Surviving And Thriving in The Holiday Season

By Morgan Nichols

If you find the festive run up to Christmas, and the occasion itself, overwhelming or stressful, you are far from alone. And yet the overall message is that everyone is having a great time – and that there is something wrong with you if you have any other kinds of feelings about it. Especially if you are a sensitive introvert (like me) and find an overdose of “merriment” – mad big crowds and endless family dinners, oh, and did I mention board games – a bit of a struggle.


Accepting the way it is


The first thing about Christmas, for me, is accepting that it doesn’t necessarily look like it does for most of the people around me. I’m a single mom of one, alternating Christmases with my son’s dad, my parents live in another country, and my sister spends Christmas with her boyfriend’s family – in short, far from a traditional family set-up.  So Christmas is always a case of being a “waif and stray” tagged on to adopted (and generous!) families of one kind or another – for whom I am extremely grateful. For me, making my peace with the way the holiday season looks is important. This year it will be without my son; I will miss him but also get a chance to rest and restore.


Honouring our Natural Cycles


So, back to the stress that this time of year can entail. A big part of what makes this so challenging is that the hype, pressure and urgency are the complete opposite of what our bodies would naturally expect at this time of year. This is hibernation time. A time to rest, reflect and gather yourself in, rather than combing through busy shopping malls, helping at lots of school events, or making chit-chat at endless social gatherings. While it will probably be impossible to completely go with this hibernation thing, with a bit of commitment and determination you can build some quiet time in each day.


Instead of gearing ourselves up for a “great race” to the finish line of 31st December, and expecting ourselves to have it all sorted by then – New Year(s resolutions and all – we can settle into a gentler, more realistic and nurturing rhythm.


The Power of Receiving


So often, as busy mums, we are so focused on the next thing, thinking about what we are not managing to do – especially as, being so often interrupted, it can take ages to finish anything. This season is supposed to be about gratitude and generosity – but how much do we really let ourselves feel that, including towards ourselves?


I can be so hard on myself about not achieving all my goals in the time frame I envisioned for them, or for not finishing all my many projects YET. Every year at this time, I make some space to acknowledge all the harvests of the past year, including all the often unseen work: for example, last year I noticed I had been more accepting, connected and patient with my son and been kinder to myself. Taking some time to count your blessings and recognise your progress can help you to feel more abundant than frantic at this time.




As mums, we have an opportunity here to honour all our feelings and needs, and to model for our children a more sane way to approach this time of year. Here is how I approach the run-up to the festive period, and Christmas itself, in a way that focuses on being in the moment, relaxation and fun, and avoids unnecessary stress.


  • Taking care of my physical self. For me, this involves regular yoga and mindfulness practice, getting enough sleep, and not eating too much sugar (I know, I know!). For you, physical self-care may look different – maybe it’s going for a run, or having an Epsom salts bath (the Magnesium they contain is great for stress release)
  • Listening to what I really want to do and making some space for that. It’s no good going along with plans to the point of exhaustion or unhappiness, or over-spending when on a budget, so I try to tune into what is best for me and find a compromise with other family members and friends if necessary. Saying no and letting go of “shoulds”: a vital skill!
  • Letting go of the laptop and phone and finding time to play (whether that’s with my son when he’s here, or with others when he’s not!) This can be a chance to really connect with our children and loved ones, without the usual time pressures.


How about you? What blessings can you allow yourself to fully receive at this time of year? Where could you let go of expectations that are just too much? And what would you like to commit to for yourself, to keep the festive season as peaceful and nurturing as possible for you and your family?


Morgan is a writer, coach and group facilitator who has been working with mothers since 2008 – find out more at

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