.
Don’t get us wrong, we think this time of year can be wonderful. But it also can get ridiculously stressful. Not only are there all the “expected” things to do, like attending office parties, making costumes for the kids’ holiday recital, and buying and wrapping gifts, but some of us put expectations on ourselves to take it up a notch. Or five. Thanks, Pinterest.
So this year, instead of getting caught up in all of the “stuff,” we’d like you to give yourself permission to leave your hair down, kick off those heels, make a veggie platter shaped like, well…a plate full of veggies, and just enjoy the true experiences that only this season can bring.
With that in mind, we present to you the Whole9 Holiday Simplicity Guide.
Whole9′s Holiday Simplicity Guide
Right now the interwebs are blowing up with Gift Guides and Favorite Thing lists packed with the latest trends, gadgets and must-have’s… but if you’ve spent any time around here, you know that’s not really our style. The Whole9 Holiday Simplicity Guide is an experiment in distilling the essence of the season, of living simply but fully, and of getting what you want out of what can be a truly magical time of year.
Follow these three steps and get that much closer to finding a little more peace on (your) earth during the holidays.
Step 1: Define your reason for the season
It is very easy to fall into the Holiday Tradition Trap – even though you only have 15 spare minutes and one frazzled nerve left, you must continue making the traditional ten dozen (gluten-free) gingerbread cookies like a good little toy soldier based on the perceived urging of your ancestors (or your own gnawing holiday guilt). But remember this, friends: The season shouldn’t make you – it is up to you to make the season.
The first and easiest way to simplify this time of year is to take stock of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Whether you celebrate Hanukah, Christmas, Festivus, or something else, we urge you to ask yourself these three questions:
What does this time of year really mean to you? Is it an opportunity to celebrate your religion? Do you relish the chance to give back to those less fortunate? Do you love that this the one time of year that all of your family is actually together in one place? Write down your reasons for the season and rank them in order of importance.
What are your favorite memories of holidays past? What are the experiences that stand out the most and give you legitimate warm fuzzies? Write those down, too.
What things cause you the most stress this time of year? Is risking your life on your ice-covered roof to put up 1,000 twinkly lights the last thing you want to do right now? Do you dread the annual holiday office party? Is your budget super-tight right now, making it difficult to buy a gift for each of your fifteen co-workers? Again, write those things down, and decide what creates more stress than good.
Step 2: Decide what to keep and what to skip
In this study (titled The ‘Merry Christmas Coronary’ and ‘Happy New Year Heart Attack’ Phenomenon), the researchers posit that the reason one-third of all heart disease deaths occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is “emotional stress of the holidays, overindulgence during the holiday season, or both.” (They’re not the only ones who think so: check out similar research here.)
So now that you’ve identified your reason for the season, have your list of holiday activities and traditions that you love, and your list of those that cause the most stress, take some time and evaluate:
What you want to keep, what you need to keep, and what you can cross off for good. Ideally, your “keepers” should fit these criteria:
They are deeply meaningful.
They enhance your holiday in a positive way.
They cause little, if any, “net” stress.*
*Sure, buying presents for all the kids in your family can be stressful, but if that stress is totally wiped out by the joy and rewarding feelings you get from watching them gleefully tear into their presents on Christmas morning, this may be a net gain for you.
Step 3: Declare your holiday independence
We’ll admit, cutting some stress-inducing activities and traditions from your seasonal to-do list might make you happier, but it could cause a problem with your family or friends. What if simplifying the season was a group effort, instead of an individual exercise? Don’t be afraid to get your whole family involved in deciding what is most meaningful this time of year.
Vocalize what you’re doing and why to those closest to you.
If there is a spot of contention with someone, point them to this article and have them go through Step One on their own.
Afterward, sit down and compare your lists. Take this opportunity to share what the holidays mean to you, and really listen to your family and friends, to understand what they mean to them.
Create some new traditions together as a family, to keep the season as meaningful, enriching, and stress-free as possible for everyone.
This holiday season, we hope that you eat well, laugh often, sing loud, make snow angels, deck the halls, string the lights, stuff the stockings, light the candles, and send out cards…or don’t. This holiday season is what you make of it – and as long as your loved ones are kept close, and the spirit of the season honored, your holidays will always be a time to cherish.
Have you simplified your holiday season? Share your strategies for keeping it meaningful, enriching, and stress-free in comments.