25 Ways to Slow Down and Actually Appreciate the Holidays


Christmas is coming. The goose is getting fat. Your hair is turning gray, you can't sleep, and your ulcers are constantly flaring up. If this sound like your typical holiday pre-show, it's time to start doing things differently. (See also: Stress-Free Holiday Giving)

Here are 25 ways to slow down and actually appreciate the holiday season with your family and friends.

1. Categorize Your Priorities

Deep down you know what you love most about the holidays and what you despise. On a sheet of paper, make two columns. List what you love on one side and what you hate on the other. Fold the sheet in half with the 'love' side showing and focus on those things only.

2. Sketch Out Your Perfect Celebration

Even if you are not a writer, take pen to paper and just freestyle your vision of the perfect holiday season. Jot down things and ideas that you'd like to see happen. By putting your thoughts into words it can be easier for you to turn your ideas into reality.

3. Budget Your Holiday Funds

Money is often a huge source of holiday stress, especially when there doesn't seem to be enough to go around. Figure out just how much you can afford to spend throughout the holiday season (don't even look at those credit cards!). When the funds run out, understand that is all you have to offer. Keep the budgeted number in your wallet so you can continually be reminded to watch you spending. (See also: How to Avoid Holiday Debt)

4. Shrink Your Gift List

Free up some money by shrinking your gift list. You'll have the extra perk of not having to shop till you drop to cover everyone on the list. Exchange names with adult family members and spend more on the kids. Tell co-workers and friends you'd rather opt out of gift-giving this year, so you can focus more on your family. Many in your circle will likely be relieved they too can cut back on spending.

5. Gather After the Fact

Buck tradition and hold the annual Christmas dinner with all your friends and family one or two days after the fact when nothing else is going on, and everything is already marked for clearance. Keep the actual day a quiet one with just family but really celebrate with everyone when you can get food, decorations, and gifts at a considerable discount.

6. Opt Out of the Madness

Most people are fully aware of the madness that goes on during the holiday season such as Black Friday shopping extravaganzas. For one year, commit to opting out of the intentional craziness if it is not something you actually enjoy. There is no shame in not getting every single 'bargain' being advertised.

7. Cybershop

Use the power of the Internet to find what you need. Save on gas and time by skipping the mall shopping altogether and having the goods come right to your house.

8. Buy Local

Stay close to home when doing the shopping. Change your way of thinking by seeking out gift ideas that are readily available from local businesses rather than hunting down items you think you need. Shopping local is a two-fold blessing. You can skip the endless traveling and keep money in your own community by keeping local businesses thriving.

9. Focus on the Kids

It can be hard to believe that the traditional favorite holiday of kids worldwide is the same holiday where grown adults literally throat punch each other for the last toy on the shelf. Work at getting into the mindset of your own children or the kids in your family. Make the holiday effort about making the kids happy and creating lasting memories for them.

10. Select a Central Location

For large families especially, it can be stressful to have to spend the entire holiday season in the car traveling to visit extended family and friends. Opt to go to just one or two places and make plans to meet as many people as possible in one central location. (See also: Ultimate Guide to Holiday Flying)

11. Freeze Your Menu

If you are hosting the family dinner, start preparing the meal early. Make what you can in advance and freeze it. Don't spend the entire day cooking and cleaning when you should be sitting down and laughing with your family.

12. Adopt Old School Traditions

Take some time to consider your own childhood during the holidays. It likely wasn't filled with the hustle and bustle and materialism that has become the focus these days. Look through your childhood photo albums and make a point of reviving some old school holiday traditions with your family.

13. Unplug Your Brain

When you are done with work for the holidays, unplug your devices and commit to spending time with actual people. Don't update your Facebook. Don't answer work emails. Don't get lost in the digital world like you do the other 364 days of the year.

14. Reset Your Expectations

There is so much influence about the holidays on TV, in magazines, and at your neighbor's house, it is just too easy to lose your way. Forget what everyone else is doing for the holidays and consider what you and your family want to do. There is no law that everyone has to celebrate a Martha Stewart Christmas. Keep your expectations in check and make the best of what you have within your family.

15. Stand Firm on 'No'

Over-committing yourself during the holidays can make it the most unpleasant time of the year. Don't be afraid to say 'no' to the things you don't have time to do or just don't want to do. Understand that not everyone else is going to be Zen this time of year and learn to be okay with enjoying some down time even if other people may feel let down.

16. Reach Out By Phone

When was the last time you had an honest-to-goodness phone chat with close friends or long distance relatives? Take some time to sit with a cup of hot chocolate and reach out to those you love by phone rather than email or text. Relive some of your favorite holiday memories with them to truly get into the holiday spirit.

17. Decorate for You

Deep down we may be a tad bit envious of the head of the Griswold household, but when it comes to decorating for the holidays, don't make it a competition. Do what you can afford to do where lights and trees are concerned. Going overboard for the sake of beating out your neighbors is pointless in the grand scheme of things. Unless a holiday decorating competition is your reason for the season, keep it simple. (See also: Stress-Free, Last-Minute Holiday Decorating)

18. Tune In for Holiday Specials

Print out the television schedule for the holiday movies you love most. Make a point to sit down with the whole family, bowls of popcorn, and low lights to enjoy the best Christmas movies ever made. It's a great way to stay connected to the family and relive a bit of Christmas past.

19. Write Daily Thank You Notes

When the day gets hectic, sit down at the kitchen table and write a thank you note. This is a good way to remember what actually matters. Whether you share the notes with your family or keep them private, it's a good way to stay in touch with what really matters in your life.

20. Create a Legacy

Go into the holiday with the intent of making it a holiday to remember. Make a point to take pictures and keep a journal with things that happened to make the holiday special. Create a scrapbook for yourself or as a gift for next year.

21. Host Story Time

Take time out to sit with the family and reminisce about Christmas past. Tell stories from your own childhood to recapture the Christmas spirit while slowing down to enjoy time spent with your loved ones.

22. Get Away from it All

For a true break, plan a holiday getaway with your family and forego the chaotic traditions of the holidays. Plan early so that all your family members or friends can join you and use gift funds for travel money rather than exchange presents.

23. Count Your Blessings

Take the time, especially during the holidays, to count your blessings and remember what you are grateful for every day of the year. This can help you gain some new perspective on what the holiday season should really be about.

24. Make Good Use of Time Off

Rather than sit back and wonder where your time off went, plan in advance how to use the extra few days off from work for the good of your family. Feeling accomplished after the holiday madness can do a lot of good going into a new year.

25. Get Some Sleep

With the holiday parties and midnight shopping, we often put sleep on the backburner. But a lack of sleep can catch up to you so make sure you get eight hours and take day or two to actually sleep in and veg out to recharge your batteries for a new year to come.

How do you slow down and appreciate the season?

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