A Present Holiday

A Present Holiday

I am a dreamer and a planner.

I love thinking about the future and imagining all of the things I will do and accomplish. This is super helpful when it comes to growing a business or tackling a big project, but it’s a double-edged sword. It can also cause me to put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself.

I find this to be especially true during the holiday season. There are so many things that I want to do! I want this to be a really special time for my family, and I want to make sure we are creating traditions and making memories that they will cherish. I also want to give everyone gifts they will LOVE. Maybe you can relate.

So, what is an idealist like me to do? How do we live up to our own holiday expectations while staying sane and actually enjoying ourselves in the process?

I think we start by eliminating unrealistic or demanding expectations. Too often, we succumb to what we think we should be doing. We stress over what we think our families need to have or do to be happy. I think we need to let go of our sense of obligation. We need to ask ourselves, what do I really want? What is most important this holiday season?

For me, this meant letting go of Elf on the Shelf! I know myself, and I knew the pressure of figuring out something cute for the elf to do each day would end up stressing me out. So, we’re just not doing it. (Disclaimer: I know some families love Elf on the Shelf, and it’s a big part of their Christmas season. If you love it and it brings joy, absolutely keep it going!)

Instead, we’re doing a paper advent chain. Every day, we write a prayer for someone on a paper strip and add it to the chain. It’s super simple, and requires no daily planning, but has a pretty wonderful visual result! The chains are a meaningful way for us to brighten up our home together, and provide a visual reminder of what’s truly important during the holiday season. *Special thanks to my fabulous friend Megan for this idea.

Another thing I let go of was the feeling that I had to go all-out with Christmas decor. This year, we kept it simple: a tree with our most special ornaments, stockings, a small nativity scene and our paper advent chain. That’s it. I’m learning to enjoy the beauty of simplicity, and the cool thing is, people have walked into my house and said “Oh my gosh! I love your Christmas decor!” Sometimes less really is more.


Heading into this Christmas season, I made two intentional decisions about what I really wanted. First, to make a few really special memories with my kids, and second, to give the people on my list one or two things that they will truly love.

My four year old is very excited about Santa this year, so we had a couple of our closest friends over, made cookies and wrote letters to Santa. It was so simple! We used a boxed cookie mix and Christmas-shaped cookie cutters. We wrote the letters on plain, regular paper. I didn’t have to buy anything fancy, but the kids absolutely loved it, and we thought it was hilarious to hear them think out loud about what they wanted to put on their lists.

Inviting friends to join was a creative way to spend time with people we care about during the holidays, and it kept me accountable to actually putting my idea into action.

For gift buying, I spent some time intentionally planning and researching thoughtful and unique gifts for the special people in my life. I found some amazing ideas that really helped make my Christmas shopping fast and fun! And the best part? I put my favorite finds into a colorful, 10-page PDF (with links!) that I want to share with you!

Check out the complete gift guide here.

I promise it will cut your gift buying stress way down!


Last, but not least, I think it’s helpful to reflect back on last year. What stressed you out? What stole a little bit of joy from your holiday experience?

My good friend Shanna said that all of the cooking and cleaning last Christmas Eve was a bit much, so this year, they’re going to their favorite Mexican restaurant for Christmas Eve dinner! I love it! For me, it was the wrapping. I waited until the last minute to finish wrapping and wasn’t able to be as present as I should have been on Christmas Eve. This year, I’ve invited a couple of close friends over for a wrapping night—Christmas music, hot cocoa and checking the wrapping off of our lists!


Want to incorporate a few new holiday traditions and experiences this year? Looking to cut stress and boost joy during your holidays?
Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Do something with JUST your significant other or best friend—even if you have kids! (See an old Christmas movie at a theater, go to a holiday symphony show, stroll through a Christmas lights display, etc.)
  • Do a donation advent! Each day, select one item to donate to those in need. This has the added benefit of helping you de-clutter!
  • Plan a “Polar Express” night! Pick a night and surprise your kids after dinner, change into pajamas, fix or pick up hot chocolate and drive to neighboring towns to look at lights!
  • Do a “stocking stuffer” run. This works for adults and kids alike. Couples can head to Target or a similar store with a pre-approved budget and time limit. The goal is to fill each other’s stockings without going over the budget or allotted time. The dollar store is a great option if you are getting kids in on the fun.
  • Choose “memory ornaments”! Go shopping together and have each family member pick one ornament that represents something significant that happened to them this year. Write down why it was picked and share with each other when hanging on the tree. Keep the list of reasons why they bought each one to look back on years later.
  • Set yourself a shopping deadline! It’s easy for the month to race by, and this helps you avoid a situation where you are still scrambling for gifts two days before the big day. Still need gift ideas? You can find amazing options HERE!


I’d love to hear from you! How are you making the most of this special time of year while also keeping your stress levels low?



  • Jill Allen
    Posted at 22:47h, 07 December Reply

    Replacing a stressful activity or obligation with something positive is life changing. Compromise is key.

  • YaYa
    Posted at 08:44h, 09 December Reply

    I love this so much!!!!

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