by Jonathan Pishner

No matter what set of holidays you celebrate, the winter holiday season was originally meant to be a time of celebration and rest.  But for many people today, it’s a time of stress, anxiety, and frustration

Do you struggle with juggling the holiday task list, and sometimes just wish you could go to sleep and the Holidays would be over?

I’d like to share an important reminder about holidays that it’s easy to forget.

The shared point of most holidays, and especially all those from Thanksgiving to New Years, is to:

  1. take time to nurture and deepen your relationships and;
  2. rest during the winter season.


Yet how quickly do we forget this and get caught up by our massive to-do list?

So if the point of the holidays is to rest, and to deepen our relationships, I’d like to suggest a few things that can help you accomplish that.


First, give yourself permission to do less.

What is the main way people wreck their mental health during holidays?

They add so damn much to their list that it is completely impossible to do it all.

This is especially true if you are an adult, who is married or has children. Between large families, extended families, step-families, work, friends, church, and other social networks, it ends up being multiple Christmas dinners, multiple New Years parties, etc. You might be invited to ten, twenty, or more events over the holiday season. There is NO WAY to do it all.

Remember, the holidays are about rest, not about accomplishing the longest to-do list possible.  There’s no trophy for the person who goes to the most parties or buys the most presents.


Secondly, give yourself permission to “pick and choose.” If you have multiple events in a day, it is okay to just pick ONE! You can try to make it to all of them, but there are only two ways to do that: violate the laws of physics and be in two places at once; or just stop in for a few minutes at each.

If you try to do 30 minutes here and 45 minutes there, nobody is getting anything out of it. You are not enjoying yourself or deepening your relationships. You are just half present, waiting to go to your next thing. And all they see of you is a stressed out person obviously watching the clock.

Holidays are about strengthening relationships, not dropping in for a few minutes on the most events you can.

And you can do both.  It’s okay to do less, AND pick and choose what you do.

Many people don’t do this because they’re worried about offending someone.

Remember, holidays are about deepening relationships.  If you are really worried about hurting someone’s feelings, have a conversation with them. Talk to them, tell them you love them, but it’s too much for you this year. Often, instead of enduring the two minutes of discomfort to talk about it, people will just skip that step and try to do everything.

When you do this, the Holidays become not about deepening your relationships with people, but about checking off all the items on an imaginary list. If you are doing the list, you are missing the two points of the holiday season. If you doing nothing but checking the boxes, it is likely that you aren’t resting AND you are missing the point of the holidays altogether.


The final permission that I want you to give yourself is about gifts.  Many people forget this, but it’s ok to be very inexpensive with your gift giving. Many people destroy their finances over the Holidays because they feel that they need to get a gift that is X amount of dollars or a certain level of “nice” (i.e.: “expensive”).

The point of any holiday gift tradition is not to create crippling debt for yourself. The point is to take time to do something nice for someone.

If you have tons of money to spend, and you want to spend it on gifts, go for it!

But if you can’t afford much, then it’s okay to do something that only takes your time and effort.  Your gift doesn’t have to come from the mall.  Bake someone cookies, help them move a couch, babysit their child.  You can find for free, on the internet, list after list of ways to give gifts that cost zero dollars.

The point is to show love and caring to someone that matters.  Not to buy the most expensive toys.


Remember the basic reasons for any winter holiday traditions.  All of them center around taking time to rest, be grateful, to reconnect with family and friends, to express love and generosity.  They are a time to intentionally be happy.  If you end up doing so much that you feel worse than when you started, maybe you’re doing too much.

If that’s what’s happening, it is ok to do a little less.