Miscellaneous, Resource Guides

8 tips to beat holiday stress the eco-minimalist way

A huge thanks to this post’s sponsor: Cards Don’t Matter. All reviews and opinions are my own. 

The holidays are often stressful, but I’m here to tell you that they don’t have to be. In this post, I’m sharing eight tips for how to reduce holiday stress like an eco-minimalist. But first, if you’re new here or need a refresher, let’s take a look at what eco-minimalism is.

What is eco-minimalism?

If you’ve never heard of the term eco-minimalism, you may be wondering what it means. 

I like to think of eco-minimalism (or sustainable minimalism) as a good term for when you are environmentally conscious, but also feel pulled towards the “less is more” aspects of minimalism. Of course, this could be switched and you could enjoy the aspects of minimalism, but don’t feel good about throwing a bunch of perfectly good stuff away and want to do your part in being sustainable. 

Either way, you feel pulled on some level between these two lifestyles. So, instead of feeling like you have to choose one (or not feeling like you fit exclusively into one or the other), eco-minimalism is a good in-between. 

I have an entire post on eco-minimalism if you’d like to learn more. 

Additionally, I have an entire podcast episode if you’d rather listen! 

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s dive into holiday stress. 

Are holidays more stressful? 

I probably don’t need to say much for this question to be answered. I’m going to guess if you’re here, you find yourself dealing with holiday stress. That being said, to ensure you know you’re not alone, look at this statistic:

According to a 2015 Healthline survey, 44% of people say that they are stressed during the holidays, with more than 18% reporting that they’re “very stressed.” (source)

So, almost half of us wandering around the US are feeling stressed about the holiday season. And if you noticed, this survey was done in 2015. With the pandemic happening, I’m going to guess those stress levels have gone way up. 

Simply put, yes, the holidays can be very stressful. 

What causes holiday stress?

Several things contribute to holiday stress, but what triggers us is going to vary from person to person. That being said, here are a few of the most common holiday stressors:

  • The mental clutter of keeping track of so many things
  • Money
  • Gatherings with family
  • Family members
  • Too many events, commitments, and activities 
  • Activities that aren’t in line with values
  • Gifts 
  • Having a heavy heart
  • Overindulging in rich food and drinks
  • Not moving your body
  • Getting off of a normal routine
  • Weather

I think often, we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle that we don’t stop and think about all the things that could be causing us to be stressed and anxious.

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle that we don’t stop and think about the fact that it doesn’t have to be this way. 

How can holiday stress be reduced? Here are eight tips to help – the eco-minimalist way:

Plan ahead 

There is one thing that eco-minimalisms do when it comes to relieving some mental clutter, and that is plan ahead. But, being a parent myself, I know how things (ahem, holidays) can sneak up on you. (Yes, even knowing they come around the same time each year.) 

That being said, when it comes to doing things like sending/giving cards for birthdays and other holidays, there is a solution that makes the process quick, easy, and with SIGNIFICANTLY less mental clutter. 

Enter: Cards Don’t Matter

Cards Don’t Matter is, as you probably guessed, a card shop. But I guarantee it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. 

First, they’re only open four times a year. Yep. That’s it. 

The reason is that they want you to be able to pick out cards for at minimum the next three months, or up to a year. This reduces mental clutter and saves on a lot of resources from driving to the store the night before your friend’s birthday or a wedding. Additionally, by selecting more cards in advance and having them ship at once, you’re lessening your carbon emissions. 

Additionally, it prevents you from having to keep a stockpile of cards you may or may not use hanging around in a closet somewhere as clutter. Not that I’d know what that’s like (sarcasm). 

I may be able to imagine what you’re thinking right now:

“That sounds great but I have no idea what cards I need coming up next week, let alone the next three months.” 

Want to know how I knew that? Because I was thinking the same thing too. 

But have no fear, because the creators of Cards Don’t Matter have a solution. 

They created this super handy, FREE, printable card calendar that organizes everything you’ll need. That way, when the shop is open, you hop on and purchase the upcoming cards you may need. 

But it gets better. Much, much better. 

When you order a card, you have the option of notating who the card is for, and what month you need to send it out. This helps you organize the cards once you get them, making the mental energy needed so much less. They even have a fancy cardholder with date separators available if needed. 

When the cards arrived, they’re placed in little bands that have the month on them, making it super easy to keep track of!

Ok, so, they’ve pretty much laid out everything you need to stock up on all the cards you need for the next three months to a year and took out all the mental work needed, except for the fun part. Picking out the cards!

OMG. The cards are FUN. They’re adorable. They’re funny and cute. I had so much trouble picking out JUST what I needed! But, I remembered that I would have an opportunity to pick more next quarter when the shop opens again. 

Ok, but there’s still more. 

These cards? Besides looking amazing, they’re also eco-friendly! Yep. They’re made with recycled paper and come in a recyclable plastic sleeve (with plans to change this soon. They used to do compostable sleeves but found almost everyone was just throwing them away, defeating the purpose of them being compostable and still ending up in the landfill). 

They also order their materials in bulk, thus cutting down on the number of deliveries made for their supplies. 

But aside from the “green” definition of sustainability, they also view sustainability like I do, which is that it goes far beyond eco-friendly living. 

Cards Don’t Matter are committed to working towards anti-racism, and have committed to doing the work by creating an anti-racism statement, paying BIPOC educators and coaches for their education work, donate a portion of each sale to a BIPOC-centered org (at the time of this post it’s The Loveland Foundation which supports BIPOC mental health), and also provides the option for you to make an additional donation, and much more. 

They understand that we can’t beat the climate crisis without addressing environmental, racial, and social injustice too. 

You can read all about their commitment to sustainability here. 

Bottom line: Cards Don’t Matter takes the mental clutter and energy out of sending cards while allowing you to keep emissions down and avoid extra card clutter. They are an excellent example of planning ahead when it comes to reducing holiday stress (and year-round).

As someone on Instagram DM’d me: “There is literally no downside to this! I feel like there’s always a hitch with new sustainability ideas, but this one is totally filling a hole in my life I didn’t even know was there!”

Rethink gift-giving

It’s funny – gift-giving is so engrained in our society, yet, for many people, it’s a tradition they don’t want to continue. How many times do you hear:

 “I/they don’t need anything, we already have so much” (or some other version of that)?

 I hear it a lot. Or:

 “How can I tell [insert person here] that I don’t want to exchange gifts?”

I think that people are nervous about disrupting traditions, hurting people’s feelings, or afraid of how they’ll appear if they broach the topic of gifts. But I’m here to tell you that you may be surprised. 

The gift part can be a huge source of holiday stress. Money, buying the “perfect” gift, gift wrap, wrapping the gift…I could go on. All of that adds up to a lot of resources, emissions, and mental clutter. 

One of my top posts, year-round, is about how to gracious say “No gifts, please”. You can find that post here. 

If you still want to participate in gift-giving, that’s just fine! But consider non-physical items, and do “things” instead. They don’t even have to cost money. You can simply give the person a card (may I suggest Cards Don’t Matter), and give them a certificate with a fun activity, as an example. 

Get clear on your holiday values

Have you ever taken a moment and thought about what you truly enjoy about the holiday season? Not what is expected, not what is tradition, but what you actually enjoy doing. A lot of the holiday stress we experience comes from doing allllll the things whether we enjoy them or not. Our to-do list piles up, but not with things we enjoy. 

You don’t have to do ALLLLLLLL the holiday things. Truly, you don’t.

How can we fix that?

I suggest writing those things that you most look forward to about the holiday season down. Schedule them in. Treat them as actual events on the calendar. Prioritize them. Even if it is something vague like “laying on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket with a warm beverage, reading a book with some candles lit by the Christmas tree”. Put it on the calendar. 

Say no

I can hear you saying about the above tip: I don’t have time

Well, you had to know this was coming. You need to say no to some of the things that don’t matter. Remember all those things you scheduled on your calendar (the cozy Christmas tree time?), well, if you treat those as the commitments they are, if another thing comes up, you say no. 

“Oh, shoot, I have something already that day. Hope you guys have a great time!”

Nobody has to know what that commitment is but you.

Stick with a routine 

Holiday stress can creep up because we easily get off our routine. With more things on our to-do list, kids end of year events, and eventually winter break, our days feel very wacky. 

Sticking as close as possible to your daily routine can help reduce stress and anxiety; since anxiety especially thrives on consistency.

Move your body, drink lots of water, get some sleep, breathe, you know the drill. 

Have some self-compassion

This is my therapist’s favorite thing to say to me, but it holds true here. The vast majority of us are doing the best we can within the season of life we’re in. It’s OK if we get a little more takeout than usual (creating more waste than we’d like). It’s OK if we add on a little too much to our plate, and end up overwhelmed. 

When we know better, we do better, and can react accordingly. 

The best reaction is to show yourself some grace. 

I have an entire post on how to show yourself compassion (with actual examples) to help you with this. Because I know that it isn’t always easy. But it’s so important. 

Sustainable self-care

Oh, the most despised word: “self-care”. I can feel you rolling your eyes already. But hear me out. 

This isn’t a tip that suggests just “take more bubble baths”. Self-care goes far beyond that. 

Self-care is essentially many of the things I’ve already talked about (planning ahead, saying no, showing yourself compassion, scheduling in the things you enjoy, etc), but also simply being proactive in making sure your cup is filled. This is ESPECIALLY important as we are still in a pandemic and carrying around that base layer of stress. Adding in holiday stress is just another layer that we need to be aware of. 

I’ve got two posts on self-care:

The first is how to participate in self-care that fills up your cup in an eco-friendly way.

The second is how to make time for self-care.  

One more thing I’ll say about self-care: it’s important to remember that not everyone enjoys the holidays. For many, it’s a really hard time of year. If that’s you, or you know someone this applies to, know that you’re not alone, and it’s OK. I have a post on how to navigate (or help someone navigate) the holidays if you have a heavy heart. 

Don’t fall into the ‘happiness’ trap

Happiness is an emotion. Just like anger, sadness, anxiety, etc. Emotions are fleeting. They’re not meant to stick with us permanently. They ebb and flow. Happiness is NO exception. 

Yet during the holiday season, we’re constantly bombarded with “cheer”, “joy”, “have a holly, jolly, Christmas”, or “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”. 

This is on top of the already unrealistic push our society gives us to constantly be happy. Or, tells us that we need x, y, z, or look a certain way, or, or, or….the list goes on and on. 

It’s when we compare ourselves to these unrealistic standards or buy into the idea that we need to buy our way to happiness, that we feel like we’ve failed. We wonder what’s wrong with us. 

I’m here to tell you: there’s NOTHING wrong with you. You’re a human being with flowing emotions. That’s how it’s supposed to be. 

Help kick that everyday stress (turned holiday stress during this time of year) to the curb by reminding yourself that it’s ok if you’re not happy 24/7. And that you’re normal if you feel other emotions. 

It’s not that there is something wrong with you, it’s that our society stinks at sitting with negative, yet normal, emotions. 

Final thoughts on beating holiday stress

Being an eco-minimalist isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to this time of the year. But incorporating some of these tips can help keep you on track towards reducing the amount of holiday stress in your life. Live with less, so you can have more of what you truly want. 

Want to learn how to adopt a reduction based lifestyle (through mindfulness, minimalism, anxiety management, and zero waste living but not sure where to start?

Take the quiz and find out!

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