The holidays are a super busy time. You’ve likely read that sentence in about a million articles. But it’s true. There are extra errands and extra tasks. And often there’s a lot of money being spent (and a lot of debt being incurred). Which can make the holidays needlessly stressful—and hamper our connection with our loved ones. Because everyone ends up being tired and cranky and resentful. Everyone ends up freaking out about what to buy and what to get. Which is the opposite of what we want and yearn for.

A big part of the holiday season is genuine connection. It’s savoring our loved ones’ company. It’s spending quality time together. These five ideas might help:

  • Choose a word for the season. Instead of setting resolutions, nowadays, many people pick one word to guide their actions and approach for the new year. You can do the same for the holiday season: As a family, sit down and select your own word to symbolize the holidays. Think about how you’d like to be and what you really want to focus on. Think about what’s truly important to you. Then have each person write down the word on a piece of paper or index card or in a notebook (which they also can decorate). Have them jot down what the word means to them. Then be sure to keep this word in mind as you’re navigating and savoring the holiday season.
  • Use your senses in a different way. This fantastic tip comes from Karen Benke in her book Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing. Finish these sentences: A star sounds like ________. A howl tastes like ________. A new idea feels like________. A circle smells like________. Mischief smells like________. The texture of turquoise feels ________.  Here are several stunning responses from kids to inspire you: “The smell of a circle is easy: It’s a combination of wet pavement and chalk.” “Turquoise feels smooth and cold and can’t wait to be unfolded and warmed up like yellow.” “Blue sounds like a crack a glacier makes or the earth’s heartbeat late at night.” You can do this exercise separately and then read your sentences aloud. Or you can generate your own sentences for your loved ones to complete. Or you can do something else entirely.
  • Make your gifts. Instead of spending hours upon hours in line or online, think about gifts you can make with your spouse or kids or parents or friends. Maybe you bake cookies or brownies to put in pretty tins (the Dollar Store has a great selection). Maybe you make cards or scrapbooks or sugar scrubs. Maybe you buy glass or cookie jars, which you fill with love notes, jotting down all the reasons you appreciate and adore the recipient.
  • Draw and doodle away. Designate one night a week as your time to draw as a family. Each person works on their own art project in their own sketchbook. Put out books for inspiration, such as old magazines or field guides on flowers and insects. This tip comes from Amanda Blake Soule in her book The Creative Family Manifesto: Encouraging Imagination and Nurturing Family Connections(You can read more tips in my recent piece.)
  • Use music as inspiration. Listen to Hanukkah or Christmas music as you draw what you hear—or draw what you feel. What do you picture when “White Christmas” is playing? What about when “Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah” comes on? And once you’re done drawing, dancing is always a good idea!

One of the best ways we can connect, and one of the best gifts we can give to each other is to use our imaginations. It’s to pause and put down the technology. It’s to slow down and consider if the things that are stressing us out are actually mandatory. Because if they’re not, then you’ve just freed up more time to dream and dance and invent and explore. Together.

Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash.