How to Have a Restful Holiday Season

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There’s so much hustle and bustle as the winter holidays set in. Buy this, make that, go here, go there! How can you have a restful holiday season?

It isn’t impossible. In fact, with some thought and a little preplanning, you can enjoy not only a restful holiday, but also a fun and memorable one as well. Read further to set your mindset for this shift.

snowman mug on table in front of lit christmas tree.

Fall, Back to School, Halloween, Daylight Saving Time, these milestones have passed. 2021 is quickly drawing to a close. “The Holidays” are upon us.

A wise man once said, “Boy, the holidays are rough. Every year I just try to get from the day before Thanksgiving to the day after New Year’s.”

The potential is certainly there to shift into “survival mode” between Thanksgiving and the start of the New Year. Yet, whatever happened to this being “the most wonderful time of the year?”

I propose a different kind of shift for 2021. Set your mind to have a restful holiday.

Now is the time to be proactive and make the coming weeks memorable and meaningful. What can you do to plan for a restful holiday instead of one that stresses you out and makes you count the days until it’s over?

What stresses you out?

If you want a restful holiday season, you’ll need to identify your triggers. What are the things that make it a very NOT restful holiday?

It could be lack of funds, lack of time, overwhelm at all there is to do. Think through holidays past: when did you want to hit the fast forward button and make it all disappear?

Once you identify some of the triggers that lead you to stress, you can brainstorm some solutions and get some plans in action.

array of decorated christmas cookies on a wire rack.

What’s the solution?

Does money cause you stress? Then set a holiday budget and set yourself up for following it. This might mean using only cash to limit what you spend or avoiding online shopping if you tend to click around more than the budget would allow.

Do you feel guilty for working too much and not spending time with your kids? Are you looking for ways to capture sweet memories with your kids? Then consider ways to play more games, read more books, and unplug a little more in the coming weeks.

Will cooking a big meal send you into a frenzy? How can you simplify your holiday meal? Do some freezer meal prep or plan easy crockpot recipes and take a load off.

How can you build more restful moments?

Have you been burning the candle at both ends? Does this mean that November and December will be more harried for you? Just say, “No.” Now.

Put margin into your life. Go to sleep earlier. Sleep a little later. Exercise. Drink lots of water. And prioritize. Even if you don’t do Self Care Sundays on a regular basis, carve out some space in your schedule to make it a priority now. It will contribute to a more restful holiday season.

Do family get-togethers hinder your restfulness during this time of year? Discuss this with your spouse now and problem-solve together.

Think of ways to relieve some of the stresses and make the holidays more enjoyable. Maybe you won’t make four stops on Christmas Eve and 2 more the next day. If staying home gives you peace, then this is the year to be peaceful!

Spend your days in ways that help you experience a restful holiday.

running water into a bubble bath in a white towel bathroom, there is a loofah and a scrub brush on the tile near the faucet, the sun is shining in.

Watch your inputs.

What are you listening to? Watching? Reading? These can all have a positive — or negative — effect on your peace of mind.

If your feed is full of expensive decor and fashion, angry politics, or influencers trying to sell you stuff, you won’t likely experience a restful holiday season.

Take a few minutes to unfollow or mute the accounts that don’t help you feel peaceful. If they aren’t helping you toward your goals, then they don’t deserve space in your feed.

Remember your limits.

You can’t do it all. And sometimes what sounds good in November has you pulling your hair out a few weeks later. Be okay with changing your plans and saying no so that you can have a restful holiday.

Be practical and revisit your goals. Is this restful? Is this memorable — in a good way? Is this meaningful?

If an activity doesn’t fit that criteria and can be avoided, well, I say, “Ditch it.”

Enough is as good as a feast. So says Ma Ingalls, and I agree. You don’t need to go overboard. Your cheery disposition will bless your family more than any sugarplums can.

Pray for help.

I know from experience that when I set off on plans and adventures, those plans and adventures have a much better way of turning out well if I’ve spent time praying and reflecting first. This isn’t because I’ve manipulated God. We can’t do that.

Instead, when I take my hopes and plans to God, He shows me the right way to go. He changes my desires to better fit me and my family. By His Spirit, He clues me into folly that might await me if I go “my” way. He can truly provide a restful holiday.

CS Lewis is quoted as saying, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time — waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God — it changes me.

Prayer is not about us getting what we want. It’s about God changing us to want what is good for us.

The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.

Proverbs 16:9
mountain lake with snow on the hill behind and fir trees.

This post was originally published on November 14, 2010. It has been updated for content, clarity, and a new decade.

snowman mug by christmas tree with its lights on with text overlay.

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12 Comments

  1. Thanks for the calming tips! This morning has been one of those mornings where I feel like my head wants to pop off 🙂 I love my boys dearly and know that there extreme fussiness is directly related staying up too late last night with our out of town guest. That and your post served as a great reminder that I need to PLAN for rest for not only the boys but myself so that we can truly enjoy the holiday season.

    1. @Abby, my 2yo is up between 4-5 every am since the time change. Realize I need to adjust since she won’t. Sleep!

  2. Every Thanksgiving evening I ask each family member for two things that are important for the holiday season, and I add two for me as well. I make sure those requests are done, and relax about everything else. It cam be surprising what family feels makes a great holiday season!

  3. I need to print out this and refer to it OFTEN over the next 6 weeks. Not only do we have Thanksgiving (with out of town guests) and Christmas, but we’ll be moving right in middle of them. Sheer craziness…

  4. Thanks for the reminder to plan ahead–I have a lot of plans in my head, but I really need to write them all out on the calendar–so that I can take stock of how realistic my goals are. And with my hubby’s PhD defense date still somewhat in the air but probably happening right before or right after Christmas, I need to be realistic and organized. Because his defense date will be closely followed by a move from Indiana to California. Yes, lots of busy-ness ahead…

  5. I love this! Stop and smell the roses… We’ll be making our holiday list this week. It’s important to me to make sure everyone has 2 (each) on the list. I overheard Hannah (12) wants to buy everyone a gift this year (instead of making the gifts). Sounds like someone needs to get a job, and it’s not me.

    🙂 Allie

  6. such a great reminder. “build in margin” – I think this needs to me my new saying 🙂