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Presence Over Presents: 4 Ways to be More Present This Holiday Season

Maybe it was the stint in retail during college. Maybe it was our daughter’s first Christmas when we barely had enough money to DIY gifts for the whole family. Whatever the event that triggered my disdain for all things holiday shopping, it’s stuck with me over the years. 

I don’t want to go out on Thanksgiving Day to get a great deal on an Instant Pot. I want to eat a second serving of chocolate bourbon pecan pie with my family and to watch “White Christmas” snuggled under a cozy blanket! 

I could go rounds with the Black Friday die hards on the pros and cons of “getting the great deal.” But no matter which camp you’re in, I think we can all agree: what matters most during the holiday season is our PRESENCE, not the PRESENTS. 

As cliche as it is, you’re less likely to remember the year you got that killer deal on the toaster oven for Aunt Shirley than you are to remember the time you sat around the Thanksgiving dinner table playing “Cards Against Humanity” with your grandmother and she threw down the “Your Mom” card like a boss. 

So here are my best tips for being more present this holiday season.

holiday self-care

1. Create space for yourself 

This is a practice that should apply year round, but with all of the “busy” during the holidays, slowing down to take even just 15 minutes for yourself in the morning will help your mental state in a major way.

My best tip: 

I wake up 30 minutes to an hour before the rest of my family every day so I can sit down and meditate. And no, I’m no guru! I use guided meditations from my handy dandy app called Headspace. And yes, I did buy a year-long membership ON SALE last January! I love a good deal, too, my Black Friday die hards! 

If it’s a devotional and prayer time for you, get it gurl! If it’s journaling, high fives! If it’s a long walk in the crisp fall air, I feel you in a major way, sista! However you get it done, just take time for yourself.  

2. Not every moment needs to be “insta worthy”

You guys, this tip is coming from a woman who is building a business ONLINE. I get it! You wanna share your adorable children in their matching PJs! I do too! But are you sacrificing the memory for the moment? 

My best tip:

Create a window of time EVERY DAY in which you’re putting your phone out of reach. And I don’t mean just setting it on the coffee table! Lord knows the second a notification pops up you’re gonna find yourself in a never-ending scroll of Instagram. Am I right? 

Put it by the front door. Put it on the charger in your bedroom. Just get it out of sight. Cuz out of sight = out of mind (trying to stay really good and cliche for you all in this post!). For me, that means from 5:00 pm until my girls are in bed at night, and it’s been HARD, but has forced me into being more present at night.

3. The “want, need, wear, read” gift-giving guide

holiday bedroom makeover

Our kids are spoiled! They have four sets of grandparents (#productofdivorceyall) living in the SAME TOWN as us. They want for NOTHING and I am grateful beyond measure. But we need absolutely ZERO more toys cluttering up our already cluttered home! Ya feel me? 

My best tip:

My husband and I have implemented the “Something you want. Something you need. Something to wear. And something to read.” guideline for Christmas in our family, and it’s been the most freeing experience ever. We’re not just mindlessly scooping up “things” to go under the tree, we’re intentionally thinking through memorable gift experiences for our girls. 

Last year it was a bedroom makeover as “something you need,” and I will forever treasure the memory of the two of them walking into that bedroom on Christmas Eve. It was like the hokey pokey…THAT is what it’s all about! 

4. Set good boundaries for yourself 

Remember how I said we have 4 sets of grandparents living in the same town as us? Yeah….about that. It makes for a really tricky holiday season, friends. And not because we don’t enjoy spending time with all of the family—we love our family! But the first Thanksgiving my husband and I spent together ended in us eating 4 different meals and belly aches and tears (the tears were mine, obvi!). 

We were simply “doing our duty” (no, that’s what happened AFTER eating 4 meals, HA!). But really, we weren’t “present” for any of the gatherings because we were watching the clock so we could skadoodle out the door and onto the next stop on our tour. We vowed we’d NEVER do it again. And for the most part, we’ve done a darn good job. 

My best tip: 

Spread out the holiday cheer! Just because it’s “Thanksgiving Day” or “Christmas Day” doesn’t mean it’s the only time you can celebrate. Create a new “Christmas-Eve Eve” tradition, or spend the week between Christmas and New Years in a vegged out stay-cation status with the people you love most. 

Trying to be everything for everyone during the holidays will make you cranky. And when you’re cranky, your entire family is cranky. Who are you doing it for? Certainly not your kids! They’d rather stay at home and play with the boxes and wrapping paper all their expensive toys just came out of. STOP SAYING YES! And get creative with alternative ideas.

Bonus tip:

Have a holiday buddy and a “safe word.” The holidays are not an excuse for you to be subjected to your a-hole of an uncle who always says something rude and offensive. YOU ARE NOT A DOORMAT! If someone is inflicting HARM, whether verbally or emotionally (AND ESPECIALLY PHYSICALLY!!!), get the hell out of there. I don’t care if it leaves your mom in tears, you get out of there pronto, girlfriend! 

If you know you’re headed into hot waters, plan your work, and work your plan (HA! I knew I could fit one more cliche saying in this post before all was said and done!). Whether it’s your partner, or a best friend, have someone with you who can help either diffuse the situation or help you create a quick exit. If the excuse is your kids, it’s one-million-percent okay during the holiday season. One. Million. Percent. 

I wish you the happiest of merry holiday seasons, mamas! Remember the reason for the season (got one more in there, BOOM!). Your presence always matters most for your family! Whether it’s Christmas, or a random Tuesday night, show up for the people who matter most, including yourself. And find a Tuesday in January you can swing by and spend a little extra time with your grandma. It’ll mean even more to her then, I’ll bet my Black Friday 50% off coupon on it!

What are your best tips for staying sane during the holiday season? Share them in the comments! 

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2 Responses to Presence Over Presents: 4 Ways to be More Present This Holiday Season

  1. Angannette Smith
    Angannette Smith November 13, 2018 at 9:12 am #

    This post is fantastic. I love every thing about it!

    • Sam Franzen
      Sam Franzen November 18, 2018 at 10:17 am #

      Yay! I’m so glad you appreciated it. The holidays can be HARD! And we mamas need all the help we can get finding that happy in between of “showing up for everyone else” and “showing up for ourselves”!