Reclaim Christmas: 10 Ways to Simplify


 by Sophia AgtarapMinister of Online Engagement | @sophiakris


What’s not to love about the holiday season?  People are a little more generous, your favorite coffee shop has its seasonal drink selection ready and there are enough gatherings to fill your social calendar. The commercials are running on TV, new floor sets in stores are up, piquing the interests of passersby.  We're already being inundated with holiday gift guides and reviews for the newest gadgets in our inboxes, which means links to Amazon wish lists will soon follow.
Before you start to feel the stress of the holiday rush, take a minute to learn how you might make this season a little less frenetic and a little more joyful. Check out these 10 ways to simplify your Christmas. If there’s something we missed, add it in the comment section. We’d love to hear from you!
1. Card writing for the family. If sending cards is a big deal in your household, make it a family affair. Get everyone involved in the process, from addressing and stamping the envelopes to drawing pictures and writing the message.
2. Be realistic. There’s something in the air this time of year that turns us into super men and women. Or at least makes us think we are. One way to avoid the stress this season is to be realistic about what we can and can’t accomplish. Quit telling yourself “if only I had more time...” and give yourself permission to say “No, thank you. Not this time.”
3. Be mindful. Whether you call it quiet time, meditation, prayer or you simply practice silence, try starting and ending your day with 15 minutes of focused time just for you. Make it a part of your daily routine and you’ll notice the change in your overall well being.
4. Sleep. Get enough. Sleep too much and you can feel lethargic. Sleep too little and you get cranky. Try establishing routines before bed that allow your body to wind down and turn your brain off. In other words, no eating, exercising or watching television right before bed. For reals.
5. Practice presence. What does that mean? It means be present. Literally. Having a meal with someone? Put the phone away. Going for a walk? Stop thinking about the next thing on your to-do list and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells around you. Allow yourself to be fully immersed in the moment.
6. Clean out the closet. Pretty sure you didn’t finish going through your house for some spring cleaning last April. Now’s your chance. Gather the gently used items around the home and bring them over to your local Salvation Army, Goodwill or non-profit organization so someone else can enjoy them! If you have kids in the house, it also offers an excellent opportunity to talk about sharing resources and giving generously.
7. Eat! Sure, this is the time of year when folks are worried about gaining a few extra pounds and when exercise routines become more infrequent. But it’s also a time when more people find time to gather together over a cup of cocoa or a shared meal. Find those moments to reconnect with friends and family. And the person selling the paper who you pass by every day? Perhaps invite her to breakfast one morning. It may just be the blessing you’ve been waiting for.
8. Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. You’re probably wondering why it gets its own number on this list. It’s because it’s that good. Join the Peanuts gang as they reflect on the true meaning of Christmas amidst the gift giving, card sending and tree decorating that has become central to the Christmas celebration. It’ll be a memorable 25 minutes you’ll spend this season.
9. Don’t gift just for the sake of giving. You've made your lists. You've made sure there’s something for everyone because, well, you don’t want your uncle’s second cousin to feel left out at the family gathering. Pause. Right. There. Why do you feel the need to give everyone you know a gift? Reevaluate why that is and consider another way to celebrate and honor that relationship. Put the fruitcake back.
10. Treat. Yo. Self. Borrowing a line from NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” we suggest you treat yo self. Don’t go breaking the bank or anything, but don’t forget to spend some time on you. Maybe that means an afternoon at a coffee shop reading a book by yourself, or a massage, or a pedicure or taking a class to learn that thing you've always wanted to do. Replenish that inner well so you can get through the season stress-free.
See how many of these tips you can try. If you think of a few more, let us know!
Sophia Agtarap serves as Minister of Online Engagement for Rethink Church with United Methodist Communications, and is a candidate for deacon in the United Methodist Church through the Pacific Northwest Conference. She spends lots of time musing and crafting stories of and for the church over a good cup of coffee. She also blogs at