Whole9’s Holiday Simplicity Guide

As we checked out at the grocery store at 2 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving, a cacophony of holiday-themed magazines screamed out at us in ALL CAPS: Drop 33 Pounds by Christmas! Sneaky Causes of Fall Tiredness! Create This Unique Crudite Plate! 77 Brilliant Holiday Entertaining Ideas! Holiday Heels That Dazzle! 20 Crafty Gifts Under $20! Wow Everyone: Holiday Hair!

So, let me get this straight…between now and Christmas, I’m supposed to lose more than a pound a day, produce a gorgeous updo, hand-make everyone’s presents, construct a vegetable platter shaped like a turkey for my perfect holiday party (or two), and do it all brilliantly in 3″ strappy stilettos… without spilling the gravy?

We think we might have an idea what those “sneaky causes of fall tiredness” could be. We’re exhausted just reading all of that.

Don’t get us wrong, we think this time of year can be wonderful. But it also can get ridiculously stressful. Not only are there all the “expected” things to do, like attending office parties, making costumes for the kids’ holiday recital, and buying and wrapping gifts, but some of us put expectations on ourselves to take it up a notch. Or five. Thanks, Pinterest.

So this year, instead of getting caught up in all of the “stuff,” we’d like you to give yourself permission to leave your hair down, kick off those heels, make a veggie platter shaped like, well…a plate full of veggies, and just enjoy the true experiences that only this season can bring.

With that in mind, we present to you the Whole9 Holiday Simplicity Guide.

Whole9’s Holiday Simplicity Guide

Right now the interwebs are blowing up with Gift Guides and Favorite Thing lists packed with the latest trends, gadgets and must-have’s… but if you’ve spent any time around here, you know that’s not really our style. The Whole9 Holiday Simplicity Guide is an experiment in distilling the essence of the season, of living simply but fully, and of getting what you want out of what can be a truly magical time of year.

Follow these three steps and get that much closer to finding a little more peace on (your) earth during the holidays.

Step 1: Define your reason for the season

It is very easy to fall into the Holiday Tradition Trap – even though you only have 15 spare minutes and one frazzled nerve left, you must continue making the traditional ten dozen (gluten-free) gingerbread cookies like a good little toy soldier based on the perceived urging of your ancestors (or your own gnawing holiday guilt). But remember this, friends: The season shouldn’t make you – it is up to you to make the season.

The first and easiest way to simplify this time of year is to take stock of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Whether you celebrate Hanukah, Christmas, Festivus, or something else, we urge you to ask yourself these three questions:

What does this time of year really mean to you? Is it an opportunity to celebrate your religion? Do you relish the chance to give back to those less fortunate? Do you love that this the one time of year that all of your family is actually together in one place? Write down your reasons for the season and rank them in order of importance.

What are your favorite memories of holidays past? What are the experiences that stand out the most and give you legitimate warm fuzzies? Write those down, too.

What things cause you the most stress this time of year? Is risking your life on your ice-covered roof to put up 1,000 twinkly lights the last thing you want to do right now? Do you dread the annual holiday office party? Is your budget super-tight right now, making it difficult to buy a gift for each of your fifteen co-workers? Again, write those things down, and decide what creates more stress than good.

Step 2: Decide what to keep and what to skip

In this study (titled The ‘Merry Christmas Coronary’ and ‘Happy New Year Heart Attack’ Phenomenon), the researchers posit that the reason one-third of all heart disease deaths occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is “emotional stress of the holidays, overindulgence during the holiday season, or both.” (They’re not the only ones who think so: check out similar research here.)

So now that you’ve identified your reason for the season, have your list of holiday activities and traditions that you love, and your list of those that cause the most stress, take some time and evaluate:

What you want to keep, what you need to keep, and what you can cross off for good. Ideally, your “keepers” should fit these criteria:

They are deeply meaningful.
They enhance your holiday in a positive way.
They cause little, if any, “net” stress.*

*Sure, buying presents for all the kids in your family can be stressful, but if that stress is totally wiped out by the joy and rewarding feelings you get from watching them gleefully tear into their presents on Christmas morning, this may be a net gain for you.

Step 3: Declare your holiday independence

We’ll admit, cutting some stress-inducing activities and traditions from your seasonal to-do list might make you happier, but it could cause a problem with your family or friends. What if simplifying the season was a group effort, instead of an individual exercise? Don’t be afraid to get your whole family involved in deciding what is most meaningful this time of year.

Vocalize what you’re doing and why to those closest to you.

If there is a spot of contention with someone, point them to this article and have them go through Step One on their own.

Afterward, sit down and compare your lists. Take this opportunity to share what the holidays mean to you, and really listen to your family and friends, to understand what they mean to them.

Create some new traditions together as a family, to keep the season as meaningful, enriching, and stress-free as possible for everyone.

This holiday season, we hope that you eat well, laugh often, sing loud, make snow angels, deck the halls, string the lights, stuff the stockings, light the candles, and send out cards…or don’t. This holiday season is what you make of it – and as long as your loved ones are kept close, and the spirit of the season honored, your holidays will always be a time to cherish.

Have you simplified your holiday season? Share your strategies for keeping it meaningful, enriching, and stress-free in comments.

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  1. says

    This is great advice. With a new baby and a 3 year old, we definitely wanted to make the holiday season fun and meaningful, so we sat down together and made a “Holiday Fun List” on Thanksgiving weekend of things we wanted to do over the next 6 weeks. It’s been great so far, to really focus on what was important to us. Here’s our list:

    Things we skipped: company holiday party (and craziness trying to find a sitter), traveling anywhere, lots of trips to the mall.

    I think we’re going to make this an annual family tradition!

  2. says

    Pamela, glad you liked it!

    ARC, love that idea, especially doing it as a family. Thanks for sharing that.

    Before we went gift-free four years ago, my family did a $10 limit for all Christmas presents. This forced people to be creative (making CDs or creating photo albums), or scoring a sweet discount on something awesome. We all love to shop, but the financial stress can be a b****. So this was a great compromise.


  3. says

    Not sure if it is simplyfiying or not, but I guess it is! Since I host Christmas Day and that happens to be the last day of my Whole30 my entire meal will be Whole30 approved so I can have everything.

    I have severe food allergies too. and do not eat any processed foods. Last Christmas I was so frazzled that once I had all the food out I realized I did not make anything that I could eat! This year I will do a simple, but nice, whole30 meal for everyone and cater to myself instead of everyone else for a change ;) They will get the benefits of healthy food too!

  4. says

    Lisa/Run Fast Mama: Love this idea! We always bring dishes we can enjoy to holidays or family gatherings, although luckily our families are on board with our way of eating at this point. So happy your holidays will be food-stress-free this year.


  5. says

    I love all of this advice. It is too easy to get caught up in the more, more, more of the holidays and miss sight of the real rewards: time with loved ones and rest.
    We just cancelled a Christmas activity for this weekend so we could have more down time and sleep. I know it will help us enjoy the rest of the festivities that much more.

  6. says

    This was a natural progression for me too this year. I did my Whole30 in July with a lot of soul searching about how I want to live my life. Really, truly appreciating the joys of the season instead of running around like a crazy woman is one change I made. Since my daughter just got married and is starting her own traditions I thought it would be a good time to make the shift. Everyone was on board. I am looking forward to the rest of the year without any anxiety.