Surviving the Holidays: Less is More

photo: peddhapati, Creative Commons

photo: peddhapati, Creative Commons

Our culture seems to be all about more, bigger, better… especially when it comes to the holidays. Gift wish lists are longer and more expensive. Pinterest sets a high bar when it comes to decorations. Holiday parties can fill your social calendar before you know it.

Here are a few tips for a simpler, less-stressed holiday season.

1. You don’t have to go all out!  

Maybe you are accustomed to going “all out” every year for the holidays. Or maybe you grew up in a family that always did the “works” every December: decorations, parties, gifts for everyone you know (teachers, mail carrier, boss, co-workers, neighbors), holiday cards via snail mail. And then there’s the food: homemade cookies, homemade candy, a huge meal on Christmas day that you prepare for weeks in advance, etc.

You fear you will be a failure if you don’t repeat the same things every year, and one up what you did last year.

Here is the truth: There is no right or wrong way to do it! You don’t have to get stuck in routines of the past. Focus on your values and create new traditions that honor what the holidays really mean to you.

You can start fresh with a brand new way to do the holidays any time you choose. This could be the year.

2. Experiences are more important than material things.

You don’t have to blow your savings or bust your budget every year buying “things” for the people in your life. Focus on spending quality time with friends and loved ones. Focus on opportunities to connect on a personal level. Be okay with giving a nice card instead of a gift. Choose to give a handmade gift instead of something super expensive. Or give no gift at all, just spend time with each other.

Do you remember what each person gave you last year for Christmas?  Or, what you gave each person in your life?  Probably not. Possessions add to clutter and will most likely end up being donated or thrown away at some point. Experiences can’t be taken away and always leave a memory.

3. Spend less time on social media and watching TV.

Theodore Roosevelt wisely said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” We are bombarded with advertisements during the holiday season. Everyone seems to have the best sales and can convince us that we really need certain things, that our life is not complete without these items, and that we fall behind in social standings if we don’t purchase, purchase, purchase. Social media can convince us that everyone else is having a “better” Christmas than we are: better tree and decorations, better gifts, better food, etc.

Be mindful of how much you are exposing yourself to these messages. Be okay with less TV and time on social media. Try throwing away all those catalogs and fliers you get in the mail without even reading them! Focus instead on the most important things: spending time with your family and friends.


Stacey Wald, LAPC, RD