How To Be Intentional and Reduce Overwhelm This Holiday Season

We know the holiday season is coming: we can see it around the bend, looming larger and larger as it approaches. Soon Thanksgiving will be behind us and then we’ll be scrambling to prepare for Christmas!

These next few months are usually intense, like someone has turned up the dial on all the noise, all the expectations, all the “shoulds” in life. We can get carried away in the tide of all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. We hold the tension between the fun and merriment of these months along with the stress, exhaustion, and sometimes grief of this time.

What can we do NOW to ensure we are able to focus on the joy of the holidays and minimize the pressure, stress, and exhaustion of it all? How can we be more intentional with our time during the holidays? These suggestions may help:

how to be intentional and reduce overwhelm this holiday season

Forget about balance

Balance is a myth that keeps us from choosing our priorities, and chasing after it leads to restlessness. The myth of balance feeds the “have it all” promise that only results in burden.

Instead of aiming for balance, pick a word to guide you through the holiday season. We often do this at the start of the new year, but what about a word to guide your decisions in the next two months?

Think about what you want the tone and mood to be in your household this holiday season: Peaceful? Easy? Crafty? Together? Whimsical? Spiritual? Traditional? Quiet? Generous?

Pick one or two words and let them set your intention. Ultimately, your word (or two) will help you filter what you say Yes to and what you say No to. It will help you make the best decisions for your family.

Keep it simple, sweetie

Ask your family what they are most looking forward to in the months ahead. Their answers may surprise you! They may be excited about hot chocolate and Christmas movies, and not the big outings you plan. They might care more about driving through neighborhoods to see the lights instead of going to the Christmas concert.

And don’t forget to check in with yourself! I like to ask: What will I regret missing out on if it doesn’t happen this year? (For me, the answer is always making Christmas cookies. That’s a non-negotiable top priority in our household!)

Don’t overfill, don’t overkill

Once you’ve determined your holiday priorities, you can make intentional and thoughtful decisions about what you put on the calendar (and what you leave off of it.) You can ditch the pressure of that December bucket list you got from Pinterest. You can feel more confident about the choices you and your family make in the face of what you see everyone else doing on Instagram and in real life.

Decide early

A lot of our mental load is made worse when we have decisions to make. Take some time and decide NOW about things like:

  • Teacher gifts
  • Which advent devotional to use (this year, it starts Nov. 27, 2022)
  • Whether to do Advent activities with your kids (if this is a priority, check out these 7 hands-on ones!)
  • Whether to send holiday family cards (if yes, take that family photo early!)

Or, decide that you’re NOT doing Christmas cards this year, or doing the matching pajamas thing, or whatever it is you feel you “should” be doing just because everyone else is. Making these decisions early will bring you more peace of mind.

Quiet the noise

There’s no quicker path to envy and shame than being constantly bombarded by other people’s holidays. It’s easy to forget that other families have different needs, different values, different priorities. It’s too easy to believe we’re not measuring up when we scroll on our phones. That’s why the holidays are a great time to take a break from social media, to take those apps off of our phones.

There’s no better time to quiet the noise around us than the holidays, so we can be intentionally present with our loved ones in our actual lives.

A big picture holiday planner can help

If you could use some guidance and organization this year to help you be more intentional and reduce overwhelm, I have just the thing for you! You can download this FREE holiday planner in the free for you section for subscribers!

free printable holiday planner

If you’re not already a subscriber, type your email in the box below and I’ll send you the password to the Free for You page. You’ll also receive my twice-a-month newsletter (The Scoop) packed with resources to help you grow deeper in your journey of faith.

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*Feature Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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