3 Ways to Shut Down Overscheduling and Reclaim the Holidays

It happens every single year.

The holidays creep up on you, and you swear that this year will be different. That this year you won’t be stressed. That this year, you’ll slow down and make the holidays enjoyable for once.

But then, family starts calling.

“When are you coming to our house? How do you want to do Christmas? What are we doing for dinner?”

If both you and your partner have families in the same city, the holidays can quickly go from relaxing and enjoyable to stressful and overwhelming.

So how do you combat it? How do you manage to enjoy the holidays and still make sure that you see everybody and spend time with all the people that you love? Here are 3 ways to reclaim your holidays:

Be Realistic

As much as you like to think that you’re supermom or superdad, you can’t be multiple places at once. You can’t do everything or attend all the things, so stop trying. Approach the holidays with a sense of realism.

We love to try and make the holidays as memorable as possible for our kids, but we know that no matter how hard we try, there are just going to be some things that our kids don’t get to do, and that’s okay. They’ll survive.

You decide what is important to you and your family, and then unapologetically stick to that.

Establish Traditions

Every family has holiday traditions. Some people order Chinese food on Christmas Eve. Some go caroling, or open all the presents the night before Christmas, or put their tree up on November 1st.

Our family has a few traditions that we stick to. We’re constantly developing new ones, but there are a couple that are untouchable, and when we realize that, it takes a lot of stress off of us. It makes deciding what to do and when to do it a whole lot easier.

Every year, the weekend after Thanksgiving, we go out and get a tree. We go with the same people, to the same lot, and we eat at the same restaurant when we’re done. We wear way too many layers, spend way too much money on a tree, and cram all 12 of us into a tiny burger tavern out in the Oregon country– and it’s honestly one of the best parts of my holiday.  

My sister hosts Christmas Eve every year. Everybody is invited, so it can feel a bit chaotic, but it also takes a lot of the stress out of having to decide which set of parents gets invites to which gathering.

Make Time For You

Christmas morning is our time.

My parents instilled this tradition in me from a very early age. No matter what else we were doing on Christmas Day, the morning was just for our family.

We might be going out to eat later, or going to a movie, or going to be with friends or family, but the morning belonged to us. We woke up way too early, stayed in our pajamas, opened presents, made cinnamon rolls and ate until we thought we were going to explode.

We’ve continued that tradition with our kids.

We have the grandparents over, we spend the afternoon with other family members, but Christmas morning is ours and ours alone. We wake up whenever we wake up, and we are generous with our laziness. We don’t have anybody over or go anywhere before 11.

The holidays can be stressful. They’re full of competing priorities and family members and traditions. But if you simply institute a few ground rules as a family, you can take control of the holidays and finally enjoy them again.

Stephen Carter is a writer, husband, father, & friend. He lives in Portland with his wife Rachel, and 3 beautiful girls, Avery, Rylee, & Hattie. When he’s not reading or writing, he enjoys a local micro-brew, or a strong cup of coffee. He is passionate about literature, theology, justice, Daniel Day-Lewis movies, U2 records (but with strong reservations about No Line on the Horizon), and believes that the right words can change the world. He can be found on: Twitter: @stephenedwardc

Related articles