Simplify the Season

If the holidays bring too much stress and not enough joy, maybe it’s time to
try a simpler approach. Life coach and author, Connie Sokol, shares simple
tips to create a meaningful, memorable holiday season.

Remember what you received last year from Uncle Bob or Aunt Lulu? Or gave
them? Maybe not. And that’s good news, because this year you can! With a
few simple tips, you and I can create a Christmas worth remembering.

Simplify traditions. As a woman, I unwittingly allow myself to be
ruled by the Holiday Must-do Minutae of “but we have to have hollyhocks on
the door by December 1st” as if some rabid reindeer will attack otherwise. By
choosing a few simple traditions—not all of them—we keep the joy and avoid
the frazzle. As a family, decide on three or four must-haves—doing Sub for
Santa, seeing the lights at Temple Square, etc.—then rotate others through
the next season. Do a family newsletter every other year and instead, send a
photo postcard. Try a potluck Christmas Eve dinner—do the ham and let
everyone pitch in the rest. Or combine serving with other families. Our
neighbors have organized a group giving to replace neighbor gifts and are
celebrating with a party—that’s my kind of tradition. Author James Scott Bell
shares that to write well first go over-the-top in description and plot points,
then pull back 25 percent to make it just right. It’s a good life principle.
Likely, we’ve all done the over-the-top Christmas—too much and too
stressed. Try pulling back by a quarter and enjoy the new breathing room.

Say no. Kindly, lovingly, but firmly say, “I wish we could, but we
won’t be able to this year.” If needed, practice in the mirror. The holidays can
bring on the guilt because it’s a time of serving—but serving includes your
own family. Evaluate your particular situation and adjust accordingly. This
year, respond to opportunities with a silent question: “Will this create a
meaningful Christmas for my family?” If not, say, “Try us next year,” because
next year might be different for you and your family.

This year I’m pregnant with my seventh child. At age 45. Even when I attempt
to move quickly, it’s slow—as in, sloth slow. Trying to keep the same
schedule would not be pretty. So this year we’re not doing the 12 days of
Christmas but we are doing Secret Santa on Christmas Eve. We’re not doing
fifteen different food drives—but we’re doing a few. As a family we’re still
serving but it’s notched down to match our increased family situation, and
I’m thrilled for the holidays because of it. And, most importantly, saying no
to some structured things leaves room for seeing the real-time needs of
others in daily life, allowing us to serve in the moment without racing
through a line-up of events.

Create a Memory Maker. Forego gifts this year and perhaps take a
family trip, or combine it with a service vacation. Several friends travel to
Tijuana or Guatemala and build homes for impoverished people. One friend
shared, “Each year, we have gone thinking of the good we’ll do. Each year we
leave having received more than we could ever give. We see kindness,
happiness, and patience from people who live in plywood, pallet, and
corrugated metal homes. They are not strangers anymore, they have become
our neighbors and friends. The increased closeness, the refocusing of
priorities, and the love for humankind we’ve gained is a miracle.” And
memory-making doesn’t have to involve travel. We’re doing a family history-
centered Christmas—discovering who our ancestors are and involving related
activities to create deeper bonds with not only them, but each other.

Give one of these tips a try to avoid the rush-rush and enjoy the hush-hush
of a more meaningful Christmas this year!

Find 12 days of Christmas freebies and discounts, including free
motivational podcasts, on Connie’s website at

Connie Sokol is the mother of six—expecting her seventh—and a presenter,
former TV and radio host, and author of several books, including Faithful, Fit
& Fabulous. For podcasts, tips, columns and products, visit

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