More Joy, Less Stress This Holiday Season

By Ashley Marlow, Lower and Middle school counselor

A popular holiday song poses the lyric, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Yet, with the pressure that many feel to create a Pinterest-worthy holiday for their family, it can actually end up being the most stressful time of the year.  

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy” and sometimes social media steals our joy. People might feel like they aren’t doing enough as they see holiday greetings with perfect family photos, elaborate recipes and decorated spaces, and postings about amazing trips and experiences. As you witness this, it is easy to lose sight of the goal of holiday celebrations. 

What if we made it our goal to focus on doing less and enjoying more? Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Ask yourself: “What do I hope to remember about this experience? What do I hope my family remembers about this holiday season?”
  • Striving for perfection doesn’t benefit anyone; it only creates unnecessary stress. Unless you’re participating in a neighborhood contest, there aren’t blue ribbons for having an immaculate house and impressive decorations. The “perfect” results might not be worth the cost of your time and energy.
  • Try not to worry about how things should be or feel obligated to repeat last year’s traditions if it causes significant angst and sleep loss. 
  • Discuss as a family what traditions are most important and reflective of your values.
  • Involve every member of the family so that everyone can take ownership and connect through various holiday activities.

The Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo asks the question, “Does this spark joy?” This applies not only to our belongings but also to what we give of our time and energy. Stress tends to bring out our less-than-best selves, and if we only focus on checking things off our to-do list, we probably aren’t aware of how that impacts our interactions with others. 

Self-care is important. Try to prioritize sleeping, exercising and asking for help when needed. This is critical to your own well-being, as well as modeling healthy coping skills for your children. The busyness of the holidays can often cause children to experience sensory overload, so amid all the festivities, plan some downtime for everyone to rest and recharge. Think about the things that bring you and your family joy—if an activity is likely to cause more stress than enjoyment, then perhaps it’s not worth doing this year.

Life can be messy and the best stories often evolve from when things did not go perfectly. So what if you forgot to add sugar to the holiday cookies or the overcooked latkes set off the smoke alarm? Being able to laugh about mistakes and mishaps is one of the great joys in life, especially when you can share that experience as a family.

Ashley Marlow
Ashley Marlow

Lower and Middle School Counselor

Ashley Marlow was born in California but grew up in New Jersey. Attending an all-girls school from Grades 9 through 12 gave her the opportunity to appreciate the value of an independent school and an environment that can develop the leaders of the future. Ms. Marlow returned to the West Coast for college and received her Bachelor of Arts in communications from Pepperdine University. She studied abroad in Florence in her sophomore year and consequently loves all things Italian. Initially, Ms. Marlow planned to work in the entertainment industry as a casting director but later realized that career would not give her a sense of purpose. Instead, she wanted to help guide people toward their passions and goals.

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