Simple on Purpose | Intentional Living and Parenting

Simple on Purpose | Intentional Living and Parenting

174. Christmas hygge ideas + understanding how the window of tolerance impacts your stress in motherhood

December 20, 2022

With all the planning, gift wrapping, baking, and decorating, this time of year can get crazy, and life seems to just stop until the 25th is well behind us. Today I wanted to talk about the concept of Hygge and how to make Christmas feel a little simpler, a little more manageable, and a little more enjoyable. And put this all against the backdrop of the stress response we can find ourselves in as mothers. Understanding the concept of the Window of Tolerance can give you more awareness over times when you feel little capacity for daily life and seem to run on overwhelm and stress. 

In this episode I discuss: 

  • The three components of Hygge
  • Holiday activities and how to get the family involved
  • Decluttering Christmas
  • Our Window of Tolerance 


All the fun links you might enjoy 


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Welcome to the simple on purpose podcast. Around here we talk about ways that you can simplify your home, your heart and your life. So that you can remove all the distractions, all of the clutter, all of the excess, and just show up for the stuff that really matters the most to you the stuff that is really important to you. So as I was preparing for the podcast this week, I was drafting up a podcast on goals and visions and creating a future you love. And then I was like, if I heard this right now in the middle of Christmas, I don’t think I would even be listening to it. Because like kind of just stops around Christmas, right? Which I don’t mind. I really love the idea of hibernating a little. I think it really honors this season that we’re in we when we can step back from that pace of summer and spring and kind of pay attention to what nature is doing and model it a little bit flow with it and let ourselves hibernate a little bit more. So there’s my soapbox moment, let’s all hibernate a little bit more this winter.

Which brings me to the notion of Hygge I’m probably going to use the word ‘hoo-ga’ nd ‘hyg’ interchangeably, but it is pronounced hygge. You guys are asking me about it right now you want me to talk about this. So here we go. In December, I often talk about simplifying your Christmas. But all of that content is out there. I am going to link to the simple Christmas series in the show notes, where I talk about simplifying gift giving traditions, giving kids toys without feeling overrun with clutter, how to make your gifts more thoughtful, all those basics, they’re covered. So I thought I would just expand into a different direction on things that help you feel like your Christmas is simpler and cozier and maybe more manageable, more enjoyable.

So the first thing we’ll talk about is hygge, which is a Danish word that doesn’t have any direct English translation and it just embodies this atmosphere of simplicity, of being cozy of being with others togetherness and of contentment.

I think we’ve all seen especially on Pinterest, the stock images of a woman she’s like draped on her white couch or her white bed. She’s got a long white knit sweater on cozy Christmas socks. I don’t know, do her legs get cold, I don’t know. Mind read. She’s holding a mug of tea and there’s a fluffy blanket like draped around her.

And that’s what they tell us who got is we might not think of a mum in her like old decade old house code and slippers, drinking her magnesium water at the end of the night, sitting on the couch, watching a Netflix show with subtitles on it listening to the dryer in the basement. It’s not as trendy right. And that’s the thing is, hygge isn’t decor trend. It’s more of an approach and approach to living. And I think it’s an approach we naturally gravitate towards in winter. When we kind of want to nest inside we want to slow down we want to recharge we want to, I don’t know, enjoy some simple indulgences and just be with our people.

And hygge can be a really great filter to help you do that. So let’s talk about kind of the three components. One is getting cozy, slowing down, getting cozy, making your space cozy, making yourself cozy. The second one is connectedness, making time to connect with the people around you. Maybe even doing activities that make you feel connected and contentment. Doing simple things. Don’t overcomplicate it don’t feel like you have to do every craft on your Pinterest Christmas craft board.

This is an approach that I heard about, I don’t know, eight or nine years ago, and I decided I’m doing like that way. That’s how I want to do life, which I think appeals to most type nines and I’m a type nine on the Enneagram if that feels relatable to you. Welcome fellow Type nines. Over the years I’ve written just a few posts on hygge because I don’t think it needs to be expanded on a ton. I think the core concepts are there for us. But I do also have a printable list of ways that you can hook up in the cold months. And I’ll link that in the show notes.

But I thought it might be fun just to talk about some of the ways I noticed that we bring hygge into our Christmas even specifically this year, because it’s always nice to hear ideas. And then if you’re looking for ideas, and maybe you’ll like one, maybe you’ll even spark some of your own your own spin on it.

The first one is a little bonfire, a little bonfire so cozy any fire really cozy. The other week my husband was cleaning up some stuff around the yards and the carports and he was burning some old wood and had this fire going and it’s dark around like fourth four o’clock here. So we can see the fire glowing, it’s in the back of our yard. And he sends out my daughter and her friend to go put more wood in and so they’re just tossing it out there and we’re watching them from the kitchen window and we noticed they’re just hanging out there they’re not coming back in. So kind of when it got them chairs and blankets and they just hung out there and we We thought it was just the sweetest we were like taking videos of them, sending them to her mom. And we just thought it was the cutest, most cozy little moment. And I think anytime you have a fire pit or fireplace or can go out of town to a friend’s or the lake have a winter bonfire, I think they’re just such a simple way of slowing you down, you just slow down around a fire. And it’s just such a nice place to connect. You don’t feel pressured to like, do anything or be entertained, you can just hang out. Plus bonus, if you bring wieners it counts as dinner.

The other thing that I noticed, and I think most people who are into hygge will notice this about themselves is bringing in lots of lighting. And Christmas is just an easy time to rely on mood lighting, especially as it gets darker earlier. And I’ve spent the last number of years really just acquiring decorations that light up. I think that’s what I’m drawn to when it comes to Christmas decor, string lights, electric candles, little light up houses. And every afternoon, I put those lights on and it just feels cozy. It creates a nice glow in the house. It’s one of my most favorite visually calming scenarios for myself. Another one is Advent activities. And I think a lot of us try to bring in some sort of countdown.


I think it can be something that you overdo or something that feels more manageable with the family. So pay attention to how you’re feeling about your Advent activities.

One thing that happened here is we pulled out the Christmas decorations this year. And I realized at the end of last year, on sale, I bought an Advent house. So it’s this cute little really thick cardboard house. And each day has a drawer that you pull out. So you can put something in this little drawer and this little box. And it was like the third of December, something when we unpacked all this and I realized, oh, I don’t have anything, I haven’t even thought of what I’m going to put in these. I’m sure when I bought it, I had some great brainstorm. But here I was. So I put some jelly beans in the day, thought about putting the kids vitamins in there. But that would be really disappointed with it. So I asked around on Instagram for ideas on how we could use this Advent like box system. And what we ended up doing was each person in the house, took some boxes off of it, looked at the calendar and then wrote on a little post it note an idea of an activity or some trivia or a song that we would do in there just really simple ideas. They’re so simple.

But what I noticed about them is it creates gathering for us where we read it together, or we do the event together. And I think it’s also important with any kind of holiday in your family to get your kids ideas on what they want to do more on what would be fun for them. And so having them write their own ideas on there, I think it’s really great way to make them feel included. Of course, we always have that additional conversation when winter break comes, what do you want to do? What should we go do like skating sledding, get their input, which is also a really hygge approach to have this egalitarian sense of family structure.

The other one is side by side activities. One of the best ways to just be together with no pressure to have a conversation. You’re not face to face. You can have some music on you can just be beside one another is side by side activities. Puzzles are my favorite way to do this. We just always have one going on the table. I’m part of like a puzzle trading ring. You know how moms are swapping gift bags, we’re also swapping puzzles. The other side by side activities I like are going on walks always trying to get my kids to do that. Coloring Legos. crafts, even if it’s just so simple cutting out snowflakes like we don’t need to overcomplicate it.

One thing I find myself looking forward to at Christmas is the TV will watch together. We are a family that likes watching TV together. And to me, it is important to have it be a social experience for as long as possible. So we have one TV in the house. We watch it together we kind of all decide together what we’re going to watch last year or was it the year before now I can’t remember the Mandalorian was out. So that was series we watched together. I think this year we’ll try and watch around the world in 80 days I saw that on the CBC gem App if you’re in Canada, CBC has an app that has so much content on it. But if you guys are watching a series together as a family, let me know I’d love to hear about it.

And the other way that helps you have a more hygge Christmas and one thing that I’m noticing is to declutter Christmas, because part of feeling like you can slow down is by having less to do so this year our only travel is an overnight trip less than two hours away and it just feels nice to have that off the plate. Not that we wouldn’t have traveled or made that happen. But we just are going to travel in January now instead of December. So just having that off the plate it just feels calmer. So you’ve permission don’t travel yet.

You also have permission to not bake you don’t have to bake Have You Ever Wanted permission to not do Christmas baking, I’ll give it to you every day. I think in my motherhood journey of 11 Quick years, I’ve baked once, and that was for a baking exchange, my daughter bakes, I’ll help her. But I would rather buy a dozen box of chocolates before I spend an afternoon baking. That’s just me, not a baker.

You don’t have to send Christmas cards. If that helps you declutter your Christmas, you don’t have to do that. Either. You get to decide what traditions you keep and keep the ones you love the most, the ones that you are excited to do. So those are some ways that I think we keep our Christmas feeling hyggelig who like I don’t know if I’m saying that right, hygge.

Now another part that I want to talk about is something I had recently shared in a simple Saturday’s email. And many of you thanked me for it. So I thought it’s worth bringing here and even expanding on a little bit more. This is the concept of the window of tolerance, which if you ever feel like you can’t relax, slow down, or you’re constantly irritated by everyone and everything, or you feel like you’ve just completely shut down. This is this can be really helpful to learn.

And I think the more we understand about our own nervous system and our stress states, the more compassion and resilience we can develop for ourselves.

So the window of tolerance, I’ll make sure to put a graphic in the show notes, but I’m gonna try and describe it here. It’s all about our capacity, our capacity to feel like we are showing up well, and calm. And we’re just like, in a good place. You know, you know how something happens in the home, that could happen often. But depending on how much capacity you have, you respond totally different, right? If your kid spills a drink, all over the table, if you have unlimited capacity, you’re probably going to get upset, you’re probably going to snap, you can’t even stop yourself from snapping. But if you are feeling like you are in a good place, you have your in your window of tolerance, you have more capacity, you’ll probably stay calm, go grab a towel, ask them to grab a towel, not that big of a deal, right? We can all imagine ourselves in both of those situations.

So imagine three boxes stacked on top of one another and the middle box, that’s our window of tolerance. That’s, that’s a peak place to operate from. If we go above it out of it to that top box, we’re in hyper arousal, we’re mobilized, we are anxious, there’s panic, frustration, maybe we get controlling, maybe we have a short temper, or we’re reactive. I think a lot of us can relate to just the general stresses of motherhood putting us into hyper arousal.

If we go below that middle box below that window of tolerance. Now we’re in the bottom box, we’re in hypo arousal, where we are immobilized. This is when we shut down, we numb out, we disconnect. And it’s interesting as I reflect on the state, because for years, I told myself, I was just a calm person, and people would be like, Oh, you’re so calm. I think I was confusing calmness for being an hypo arousal. So don’t confuse this. Don’t confuse the state for being super calm, because you’re still dysregulated.

So putting all this together this window of tolerance. What this tells you is, we all have a threshold, we all have a threshold for what feels like we can tolerate. And it’s really normal and healthy and natural and automatic that we go through these states that we go through hyper and hypo and into the middle. That’s normal, the goal is really to just be coming back to that calm state.

One of the most impactful points about understanding this the window of arousal is to understand that when we were when we’re out of it, we are offline so to speak, we are using the stress part of our brain, we are not able to show up for connection, your whole social engagement system is not online, you are not open for connection, nothing feels safe. So if you are stressed out and you wonder why it is hard to feel present, and connected with your loved ones, even though you want to this is normal. This is your autonomic nervous system trying to keep you safe and a cue that you can step back for a minute and find some ways to come back into that calmer state.

The other thing to keep in mind is that our window of tolerance can be smaller or bigger, it can adjust. And there are things that shorten our window of tolerance or less than our window of tolerance.

I think huge one we can all relate to is not enough sleep, especially when we got those toddlers and those babies. Another one that we need to acknowledge is when we’re dealing with grief. And I don’t mean imminent loss, but the loss that is always with us. And around this time of year grief does come up. Dealing with conflict can reduce our window of tolerance. And we know family conflict can come to the forefront at that at this time of year. When we’re perceiving a threat and past traumas really informed as someone who has experienced traumas in the past, we are going to have a reduced window of tolerance, mental health conditions they can reduce our window of tolerance if we experience or know someone Is neurodivergent ADHD anxiety. And if we even pay attention, we can start to see that our mental narrative, our cognitive thoughts are something that can reduce our window of tolerance. These thoughts that we’re stuck in, I call them thought traps. If you pay attention to the story, you’re telling yourself, you might see that that story makes you feel stressed. Stories like there’s not enough time, nobody’s helping me, I have to do all these Christmas things. For my kids to have a good Christmas. I also like to refer to the acronym halt. This is a mental health acronym that’s usually associated with the stressors one experiences during recovery. But I think they’re just stressors that we need to pay attention to more overall, I think they are stressors that reduce our window of tolerance. And help stands for times that you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. The window of tolerance is a helpful concept to learn because now you can pay attention to where you might be inside note, also pay attention to the fact that everyone else around you in your house is moving up and down in their window of tolerance is shifting throughout the day, as well. As you’re paying attention, this is what I want to call you into to start paying attention. This is where we can start doing the work. Pay attention. Check in with yourself throughout the day. 


I know I’ve said it before, check in throughout the day. Have a little check in meeting with yourself. Hey, how are you feeling today? How are you doing? Check in with yourself? How are you feeling? If you notice a specific feeling, try and name it. Ask if you notice your window of tolerance getting smaller is how do you feel like there’s some stuff that’s reducing it, ask yourself what you need. What do you need right now, sometimes you need to increase your energy and come out of that hypo arousal. And sometimes you need to reduce your energy and come down from that hyper arousal, arousal. There are countless ideas on the internet on how to do this. Some ideas that I personally bring into my life are breathing using breathing techniques, you can watch lots of YouTube videos on it. But for me, it’s like big deep breaths, where the exhale is longer than the inhale, water, drink water, have a hot bath and water, have a cold shower. Those are all things I like to do. Putting on music, put them right into your ear holes and sing it out. So there’s lots of ideas, but find something that’s going to work for you.

As you’re doing this, you can start to notice your triggers, what are things that move you out of your window of tolerance? One trigger for me as a mom is noise. Specifically, if there’s noise coming from different sources, like two kids are asking me questions at the same time, I’m kind of like, Oh, my brain can’t compute, take a number. Just take a number and get in line. And I think one day there’s gonna, you’re gonna come home and there’s gonna be a ticket dispenser in the house. And I’ll be like now serving number three, you can just keep pulling those numbers, oh, in a complaints box that I might add that to my house as well. The other day, I was at the arena with my youngest son, and he kept telling me all these complaints. And finally, I was like, I will now officially take complaints in writing only at business hours. And he just smiled at me and said, So what are your business hours. That’s how I’m dealing with it.

So learning the signals, learning the signals that you’re moving out of your window of tolerance, learning your triggers, start to pay attention to yourself, you can start to catch it sooner. And over time, the goal of all of this is increasing your window of tolerance and becoming more fluid with moving in and out of that window.

As I was talking about hygge I thought the window of tolerance would be helpful to share. Because I think this is a season that most of us, we really just want to show up and enjoy. Especially if our kids are still at home. We want to feel like oh Christmas was such a special time of year for us. It was meaningful. It was a time of togetherness. And if we’re out of our window of tolerance, just understanding that can help make so much sense for the times when you feel like you can’t relax, you can’t connect you can’t slow down.

One practical tip that I would wrap this all up with is to take a minute and write some ideas down plan your hygge Christmas on purpose. Take a minute What do you still want to be doing? What activities do you want to do? What supplies do you need for those activities? what still needs to get done? Make yourself a list so you can feel proactive instead of reactive towards Christmas. I have a whole link on planning from a reactive versus proactive state. I’ll link that in the show notes as well.

And wrap those presents Do not wait until the end though like it’s Christmas Eve. No. As you get them wrap them because you’re going to think it’s not going to take you long. But it takes a long time to wrap those presents. So check out the show notes go to simple and click listen. I’m going to load up the show notes with as many as I can think of on who got on stress. And on the window of tolerance. There’s a really great article that I read. I want to link in there as well.

I’m going to see you guys after the new year I’ll be back with that really fun episode on setting goals and vision and creating the future that you want. for yourself. In the meantime, stop by the Facebook group. Share your thoughts on this episode share ways that you are finding who this who got this Christmas. Share your observations on the window of tolerance. Just share anything the Facebook group is your community for you listeners to touch base with one another. All right friends, have a great Christmas and I’ll see you in the simple Saturday’s email on Instagram On Facebook. In the meantime