December is upon us and with it comes a flood of expectations we (+ perhaps others) place on ourselves.

“This will be the best year yet. We’ll do an Advent calendar… bake Christmas cookies… and attend all the gatherings, celebrations and service projects – let’s do this! We have shoeboxes to pack, stockings to stuff, lights to hang, and presents to wrap!”

It all starts from a good place – wanting our homes and hearts to reflect the seasons and all it means. But it can very quickly devolve into chaos as our seasonal bucket list turns into the world’s longest holiday to-do list. It can become easy to go from a cozy Christmas craft to full on mayhem as glitter flies about the house, our children run around like goblins, and we sit in the middle of the mess and wonder where it all went wrong.

Below are a few simple tips that can help you head into December full of Christmas cheer, while avoiding that crushing sense of overwhelm.

How to Avoid Seasonal Overwhelm

  1. Do it in your own unique style. Take some time to evaluate what you and your family need this season. Do your kids long for family adventures and you know planning some special outings with them would fill their love-tanks more than any gift could? Or do you think taking things slow, planning some cozy read alouds, early bedtimes and quiet evenings by the Christmas tree would better serve your family? Are you ready and excited to take on hosting the extended family and going all out? Or do you need to be honest with family members about your need to pull back, rest and take advantage of pre-made food? Moving into December in your own unique style means honoring whatever season you’re in. It means prioritizing the things that are life-giving for you and your family, and letting the unimportant things fall to the side. It means shedding unfair expectations, and doing what you know is best for this year, whatever that looks like for you and your family.
  2. Anchor your holiday celebrations to existing rhythms. Filling December with intentional celebrations is wonderful, but trying to do every meaningful or fun thing at once will quickly lead to overwhelm. Anchoring holiday celebrations to already existing rhythms is a great way to incorporate new traditions easily. Last year my family had tremendous success with anchoring our major celebrations on Sundays. Sundays were already our family rest and fun days, and by batching our celebrations on one day of the week, we were able to have wonderful times together without the pressure of making every day in December amazing and memorable. Throughout the week we had our seasonal music, and a simple Advent reading we did as a family, but we let the big celebrations such as special treats, getting our tree, looking at lights, decorating our tree, etc. fall on Sundays. December felt incredibly fun for us, and instead of being run ragged by all the celebrations, we entered Christmas week rested and full of joy and anticipation.
  3. Be okay with saying “no”. Not every Christmas tradition, fun activity or party is going to be right for your family. Saying “no” doesn’t make you a grinch, it makes you intentional. You may need to pass on fun activities in order the preserve a sense of calm in December. You may have to put a cap on how many parties your family attends. You may have to limit how much sugar you let your kids consume. Remember that doing less, does not mean you will have a less memorable holiday season. Instead, you’ll be able to sustain your sense of cheer all the way to and through Christmas, rather than falling to pieces mid-December. Choosing your activities purposefully enables you to do those things really well, in a way that will bring joy to you and your family.
  4. Take notes for next year. At the end of December (or even throughout the month), take notes on what is going well and what you would do differently. Last year I wrote down a short list of what worked really well (such as anchoring our traditions to Sundays), and what I wanted to adjust or add for this year. I paper clipped the note to my December page in my Annual, and it has sat there all year (with the additions of some lovely pen scribbles from my 2 year old). Eleven months later I just pulled it out and read through it, and feel as if half the planning I need to do for this season is already complete.

It actually is possible that this could be the best year yet. But that can only happen if you take a step back and determine what matters most to you at the start. Once you have realized what will bring the most joy to your family this year, you can move through December with confidence, knowing that you are creating a fun holiday season for your family with each activity you choose to do.


Need a tool to help you plan the holiday season effectively? Our free day planner is a great way to help you get out of your head, sort your priorities, and let everything else fall away.