A Reminder: You Don’t Have To Do It All This Holiday Season

What if I told you, you don’t have to do it all this holiday season?

Depending on the type of person you are, you might nod in agreement or roll your eyes. Either way, the majority of you will say, “Yeah, BUT…”

But it is the holidays.

But I need to make it magical.

But it is tradition.

Here’s the thing: You do not need to maintain traditions that no longer bring you joy. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed for months, it is time to let go of that stress. Do less. In doing so, you may actually recapture the joy of the season.

My family and I have never been ones to try to do all the things. I have always cherished my downtime. Still, for many years we felt like there were some things we had to do simply because they were traditions. We would try to squeeze it all in, feeling rushed and harried, snapping pictures with forced smiles as proof we were doing it all. But we weren’t enjoying it. It wasn’t fun. It didn’t make me merry. I wasn’t feeling festive, I was frazzled.

The things that should have been fun had been sucked dry; all that was left was stress.

That is not how the holidays should feel.

I was obviously doing it wrong but, looking around, I only saw people doing even more than me: elaborate decorations, hours spent constructing gingerbread houses, caroling walks, special visits with Santa, elves that come to life and create mischief each night or elves that leave gifts and sweet notes or elves that encourage acts of kindness (the point is, these people have elves that do something every night).

The whole season had gotten so out-of-hand that I began to dread it. Parties and grab-bags, buying and wrapping, light-seeing and letters to Santa and the incessant, “What do you want? What’s on your wishlist? What is Santa bringing you?” coming at my kids from every direction. The non-stop messages to buy more, want more.

More. More. More.

And the influx of stuff. I struggled with this so much. I still do. Gift-giving is such a generous act. I am always grateful and flattered to be thought of, remembered. But it often feels like holiday gift exchanges are out of a sense of obligation or expectation. Many times it seems like gifts are given simply for the sake of checking a name off a list, with little thought behind it.

I know I’ve found myself grabbing last-minute gifts, just to have something to hand someone. It wasn’t that I wanted to give a meaningless gift, I had simply run out of time and energy.

At first, I thought that if we weren’t doing it all, I was failing.

I thought my husband wanted to do all these things. I thought our extended family and friends expected us to do all these things. I thought the kids needed me to do all these things to make their holidays magical.

Elizabeth Joyce
Elizabeth Joycehttp://about.me/WriterElizabethJoyce
Elizabeth Joyce is an essayist, poet, and author. Her new book, tumbling: poetic thoughts from an anxious mind, is available now! In her eclectic collection of online and print works, Elizabeth shares her truths as a cancer survivor, mom via IVF/FET & gestational surrogacy, anxiety struggler, family historian, budget traveler, and simple, ordinary life enthusiast. She lives in Illinois with her husband, son, and twin daughters. Find out more at about.me/WriterElizabethJoyce and follow her on social media: @WriterElizabethJoyce. 

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