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Learning to Stress Less and Savor More at Christmas time

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November 26, 2018

Christmas is the favorite holiday for many people. For some it’s for religious reasons, for others it’s about cherishing family and festivities. For most, it’s a combination of both!

Unfortunately, it can get very stressful for many people. It is overwhelming to budget for gifts, host out-of-town guests, plan and host holiday gatherings, bake cookies, plan for gift exchanges, and decorate the home. As we get older, we learn it’s not about us. It’s just not. And it shouldn’t be so stressful to decorate, entertain, and shop … should it?

We’re all encouraged to remember “the reason for the season.” But, hellooo! We can go broke and bat-crazy with the stress. We lose our patience in store lines, curse while attempting to park at the mall, and have no holiday spirit left by midday. We’re drained and discouraged. The kids are begging for more gifts that they might play with five whole minutes. What is going on? How can we just turn down the stress and savor the season? NOT EASY right? I have a couple of suggestions.


Patience is the virtue we all really need more of. I’m sprinkling my imaginary patience dust everywhere this season. If Christmas time makes you irritable too, try a few things to help:

  • Take deep breaths. Remember it’s not about waiting three hours on lines at stores to save a few dollars. Give homemade handmade personal items if you can. They are more meaningful anyway.
  • Shop at independent shops. You won’t find the bargains you do at a warehouse store or blow out sale at Walmart, but you will support hardworking community members. Big perk: you rarely will have to wait in line.
  • Shop online. Oh the convenience of online shopping in your pajamas. And look beyond Amazon!
  • Practice a little extra patience by meditating daily. It does help, even if it’s for 5-10 minutes a day. There’s an app for that too. No excuses.
  • Listen to calming music, or your favorite Christmas carols. Music is very relaxing and therapeutic.
  • Have patience with older members of your family. Yes, that may be the biggest challenge for some of us. Remembering that you are only seeing them for a short visit, whether a day or a few days, can help us get through it with more gratitude.
  • Learn to change and redirect conversations. We all have that one family member who starts with the politics or arguments. Learn some methods to not only tolerate it, but divert it into a whole new conversation: change the music, tell everyone to come to the kitchen for a snack, ask Google to play family trivia, anything to switch it up and make peace in the room.
  • Have patience while driving since the roads can get jammed. Listen to an audio book, your favorite songs or a light self help talk. Let someone go ahead of you with a smile, not slamming on your horn. You just might get a peace sign from them and you’ll definitely be less stressed.


Selflessness is defined as being more concerned with the needs and wishes of others. Ideally, we change from “I want” to “What would you like?”

Focusing on others can result in much joy and feeling fulfilled. Want to see if you can actually give without expecting any recognition at all? Make a beautiful gift basket and leave it on a neighbor’s or friends porch with no card. Don’t say it was you. EVER.

Other ideas:

  • Donate to a GoFundMe as anonymous.
  • Throw a few extra dollars in an envelope and leave for a single friend who may be struggling financially. I know. I’ve been there. Asking for help is one of the hardest things to do and most people won’t ask, so an anonymous donation would make someone’s day! I can seriously vouch for that.
  • Mail your nieces, nephews, or cousins a gift card, even if they are working adults. Some people work solely to pay their bills so a treat is always appreciated.
  • Donate as a family to an animal shelter this year. Have all the children chip in what they can, and drive down as a family to give a cash gift to the shelter. Bonus family fun points for stopping to get hot cocoa on the way home!
  • Don’t ask for a thing this year. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Or ask for a family experience like a special day out with your kids. This way the whole family has fun together and nobody has to worry if you like the sweater they bought you. There’s less stress for them (no shopping), less stress for you (will I like it?) and you show the kids that it’s not all about gifts.

When I was younger, Christmas was about getting presents. How big was my pile under the tree? As I got older it was about giving presents. What could I do to be over the top and get “the best gift ever”? Now it’s more about creating a warm loving family atmosphere. I want to nurture love, selflessness, caring, and joy. It’s not easy but it can make the world of difference this season. I’m not saying we can’t buy anyone anything. I’m saying if we shift the focus, it feels really good.

What will you do this season to savor it more and stress less?

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