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It’s Not too Late to Create a Stress-Less Holiday Season

2012 November 23

I choose to believe … in Santa, Holiday Spirit, and Second Chances


Christmas by DesignAh Christmas … such an exciting time, filled with joy and goodwill. It’s also loaded with high expectations and the inevitable sense of urgency … shopping, decorating, activities for the kids, entertaining and s-t-r-e-s-s.

No matter how aware we are that it’s coming, and try to avoid it, holiday stress happens just like clockwork, because the triggers are always the same … too many commitments, too much shopping and preparation to do, end of year work responsibilities, crowded stores and family gatherings.

Of course there are those who will insist they thrive on the rush and adrenaline – and we bless them and wish them well.

But for many others, holiday stress can really put a damper on the season.

Year-after-year we knock ourselves out trying to do-it-all in an effort to fulfill our expectations for the “perfect” Christmas; and year-after-year we end up attempting to achieve the impossible, “If I could just check that last gift off my list before I run out of money, lose a dress size by the party next Saturday, figure out a way to get my husband to buy what I want for a change, and somehow keep obnoxious Uncle Harry from crashing family dinner again this year, it will be the perfect Christmas!”

Holiday Season Expectations

If only our reality could compare to our vision. Thing is, each year one thing after another seems to disrupt our plans for that perfect holiday season … someone keeps getting hung up at work, we find decorations in complete disarray or the Christmas tree lights hopelessly tangled. We run out of money before we get to the end of the gift list, the turkeys dry, we can never seem to find time to bake those holiday cookies, there’s a part missing from the new toy, or the kids can’t stop bickering.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for even the best of intentions to become self-defeating, if we stress ourselves with so many expectations that we end up grouchy, and spending even less time than normal with our family.

The truth is that a lot of holiday related stress can be reduced, if not eliminated entirely, if we would recognize ahead of time what our vulnerabilities are, and plan accordingly … beginning with taking a little time to establish our priorities for the season.

Christmas on a Budget

For many families finances are tighter than ever this season, but Christmas on a budget does not have to put a crimp on your holiday season. What better way to illustrate the true meaning of Christmas to your children than to teach them to use their creativity, and focus on quality time together. It’s not about what you buy – it’s about what you do, and who you do it with!

A great way to start the season is to sit down with the family, and together discuss priorities and schedule outings and activities. Give everyone an opportunity to contribute and make the planning part of the fun. There are many no and low cost activities available to make the most of the holiday season, it just takes a little planning.

While it does take a little more time and forethought to organize family activities and projects during the holidays, one thing to keep in mind is that when it comes to your children, memories of tearing open a present on Christmas morning will be gone in the blink of an eye, while memories of quality time together as a family will last a lifetime.

Alone Doesn’t Have to be Lonely

But about those who find themselves alone this holiday season? There’s so much hype for the wonderful time of togetherness during the holidays that for some it only serves to accentuate the feeling of being alone and disconnected.

The holidays can be particularly hard on those who are separated from loved ones, those newly divorced, or those who have suffered the death of a loved one. There are also those who do have family, but would rather do pretty much anything other than see them; for them too, it can be a lonely season.

The best part of being an adult is we have the ability to make choices. You can choose to redefine your holiday traditions, even if only for this season. Rather than dwelling on what is lacking, choose to make this a time of self-discovery and new beginnings.

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40 Responses
  1. November 28, 2012

    This is a truly inspirational post!!! I just loved reading it. Agreed, that all of us should remain stress free at least during the Christmas festivities. The ideas shared are great, thanks for sharing.

    • November 29, 2012

      So glad you enjoyed the article, and thank you for taking the time to contribute to the conversation – always appreciated :-)

  2. Steve Borgman
    November 28, 2012

    Call me a Scrooge, but I wonder how it would be if, for just one year, my family could go without getting any presents: only giving them. And serving other people who have less than we do. God bless my wife, she’ll never let me get away with it :)

    Marquita, I love your suggestions about planning Christmas together as a family and within budget. Congrats on writing your new book!

    • November 29, 2012

      Hey Steve, I can certainly understand your point about ditching the presents one year. I must say I sincerely enjoy finding just the right gift for someone, but the whole experience has become so commercialized it seems like it becomes harder and harder each year to push through all the noise and expectations and focus on the people and relationships. Fortunately, if we can manage to get that far, it’s pretty much impossible to mess with the magic of Christmas morning – especially when you’re lucky enough to have little ones in the house. Thanks for taking the time to share – always appreciated!

  3. November 25, 2012

    Hi Marquitta,
    wow, what an inspirational post!

    The holiday season could be so much more enjoyable if people would follow what you suggest.

    Talking with your family about it all before hand to get everyone to understand the changes and contribute with ideas is great advice.

    Quality time, peace, love and goodwill really is the essence of Christmas.

    You are providing so much free, valuable information in you preview of your ebook!

    I appreciate your effort and time you took providing this!

    Love and Light
    Yorinda recently posted..Sole Water and Salt A higher form of EnergyMy Profile

    • November 25, 2012

      Thanks for taking the time to contribute to the conversation Yorinda – always valued and appreciated :-)

  4. November 25, 2012

    I know how lonely it can be too, I used to run a pub (bar in the US) and so many people had nowhere or no one to go to on Christmas day. The second year I saw this happening, I invited 32 people to Christmas lunch. And 40 people arrived! Luckily I had the space, the food and a huge open fire and it went well, that coupled with the fact I wasn’t short on any alcohol ;).

    The stories my guest told were quite hard hitting, and that’s when I decided that Christmas should be the time to forgive each other and that started with my family. All the years I ran the pub, Christmas felt like work and I didn’t like it.

    I love Christmas possibly for all the wrong reasons. We lock the door Christmas eve, after the church nativity service and don’t open again until the day after Boxing day. We spend the time with just the 4 of us, playing games with our children, singing carols and karaoke and stepping on lego. I take a 5 minutes to upload pics of the girls and tag family members on Facebook and then I switch it all off again.
    Sarah Arrow recently posted..Is it time to sell your blogMy Profile

    • November 25, 2012

      Actually Sarah, I think you love Christmas for all the right reasons! Thanks so much for sharing – I still can’t get over you managing pubs, great story though!

  5. November 25, 2012

    Hello Marty,

    I love Christmas, we sometimes get caught up in the commercial side and
    forget what it is all about!

    I choose to focus on God and family and leave the stress behind.

    Merry Christmas,

    Alice recently posted..March To The Beat Of Your Own DrumMy Profile

    • November 25, 2012

      Welcome back Alice, I’m with you as far as preferring not to focus on the commercial side of the holiday … I love finding ways to use our creativity to create more memories. :-)

  6. November 25, 2012

    Hey Marquita,

    Funnily enough, Christmas is one of those times that I never get stressed out. I figure it will all get down and everyone will be happy regardless of whether I burn the turkey or I forget something. But I can imagine plenty of others have sleepless nights.

    I love that you have a new book about this, I am sure there will be a great number wanting to get their hands on it.

    Thanks for a great read,

    Beth :)
    Beth Hewitt recently posted..Are you building an email list with your blog?My Profile

  7. November 25, 2012

    I do not do much shopping anymore for Christmas as many of them I can just buy a gift card to that person’s favorite place and have it sent to them online. I normally have to buy my son’s gifts in person… but that is all.

    Awesome tips

    • November 25, 2012

      Thanks for sharing Niles – I must confess I bristle at the thought of giving gift cards. It’s right up there with sending preprinted Christmas cards. But then the holidays are more personal for some than for others. That’s why the focus of my book is on creating memories – I don’t write for people who send preprinted Christmas cards :-)

  8. November 24, 2012

    Great post, Marty! You are so right about ways to make the season more enjoyable. Today, I went with my wife to a local used bookstore for the first time. Between the two of us, we got six books for about $12! The books are in good condition, so if someone wants to pass it along at savings to the rest of us, I’m not going to pass it up ;-)
    Steve Nicholas recently posted..The Importance of FocusMy Profile

  9. November 24, 2012

    Hi Marty,

    Thanks for sharing. I have two young daughters, so Christmas is fun again. Even with the loss of my Father five years ago, the girls bring sunshine to the day. The excitement kids get from opening presents is unmatched. While the stress of getting presents can sometimes rise, it’s worth it when kids are involved. I was just speaking to someone on FB and she is done already, just has to wrap. Damn. Plenty of time left :)
    Steven Hughes recently posted..Requirements for the Changing Landscape of SEO TechniquesMy Profile

  10. November 24, 2012

    Hi Marquita:

    I love your ideas and suggestions! I particularly liked Christmas on a Budget. There are so many creative things to do for Christmas that are very meaningful that don’t cost money. For the last number of years we have done an advent calendar with our girls but instead of getting a present or treat each day we do a family activity. i.e. play a game, go and look at Christmas lights, decorate the tree, etc. My girls love it and it is really fun for all of us!

    Kevin Martineau recently posted..The rhythms of work and restMy Profile

    • November 25, 2012

      That’s awesome Kevin! Parents set the tone for the holidays and the time and love shared is what will be remembered long after the physical presents have lost their use. There’s really nothing in my book about how to shop smarter – the focus is all on creating memories :-)

  11. November 24, 2012

    This is a stressful holiday especially for families that really can’t afford some things. These are great tips to go about when thinking about these things, and I appreciate looking at this, it gives a new mindset to holiday giving…

    • November 25, 2012

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts Beverly. You know what’s funny – little about the article or the book has to do with buying gifts other than strategies to get organized and inspiration to substitute time for presents, yet everyone seems to assume that’s the focus. I think that says loads about where our minds are when it comes to Chrismas, huh?

  12. November 24, 2012

    The only thing that gets me stressed during the holiday is shopping. I get no pleasure from the crowds so years ago I committed to shopping in November not caring about sales. I just want to enjoy buying gifts without the pressure and attitudes. I don’t care for shopping online unless I can do it very early so that if I get the wrong thing I can send it back with time to get the correct order. Stressed just writing about it. lol Thanks for your ideas.
    Lydia Brown recently posted..Customer Relationship Building TipsMy Profile

    • November 25, 2012

      Ha! You know I spent many years in the travel business flying all over the world – while spending so much time away from home was ultimately the reason I left – the good thing about it was that all through the year I picked up gifts during my travels. So by the time November rolled around my shopping as long over, and everyone got something totally unique and special. It required quite a shift in attitude to have to deal with holiday shopping like everyone else! Thanks so much for taking the time to contribute to the conversation – always appreciated!

  13. November 24, 2012

    Good post Marty,

    Christmas is a very stressful time for many people, loneliness also impacts many and the whole holiday seems to have become one mass shopathon! My husband and I are not religious,and like Nick no longer get caught up in it! It seems a bit silly given we do not celebrate the religion. These days we make a donation to charity at Christmas but enjoy spending time with family and friends who are able to take time off from their jobs to some fun and relaxation. Success with you book! :)
    Sadie-Michaela Harris recently posted..Oooh la la I Deleted Our Company Mobile Website in ErrorMy Profile

    • November 24, 2012

      Hi Sadie-Michaela, thanks so much for taking the time to share. Yup, I’m not religious either, and what I find interesting is if you look at the history of Christmas it was celebrated for centuries before the December 25th was linked to the birth of Christ in the 4th century. Now we read it “is the reason for the season” but it didn’t start out that way.

  14. November 24, 2012

    I love the holidays and do try to avoid stress by shopping online, shopping local and never on Black Friday. Fighting crowds is just not worth saving a couple bucks. Your book sounds wonderful! I like that you give many new ideas for Christmas. It helps us think outside the box and get away from the commercialism of the holidays.
    Merry Christmas. I guess it’s not too soon for that, since Thanksgiving is past now. :)
    Lynn Jones recently posted..Get Paid to Advertise with “The Online Ad Network”My Profile

  15. November 24, 2012

    while reading your womderful post, made me reflect back a lot… close to 30 years a go when I made the decision not to get stressed out anymore to put up with the jones and go crazy to find teh perfect gift or what ever… It was a wise decision and much more that I can not just describe in a few words.

    It as a new shift in mindset.. I was able to liberate my self from the bondage of what society have build for so longa nd I was so glad.

    Yes, I still celebrate Christmas, yes, I love to see others having fun, and yes, I truly love to see families together.. BUT I feel for all the one who go overboard to spend more than what they can spoend, just because is Christmas… I feel for the one who feel bad because they cannot provide for their loved one, and yeas I feel for the majority who stress themsenves to a very dangerous level just so they reach as you mentioned “their expectations”… You know why?

    Because I some how was able to switch the mindset, automatically I was able to “see things” in a different way and so years a go, I noticed that around Christmass there was always many deaths…. I may be wrong since I did not do any researches, but I suspect that the Chrismas season brings much stress in different ways to many different people and teh results are not positive.

    Yoru post give so much food for thought, I would love to publish in every newspepers and magazines so the world would have a chance to have a wonderful Christmas and make it to the next in great healtha nd continue doing so for many years to come… I am not in that position that I can do that, so teh bets thing I can do is pray that wisdom prevail in as many people as possible.

    Thanks so mcuh for your loving contribution to the world and may you receive in return all what you give out and much more.

    Nick Catricala recently posted..Stuck or UnstuckMy Profile

    • November 24, 2012

      Thanks so much for sharing your story Nick, always appreciated. I had a similar breakthrough. The first eye-opener was Christmas with my sister’s family. I remember watching my nieces open their presents on Christmas morning and tossing them aside one after another without a second look … and I thought oh man, there’s got to be more to the holiday than this! Then I got married and I was silly enough to give my mother-in-law a handmade shawl I special ordered from this crafter I knew, who really was more of an artist her work was so fine – not to mention expensive. I probably should have known better “Mom” came from a very wealthy Nicaraguan family, but I thought she’d appreciate the artisrty as I did – silly me. She was appalld that I had given her something handmade! Ah, we live and learn. Like you, I still enjoy the holiday and still value time spent with others and of course watching the kids, but I’ve long since put behind me the insanity of the season.

  16. November 24, 2012

    Hi Marty,

    I think it is a great idea to write your book as it is a time that people should be happy but so many people put themselves under stress . I really like your point that there are not set rules so find the right fit of our exact needs.

    Also an area that can cause a lots of stress is trying to keep everyone happy by agreeing to visit everyone before Christmas , I find at times it is a good idea to spread some of these visit to the new year.

    Take care Rosemary
    Rosemary recently posted..Why Irish Businesses should consider Adding Pinterest Marketing to there online strategy !!!My Profile

  17. November 24, 2012

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who suffer some irritating family members. For the spirit of the Christmas season, I just keep negative thoughts buried and bear the burden of their presence. I simply choose to do this for the sake of my mom. I know she got very little time and I hope to make her happy for the remaining moments of her life.
    Amy Turner recently posted..Chase Sapphire vs Chase Sapphire Preferred: What’s the Difference?My Profile

  18. November 23, 2012

    Christmas is a great time. But my sister is getting a divorce, mom was in the hospital and Dad had cancer and completed treatment. You can choose to look at all the negatives or use it as fuel to keep you going and propel through the bad times. I bought four new lizards and business has been down sense the Penguin update on hosting review site, but you know what I refinanced my car have money to work with and mouths to feed. Sometimes you need to be pushed before you take off. I thought I had it all figured out, but guess not. My business did awesome last year and half of this year, but time to get learn from mistakes and make another come back :)

    Garen recently posted..5 Link Building Tactics To Avoid For Your BlogMy Profile

  19. November 23, 2012


    I really don’t get the idea why do we have to stress ourselves during the holidays. This is a time for celebration, therefore a time to enjoy and relax. I don’t think it is wise enough to stress ourselves out with so many things to think about.
    Sarah Park recently posted..How to Make Money Writing PoetryMy Profile

  20. November 23, 2012

    hi Marquita,

    When I was a child, my mother would get totally stressed out about Christmas and it was usually spoiled due to her temper tantrums. Therefore, I have never stressed out over Christmas. I love the magic of this time for my kids. We have a great meal, they each get gifts and we have an awesome tree but I don’t get hung-up on it.

    I totally understand how a person could stress out though. I need to send my stressed friends to your blog to chill out!!!

    clare recently posted..100 day Challenge, Day 57 – how a challenge changes you!My Profile

  21. November 23, 2012

    We all could remember being on both sides of having stress of getting everyone on that list a gift. Then making sure we have a plan to visit each family and friend on that special day.

    I have made it a point to get ahead of the holiday. I keep in contact with everyone all year and celebrate their live and what they mean to me continuously. It just makes sens so when this on e holiday comes. I can celebrate the real meaning of it which has nothing to do with purchasing gifts and all the stuff.

    We have teach our family children the true meaning of Christmas and they all understand at a very early age. For the little ones they enjoy the afternoon outings with hundreds of other little ones. As for the teens and young adults they are very satisfied with uncles equipment and games. So, leaving the adults with festive joyful things to do without the children around. That is a gift they appreciate and their children of all ages are well taken care of else where having the time of their lives.

    We believe in being family orientated from the beginning of our name creation. We are a family of service and make that a tradition since the first Amis children where born. That makes a heck of a difference.

    I feel comfortable around people this time of year and always tell them what they mean to me and how honored I feel they are in my life. That is the best gift someone can give if it comes from the heart. We have a tradition of asking each person what they would like for us to physically do as a gift. That has a huge affect on the vast family and friends gathers together on this day. It is fun to hear all the crazy things people really want done to give them a day off. Now, that is not costing anyone except time and that is valued even from kids.

    Just putting myself out there and what a wonderful article to express our different traditions to satisfy the people we love acceptance of understanding the true meaning of Christmas is to serve others with you heart. What ever you feel is good do it. Celebrate Christ birth by serving with love. That is the best Christmas everyone would have.

    Thanks for allowing us to get useful tips on getting through the stress of Christmas prep.
    William Amis recently posted..The BeginningsMy Profile

  22. November 23, 2012

    I actually don’t find the holidays all that stressful – we keep it fairly simple. I don’t understand why people get so worked up.

    Louise Edington
    Louise Edington recently posted..Love Can Save The WorldMy Profile

  23. November 23, 2012

    Made me think about a few of the Christmas holidays where I created a family “games contest” with nice prizes for engaging in board games or other “real” games of face-to-face interaction. Originally (in the 80s) I used it to get our kids to interact with each other and with their visiting grandmother (not just their friends on the phone) and last year to get our grand-kids to interact with each other and us (not just be lost to Facebook and video games). Not only did we all like it, but it sure beat begging them to engage.

    Holiday traditions are great but also a shackle. Thanks for your focus on “being the adult” and making the changes that will reduce the stress.
    Richard recently posted..How to Reduce Your Online Business LaborsMy Profile

  24. November 23, 2012

    I love Christmas, and have ever since I was a kid, but I do agree that it can get to be a bit of stressor at times. One of the biggest things that we worry about is budget. As the kids get older the tastes seem to get more and more expensive. What we have done as a way to curb that rising cost is to start limiting the gifts that we buy. One or two gifts per each person is good enough and the real spirit of the season is being able to sit around as a family and just enjoy each other’s company.
    Clint Butler recently posted..Avon Review How To Create A Profitable Avon BusinessMy Profile

  25. November 23, 2012

    I’m pleased to find out that I’m not the only one who finds the holidays stressful, Marty! As you point out, though, it’s a choice we make: it doesn’t have to be that way.

    Thanks for your tips on turning stress into enjoyment.

    Alan Jenkin recently posted..Exercise and AppetiteMy Profile

  26. November 23, 2012


    It’s such a good idea to plan out your holiday season. Whether we’re prepared for it or not it comes every year. Knowing what you want to accomplish, with whom and really why will make the season more rewarding. I like the way you think.

    I did something I’ve never done before at midnight on Thanksgiving. I drove my wife to the mall so she could run in and see if they had her size on a sale item. OMG I have never seen the parking lot so full, the mall just teeming with people and the packages flying out. It was a once in a life time experience as I don’t ever expect to get that deep into the crowd ever again.

    Good luck with the book!

    Rick Lelchuk recently posted..Great Communication – Don’t Get The Wrong IdeaMy Profile

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