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How to Prevent Holiday Burnout before it Starts

  • Ruthie Gray Contributing Writer
  • Updated Dec 15, 2017
How to Prevent Holiday Burnout before it Starts

I don't know about you, but my palms start sweating with a simple glance at my December calendar.

Hosting friends and family, shopping, cleaning, cooking, baking, not to mention enjoying traditions such as The Nutcracker with my girls, are on tap.

And then there are what I call the "BLEH details".

Doctor appointments, grocery shopping, and tooth flossing.

Is it just me or does tooth flossing seem like a giant waste of time?  I hate doing it.  I'm sorry.  I do it, I just hate it.


Before we all get heart palpitations over the frantic holiday pace, here’s an idea for slowing down to savor the season.  

My secret to enjoying December

Last December I started a new habit—something that worked so well, I plan to keep the tradition.

As a mom of four, I stick with simple—and this is so simple, anyone can do it!  Here’s how to prevent holiday burnout before it starts.

        1. Grab a journal or notebook

Try to use one that you won’t lose so you can keep it for reference in the coming years!  Don’t think too hard about it though—swipe one of the kid’s unused composition notebooks if you have to.

        2. Write "December want-to's" on one sheet and "December have-to's" on the other. 

Map out traditions you want to establish, Good traditions don't just "happen" without forethought!  Getting it all down on paper will help organize your calendar and plan accordingly. Get clear on what you want to do this season. Keeping Christmas Simple; how to plan intentional family activities is a short read that will help.  Select a simple Advent devotional to reflect on the meaning of the season.

        3. On the following pages, write down each date in December with 3-4 spaces underneath each day.

This is how you’ll be able to see where you have time and where you don’t.

        4. Pencil in mandatory appointments and upcoming events

Don’t forget doctor’s appointments, school programs, and visits to grandma’s house.  

        5. On the next page, jot down January prep

We tend to forget that there is life after December because we’re so caught up in the holiday hustle.  But if we don’t plan for January and there are deadlines on the docket, we’ll enjoy the season even less!

        6. Fill in a tentative plan for each day

Now, it’s time to return to the dates and spaces and record what needs to happen.  After you see it on paper, pencil in some of those activities you really want to experience with your family.  This method gives a clear look at how much time you really have and exactly where you can fit in extra activities.

        7.  Pray about it

The older I get, the more I learn I am just beating the air with my fists when I don't include God in my plans - even the small ones!  Before I start each day, I stop to pray over my list.  (I don’t always succeed at this – but it’s a goal of mine!)

If you do these 7 steps - even breaking them up into 7 nights - you will be ahead of the game! You will feel a sense of relief, having put thought into your Christmas activities. 

My December "want to's" may not look like yours. I want to bake Christmas cookies and deliver them to the neighbors, complete with caroling ala the fam. I want to finish my crafting projects for gifting.  I want to complete my shopping next week, wrap gifts, and most of all, I want to be like Mary and ponder the message of Christmas in my heart.

You probably want to spend time focusing on Christ and savoring the season too, right?  Here's the thing -

It will not happen unless we plan it.

There was a time in life when I didn't savor the Christmas season. The busy-ness of parenting left me wanting in the spiritual department. What's more - some years I didn't even try.

I just wanted to corral my kids through the holidays as best I could. And so, my devotional life suffered while I served in church and ran Christmas programs for our Christian school.

Sound familiar? I thought so. But this year could be different. This could be the year you lower your standards and grasp hold of something small, bite-sized, and doable. 

This could be the year you worship

Henry David Thoreau said, "You cannot kill time without injuring eternity".

The choices we make today will show themselves later.

Because while it's easy to rush headlong into the day, I find myself retracing my steps and wasting time. You see, it's much better to take time to plan and reflect on what needs done.

And I think that's exactly what Mary did after the shepherds made their animated entrance.

But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. (Luke 2:19-20)

When we pause to reflect, we allow the Spirit to speak. Let’s take time to ponder, like Mary, the wonder of our personal God.  A God of the impossible.  A God Who notices the smallest faithful gestures.  A God Who wants to bring joy to a mama’s heart – like yours; like mine.

Take time to catch your breath this season.  God expects way less of us than we think.  What He really desires of us this Christmas isn't acts of service - it's our attention.

And attention = reflection on the wonder of our Savior.


Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/Kerkez

Ruthie Gray is a wife, Gigi, and mom of four (who lived to tell about it).  Ruthie’s passion is mentoring moms to capture joy, providing weekly parenting advice through humor and practical application of Scripture at Ruthie Gray.Mom.  Ruthie is co-contributor of the mom app, Daily TruthBytes4Moms, the author of Stepping Stones; 8 Mindsets for the mom who thinks she’s failing at motherhood, and  Count to Nine; 9 Liberating Steps for Mom Frustration and Anger.  Click to download her Wife and Mommy Survival Kit here.