Goodbye Holiday Stress, Hello Meaning



{Navigating the Holidays with Intentionality, Meaning, and Connection}Intentionality, Meaning, and Connection

Rewind to October 31st, and journey with me into my local liquor store. I ask the man inside where I can find their assortment of pumpkin beer. He informs me that they’re all out and the Christmas beer is in already. Whaaaat? First of all, Christmas beer?? Second of all, on October 31st? I just stumbled out of the store, sans pumpkin beer, dumbfounded.

The truth is, the holidays are coming. We’re reminded of this every time we walk into a store. For some, this is the best news ever. For others, the thought of the approaching holidays is like your very own catapult into a state of frenzied stress. Yet, you don’t want it to be that way and every year you tell yourself, “I’m not going to get stressed out. I’m going to enjoy the holidays this year. I really am.” But then the party invites start arriving, the extended family announces they’re coming, and Pinterest invades your computer to steal your joy with the countless perfect lookin,g but time-sucking ideas. Before you know it, you’re drowning once again in a pool of stress, and it’s not even December yet.

I wouldn’t be writing about this if I wasn’t at all familiar with holiday stress, so when I offer up these tips, please know, I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS too. These are simply a few thoughts that have helped us to better navigate the holidays with intentionality, meaning, and connection:

Pause, reflect, and be present

This is easier said than done, believe me, I know. But I hold onto this little phrase like a lost puppy during the holidays, repeating it just about every day throughout the season. Sometimes just a good pause is all we need to reset ourselves.

Untitled design-2Identify your stressors

What takes you down during the holidays? What things historically cause you the most stress? – overscheduling, to-do list, money, family, loss/grief, conflicting traditions etc… Identifying your stressors makes it easier to navigate them or better yet, remove them altogether.

Communicate those stressors with someone close to you

Having someone know what your stressors are, creates a space for you to turn to that person mid-December and let them know you’re freaking out. It also invites some accountability for you. This proves particularly helpful if, say, your stressor is that you spend too much money during the holidays. Your loving friend can walk your booty back to Target when you tell her you just went on a spending binge.

Identify your go-to stress relievers

I call this, “back pocket stress relief.” For me it often involves a candle, a breath, and a prayer. For you it may be a bath, a massage, or a glass of wine with a friend. Whatever helps you feel a bit more relaxed in the midst of stress, identify it and have it ready to go this holiday season.

Know what you value during the holiday season

What is most important to you? – time with family, baking, faith, serving/giving, shopping, rest, friends/parties, experiential gifts, etc…What are three things you want to be sure toUntitled design-3 do or experience this holiday season? If baking is not your thing, then don’t stress over making the perfect holiday cookies for your child’s class. Instead, head to your nearest grosh and pick up a package of those pre-made, melt-in-your-mouth Lofthouse cookies and call it good. On the other hand, if you really value service projects, but you find yourself too busy stressing over cookies or shopping, you will be left feeling disappointed at the end of the season. Living in such a way that your actions are incongruent with your values is one of the greatest causes for stress. Sometimes we don’t know what we value until we step back and give it some thought.

Discuss hopes, expectations, and schedule with family

I am talking about calling a family meeting to give everyone an opportunity to weigh in on this. What is most important to them? To you? For example, if rest is important to you, perhaps avoid scheduling anything extra during December, like dentist appointments or meetings. My kids REALLY love to bake with me, so we set aside a special day where we turn on Christmas music, make hot cocoa, and bake all day long.

Prioritize time and money according to values

Set boundaries that align with your values. For example, if sending out holiday cards isn’t a huge value to you and it is both a time and money drain, it might be time to ask, “do I really need to send out cards this year? Are there other ways to connect with people that would better utilize my time and money?”

Identify your expectations for family time, especially time with extended family

Which expectations might be unrealistic or need adjusting, or letting go of all together? Who do you need to communicate those expectations with? Communication of these expectations is key.

Know your tendencies and triggers when you’re with extended family

Know what pushes your buttons with family. Preparing yourself for how you want to respond helps you to avoid getting sucked into behaviors and patterns that would otherwise leave you feeling disappointed or angry.

Create a space for connection to happen

If you’re going from one holiday activity to the next, you might miss out on those moments of connection with your people that organically grow out of a quiet or unscheduled space. Maybe this looks like committing to have dinner as a family each night or perhaps it’s limiting weekend commitments during December. Maybe it’s scheduling an intentional moms night out amidst the busyness, because you know you will need that wine connection, with your girlfriends.

Where do you need to let go of your desire or need for perfection?

Striving for perfection kills our ability to enjoy the present moment. Need I say more?

Experience the holidays through the eyes of your child

When we pause long enough to experience the wonder and excitement that our children feel, it puts things into perspective for us. It allows us to let go of the unimportant things and/or the need for perfection. For kids, your presence is perfect.

What are your biggest stressors? What helps you to say goodbye to stress and hello to meaning during the holiday season?


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Melissa is an adventurer at heart, seeking to embrace the beauty and wildness of this life with her co-adventurer and husband of 8 years, Tom. When she’s not splashing in a mud puddle with her boys, ages 4 and 5, or cleaning the remains of a diaper gone awry from the hallway walls, Melissa works part-time as a Licensed Professional Counselor, striving to empower women through her practice, Rise and Shine Counseling. Give her a mountain and some free time and she’ll find a way to play, embracing every opportunity to run the trails, ski the slopes, and bike or hike the hills. A great day for Melissa would include a pre-dawn trail run, a cup (or maybe 3) of coffee, brushed teeth, some belly laughing with her boys, a little uninterrupted (what’s that?) time to read and write, and sharing in some good conversation over a glass of bold red wine with her hubby. Her faith, her people, and her sense of humor, carry her through the peaks and valleys of this life. She attempts to chronicle the journey over at her blog,


  1. Oh the holidays! I finally am to the point where I’m getting better at just saying, “thank you for the invitation. we wish we could attend, but we have that time scheduled to be home enjoying family time” — I want to enjoy the season and don’t want to raise my son believing that the holidays are hectic… even though they are!


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