Ways to Relax Into the Holidays Without Abandoning Yourself

If I think too long about this particular topic, it is not likely I’ll ever risk the vulnerability to write about it. Ways to relax into the holidays? So many nuances and implications! Let’s face it. Panic and worry seem to be built into American cultural holiday traditions. Ya know?

If you aren’t freaking out about decorations or merry making at least a little, are you even awake or trying to make things nice? This seems to be the absurd yet common messaging that surfaces in mid-November for my little corner of the world.

Add to that the pressures so many folks feel trying to balance the score after the pandemic! People are more keenly aware of lost time and want to celebrate bigger since previous 2020s holidays may have included despair.

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What has influenced my opinions about easing overwhelm, managing stress, and actionable relief strategies?

Christmas red cottage in snowy woods - Candycanesandsnowflakes54. #cozychristmas #christmascottage #redcottage #snowywoods
via – Relax into the holidays with these ideas for less stressing.

My expert training as a therapist is probably less influential than my utterly human journeying. Journeying with uncertainty, pain, anxiety, despair, stress, and the struggle that shapes my life.

Fanciful Christmas cake decorated with edible pinecones, holly, and boughs - AVeryMerryChristmasWorld on Tumblr. #christmasbaking #christmascake
AVeryMerryChristmasWorld – Relax into the holidays with these ideas for less stressing.

If you’re new to the blog, my entire adult life has been colored by chronic illness. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 18, my young life turned upside down. I enjoyed several remissions in my 20s and 30s. Then a BRCA2+ genetic mutation diagnosis came in my 40s along with EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency) in my early 50s.

Cozy Christmas image with hand holding small snow globe with tiny tree @ChristmasXmas. #cozychristmas #snowglobes #wintervibes
Christmas Xmas – Relax into the holidays with these ideas for less stressing.

Moving through problems and stress is an issue for every single one of us, and for me, successful navigation critically determines whether I can avoid hospitalization.

Beautiful white cow - @farmhouselove.tumblr. #wintercozy #farmanimals
Farmhouse Touches – Relax into the holidays with these ideas for less stressing.

You certainly need not have a history of autoimmune disease, daily pain, or poor health to understand the delicate mind-body relationship.

Beautiful reindeer with sleigh on country path in snowy woods - via Farmhouse Touches. #cozychristmas #snowywoods #reindeer
Farmhouse Touches – Relax into the holidays with these ideas for less stressing.

So let’s explore a sliver of the stressful season and somehow, somehow, seek the grace and the self-kindness to unhook from the unseen, underlying stresses that keep us from the goodness of a holy thing. I’ll mostly be addressing holiday decorating, but a lot of these ideas are relevant to other stress.

White natural European inspired Christmas decor on fireplace and mantel with joy wreath and stockings - Hello Lovely Studio. #christmasdecor #christmasfireplace #scandichristmas #frenchchristmas
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Ways to Relax Into the Holidays Without Abandoning Yourself

BTW. It aint the most wonderful time of the year for everyone:

1. Decorate When & How You Wish

A lot of people put up Christmas trees early this year to lengthen what feels like the cozy season.

7.5’ Belgium Fir “Natural Look” Artificial Christmas Tree with 550 Clear LED Lights
Our Belgian Fir prelit tree – Relax into the holidays with these ideas for less stressing.

But neither the twinkling decorations on social media or acquaintances proclaiming they are gold medalists in hall decking are the boss of you.

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Social media is not the boss of you either.

BE FREE. Liberate yourself from the pressure to decorate at a certain time in a particular way. Your mental health comes first, and you deserve to live free. (Psst. Free looks good on you.)

Inspiring quote from Anne Lamott - come be calmed by How to Freak Less About Holidays, Decorating and Gifts as well as Entertaining. #quotes #annlamott
…but not Christmas lights, Anne.

2. Drop the Facade That Christmas Decorating is a Breeze

Remember 2020? It was a real ssssshhhhhhow for our family and maybe yours, yes? Even getting our tree lit was tragic. The lights on the bottom half would not come on, and my husband refused to give up. It sounds commendable or comical. But as the hours slipped away, his mind did too. He worked into the night with the electrical work. Those lights never came on, and when he bought string lights the next day, they clashed with the existing working ones.

It looked…well then, those elevens we get above the bridge of our noses from a particular expression? Ours were deeper after all of that nonsense.

Cozy Christmas mug of hot cocoa with marshmallows, red and white stripe straw and candy canes - Happy Wife Life on Tumblr. #cozychristmas #hotcocoa #wintervibes
Happy Wife Life

If Christmas or holiday decorating is truly easy for you, have at it. But if it isn’t, there is no need to add stress by pretending it is easy. There was an era when for whatever reason, I behaved as if my worth hinged on making all domestic goddess things requiring strength, patience, stamina, and skill look easy. What a trap! Good lord, it was all the conditioning and messages absorbed growing up such as “never let ’em see you sweat.” Who is served by such deception?

As a blogger, the pressure is ever ON to make things look easy so others will feel empowered and excited to at least try the thing.

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So I am maybe more sensitive to the pressure to make things look easy. But since everyone and their great granny is now plugged into the internet and regularly exposed to impossible standards, I am guessing self-imposed pressure exists for non-bloggers too.

If you love the process and effort all the things demand (decorations, holiday baking, charity work, parties, and gift buying), what a blessing. But all of those messages floating around urging us to ENJOY THE PROCESS? Um. Those messages may only increase stress, cognitive dissonance, emotional meltdowns, and desire to numb with substances or unhealthy behaviors.

You don’t have to conceal your efforts. I’m through with concealing mine! You don’t have to pretend hard holiday things or life things or relationship things are not hard. You can also choose to skip the hard. If you do execute the things, only do them in a spirit of self-love. After, you can say, “____ demanded a ton of time and cost me a few headaches, but I’m glad I did it.”

Funny Christmas quote on Hello Lovely Studio. #christmashumor #holidayquote #funnyquotes #humorquotes

3. Holiday Decorating & Traditions Should Reflect YOU

I love handmade and vintage things so if I were to shop online and buy the latest new trending Christmasy accents to impress or please guests to our home and my blog, it wouldn’t feel right. And I could easily justify such a strategy for marketing.

Stress comes when we say yes to things even when we feel the no in our gut. Search your heart and your values for the look and feel of the sort of holidays you want to enjoy. How do you wish your days and life to feel? That is an entirely different question than “How do you wish to be viewed by others,” yes?

Now that we are all less connected physically but more in touch virtually, the distinction becomes more important. Our lives are often on display for consumption. So just a reminder that taking the time to self-reflect and assess how you want your life to feel is important.

The answers will guide you in a healthier way than if you move through your life with an always comparing, self-conscious, reactive stance.

So are there some shortcuts if you want to decorate but not lose your mind? Yep.

Gingerbread cupcakes decorated for holidays - AllThingsChristmasandWinter. #cozychristmas #christmasbaking #gingerbread
All Things Christmas and Winter

Decorate With Food

Think about decorating with sweets. You don’t need to be a master baker or spend hours watching youTubes. A beautiful, festive, bakery or grocery store cake, a platter of gingerbread cookies, or even a pretty bowl of pears can be MAGIC. You already understand how a simple wreath or fresh flowers on the table add cheer, but a gorgeous centerpiece you can eat (or not!)?

French country white Christmas decor in a historic living room in Spain - El Mueble. #christmasdecor #whitechristmas #frenchcountry #holidaydecorating
See more of this lovely holiday home HERE…certainly a vision of holiday magic.

Simply genius.

Funny quote and life humor on Hello Lovely Studio. #funnyquotes #humorquote #sillyquotes

I’m partial to decorating with citrus, pears, and white roses during the holidays. I love how bosc pears look with garland on a mantel or in a small rustic bowl.

White Christmas decor in a modern French dining room with white roses and fresh greenery - Pamela Pierce for Milieu magazine. #christmasdecor #frenchcountry #elegantchristmasdecor
Photo: Peter Vitale for Milieu – Pamela Pierce Christmas decorated dining room.

If you’re not crazy about gingerbread house making, you might consider baking or buying cookies to decorate a Christmas tree.

Sweet and petite simple gingerbread house cottage upon a jadeite cake pedestal - Design Improvised. #gingerbreadhouse #christmasdiy #holidaybaking
Design Improvised…certainly a festive simple centerpiece indeed.

The bonus is, decorating with food brings delight to more than one sense…smells so yummy. Just a thought, but building a candy house like this:

Chocolate bar candy gingerbread house with Kitkat and Hershey - MyCupcakeAddiction. #gingerbreadhouses #christmasbaking #candyhouses #chocolatehouses #chocolatelovers #holidaybaking #holidaycrafts
My Cupcake Addiction

could be a fun activity…especially since I am guessing the house’s construction could be disastrous! And imagine the laughter and deliciousness that may ensue!

Ingredients for chocolate bar candy gingerbread house by My Cupcake Addiction. #gingerbreadhouses #chocolatehouses #candyhouses #holidaybaking #holidaytreats

4. Scrawny Trees & Wonky Trees Can Be Lovely

Your tree can reflect whatever mood you’re after. I like the no-fuss of an artificial tree because I know myself, and cleaning up needles makes me edgy. Little trees are beautiful on a tabletop or tucked in a rustic crate.

Swedish Christmas tree in a gorgeous vintage planter in a white on white Nordic French room by My Petite Maison. Come be calmed by How to Freak Less About Holidays, Decorating and Gifts as well as Entertaining.
My Petite Maison…certainly a simple Scandi Christmas vignette indeed.

What I’m thinking about for next year? A potted tree placed in an urn or pretty box so that after Christmas, it can be planted and keep growing. More research is necessary, but don’t you think the idea is magical?

Nordic French Christmas decor in a living room with sheer curtains and all white decor - My Petite Maison. #frenchnordicchristmas #scandichristmas #swedishchristmas
My Petite Maison

See what I mean about doing the holidays the way your heart wants to do them?

Little Christmas Tree Options Here

Serene white bench and mirror with winter holiday decor - Hello Lovely Studio. Come be calmed by How to Freak Less About Holidays, Decorating and Gifts as well as Entertaining.
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5. Choose to Downsize the Tinsel Territory

If you are in the more is more because it’s more beautiful camp, this may not appeal. But it’s okay to whittle down the holiday to-do list (and your stress) by decking only a little. Maybe just have a decorated tree or just decorate the porch.

Farmhouse Christmas decor and vintage holiday decorations from Trove Vintage at Vintage Bliss in Beloit. Come be calmed by How to Freak Less About Holidays, Decorating and Gifts as well as Entertaining. #holidaydecor #vintagechristmas #farmhousechristmas
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Make just one room or corner sparkle. Think that addressing just a small area is a waste?

Beautiful holiday greenery on a white fireplace - Monika Hibbs. #holidaydecor #fireplace #garland
Monika Hibbs…certainly a charming holiday mantelscape indeed!

Because I don’t find these moments a waste…

Beautiful faux evergreen garland on white brick holiday fireplace - Francoi et Moi. #fireplace #manteslcape #holidaydecor #garland
Francois et Moi…in case you admire lush holiday greenery and garlands.

and even without a fireplace, the moment you create could be a staircase

Beautiful and romantic holiday decorated fireplace - Anthropologie. #holidaydecor #fireplace #christmasdecor
Find this gorgeous Primrose Mirror in Gold here at Anthropologie.

or a shelf.

Romantic and rustic fireplace with greenery and candles - Happywedd. #fireplacedecor #romanticdecor
Happywedd…in case you admire rustic decay and weathering finishes!

6. Light Candles & Relax In Their Ambiance

If your holiday decorating stress comes from being the one responsible for creating the magical backdrop for memories, think candles.

Beautiful natural and rustic country French farmhouse Christmas tablescape. #holidaytable #frenchcountry #frenchchristmas #christmasdecor
Boxwood Avenue…in case you love farmhouse Christmas decorated tables.

Did you know that lighting candles can eliminate the need for hours of housework?

Simple and natural holiday tablescape - Zevjoy. Come be calmed by How to Freak Less About Holidays, Decorating and Gifts as well as Entertaining.  #holidaydecor #holidaytable #tablescape #frenchcountry
Zevjoy…certainly an inspiring holiday tablescape with gold.

If you’re entertaining, skip the deep clean until after the party…turn the lights low and light those candles everywhere, you relaxed maker of magic!

Here are the votives I reach for and sprinkle around my place.

Royal Imports Votive Candles Bulk Set of 36. Come be calmed by How to Freak Less About Holidays, Decorating and Gifts as well as Entertaining.
votives – How to Freak Less About Holidays, Decorating and Gifts as well as Entertaining.

7. Ease Shopping Stress With a Theme

It keeps me organized when I come up with a theme for gifts. Even a broad category such as ‘gourmet gifts’ or ‘custom photo gifts’ can simplify the shopping. Need inexpensive ideas?

Is this the PERFECT one size fits all GIFT for every human on your list?

8. Set a Deadline for Shopping

Get it out of the way. Let’s face it, stocking and shipping issues still exist.

Funny Christmas quote on Hello Lovely Studio. #christmashumor #holidayquote #funnyquotes #humorquotes

I always feel better if I finish my shopping in November and only wrap gifts when I am feeling calm.

Funny Christmas quote on Hello Lovely Studio. #christmashumor #holidayquote #funnyquotes #humorquotes

9. The Host Isn’t Required to Cook or Bake

Host the Christmas get-together, but skip cooking the meal without apologies. Maybe order Mexican from your favorite restaurant. If you’re feelin’ saucy, add little holiday flourishes (stud guacamole with pomegranate seeds).

Lovely simple and white Swedish and Scandi Christmas placesetting for a white Christmas -from ljo-s blog.
Ljo-s…certainly a delicious and simple Christmas placesetting.

For an easy dessert and no baking, buy a plain cheesecake from your favorite restaurant or bakery. Buy a few topping options, and everyone can enjoy their favorite.

Funny Christmas quote on Hello Lovely Studio. #christmashumor #holidayquote #funnyquotes #humorquotes

Serve just one signature drink like a margarita or holiday mocktail instead of stocking a bar.

Delicious cocktail or mocktail idea for Thanksgiving with apples and cranberries - sangria recipe from Delish. #sangria #thanksgivingrecipes #thanksgivingmenu #applecranberry
Apple Cranberry Sangria RECIPE – Delish…certainly a festive holiday drink to make!

I hope these reflections, images of Christmas cozy, and silly quotes bring a little relaxation to the season.

But I mean.

Even freakouts can be endearing and slightly festive:

I independently selected products in this post—if you buy from one of my links, I may earn a commission.

Peace to you right where you are.

-michele

Shop for items you already intended to buy on Amazon RIGHT HERE, and also find home decor here to keep decor inspiration flowing on Hello Lovely!

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6 Comments

  1. Alison
    December 9, 2022 / 3:40 pm

    Timely words indeed. I would add to accept shop bought is OK and that you don’t need to make everything. I used to just about give myself a breakdown with a cooking and baking frenzy but learnt my lesson. My life is crazy busy and stressful as I look after a person with rapidly advancing dementia, work full time from home and run a household so I had to let something go. Christmas in the past two years has been a much subdued event but nonetheless enjoyable.

    • Michele
      Author
      December 9, 2022 / 8:52 pm

      YES indeed. Letting things go such as making things from scratch allows us to give ourselves to something else. Wishing you lavish grace this holiday season as you manage your responsibilities and attend to all the things. May the season be gentle and wondrous and may blessings yet unknown find their way to you and yours.

  2. Amy
    December 11, 2022 / 11:44 pm

    I love all your Christmas thoughts shared here!! Your journeying has brought with it great wisdom and I thank you for sharing it with us! I’ve a daughter who has been on a similar health journey the last 2 years so I do hear ya! I’m praying your holidays are free of any type of flare-ups …except for cozy around the fire ones! We had a VERY similar tree lights situation like your’s just last year so I hear ya on that one too! So was pleasantly surprised this year when only 3 strands of lights that I thankfully found @ the store recently multiplied and become ENOUGH (with the trick of not putting them around the back porch f the tree where they wouldn’t show anyway!!) And they haven’t gone out yet!! 🙌🏼LITTLE touches here and there truly are enough when you don’t want to spend a lot of time decorating now OR putting up later. Some years less is just right while other years more can be fun! We don’t have to do the same things every year & that’s a nice discovery!! Candles and fires can go a long way in creating the cozy factor @ night or in the early morning while gazing @ the lit tree and thanking God for His many blessings & praying for the challenges we and others face during this Holy season. Thanks for always pointing us to the simple things in life that bring great joy & peace!

    • Michele
      Author
      December 12, 2022 / 4:57 pm

      Thank you for being here and seeing and hearing me with such tenderness, Amy. I hope those lights you found bring you lots of sparkle this season. Winter is so hard for me – I don’t mind the cold anymore as far as mentally/emotionally, but my body just responds violently to changes in temperature and barometric pressure. The last few days have been brutal for me all because of such fluctuation! I am leaning into grace, into faith that tells me He has gone before me, has prepared a path so I can move through this and all circumstances with assurance. Emmanuel. What a blessing. 🙂

  3. Amy
    December 12, 2022 / 10:44 pm

    Praying for you friend, that the temp fluctuations and the serious ways it affects your body will subside soon & that God’s grace will be sufficient in the midst of it all! He HAS prepared a path for you…praying He will sustain you on it and carry you when needed! HE IS ABLE!! 🙏🏼🙌🏼

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Round French Tufted Ottoman
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Slipcovered Linen Chair
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Round Farmhouse Dining Table
Reclaimed Wood Dresser
Louis Upholstered Bench
Pardon My French Doormat
Stripe Turkish Towel Throw
Pamela Arm Chair
Sweater Weave Basket
French Carved Wood Chandelier
Terracotta Pots & Basket
French Country Wood Chandelier
French Linen Dining Chair
Gustavian Cabinet
French Farmhouse Dining Table
Bar Stool
Beachy White Slipcovered Sofa
Rattan Armchair
Diptyque Oyedo Candle
Cross Back Dining Chair
French Country Candle Holder
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Designer Favorite Wall Mirror
Holborn Lantern Pendant
French Country 6-Light Chandelier
Tray Side Table
French Country Upholstered Arm Chair
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Jute Area Rug
Mohair Throw
Rustic Industrial Farmhouse Shelves
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Rustic Wood Candlestick Set
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Linen Modern Wing Chair
French Country Farmhouse Baskets
Concrete Pillar Table Lamp
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White Charleston Sofa
Scrubbed Wood 5-Light Chandelier
Arched Champagne Wall Mirror
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