There came a time in my life, somewhere between my kids being babies and teens, that I started to dread the months of October through December – that’s A QUARTER of the year! YIKES!
I’m not sure when I moved emotionally from being excited about the holidays, to being filled with dread and overwhelm.
Maybe it creeped up? Maybe it happened some years and not others?
What I did figure out a few years ago was that it seemed to be a permanent fixture!
It goes something like this:
School is back in session and I’m breathing a sigh of relief that I can get back to working without the constant interruptions and trying to find ways to entertain the kids.
But… OMG… the stores are starting to put out Halloween items! What the heck??? I can’t start thinking about decorating for Halloween, costumes, parties, band concerts….. Oh yeah, and my son’s birthday!!!!
And then I metaphorically bury my head in the sand until…
“Oh crap, the neighbors are starting to put up their Halloween decorations… I better get to it…”
“Hmmm, I wonder what AJ wants to do for his birthday?”
“WHAT?! It’s the third week of October???”
“Oh crap, I better get the Halloween decorations up…
“Oh shoot, I forgot to ask AJ what he wants to do for his birthday!
October 18th :
“AJ’S BIRTHDAY IS IN TWO DAYS!!! I STILL DON’T
KNOW WHAT HE WANTS TO DO…”
“UGH… I forgot about the Halloween decorations! Boy my neighbors are organized! Why does everyone, but me have their Halloween decorations up???”
“Oh geez, I suck.”
And it goes on and on…
Where are we having Thanksgiving? Do we have to drive up to dad and step moms? Mom will be upset. Maybe they’ll invite her too?? Oh wait, what about sister and her son? Oh why does my family have to be so complicated?
What? It’s December already??? I haven’t bought any presents!! Mom wants me to cook a big dinner for everyone at her house again…
There’s a better way
Honestly y’all, that is no way to go through the three month American holiday
A few years ago, as I was implementing my Peaceful Living techniques into my life, I started to try a different way of thinking about the holidays.
I follow FOUR main principals:
1. Don’t worry about perfection
I used to be that person who had to have a beautifully decorated house for all
Truthfully, before I had kids it was something that brought me a lot of joy. It was fun and creative for me. I also really like to entertain.
It was fun to have lovely decorations for not only my holiday parties, but Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
However, life changed!
I had two kids. I was highly involved in their lives, driving them to and watching all of their activities, volunteering in their schools and organizations. AND, I was either working in my job teaching at a university (which included a major commute) or building a side business!
Not to mention that I’m getting older and have much less energy!
All of that decorating and entertaining became a drag. It was no longer fun. It was something I was too busy to remember and then became completely overwhelmed by (see internal dialogue above).
I decided to cut back.
I no longer hosted every party and dinner from Halloween through New Year’s Eve. We moved into a very small house when we were still in California, so I cut way back on the decorating.
I started to put up some boundaries with my parents about who we would spend each holiday with.
I also stopped accepting every invitation that came our way!
Sometimes we have to pick and choose which parties we are going to attend. Your friends will understand if you skip their party this year. But, try make sure that you go the following year and skip someone else’s.
It all worked out!
I was no longer overwhelmed. I still had fun doing a little bit of decorating and planning one party during the season. My family was open and even invited each other to celebrate all together – negative feelings towards some being set aside for that day.
Decide what you can cut back on.
Is it decorating to perfection? Is it too much entertaining? Is it accepting too many party invitations?
Who do you need to set boundaries with?
Make a list and write-out possible ways to approach the subject from a kind and loving place.
2. Ask for help
I have friends and clients who think that having a pot-luck for the holidays is a disgrace.
I’m here to tell you that it’s not!
My mom and I spent many a holiday cooking big meals and doing all of the cleanup. We would exhaust ourselves and feel very taken advantage of by our family members who did not offer any assistance with either the cooking or the cleaning. That was a recipe for resentment!
Having a calm and cheerful conversation with your family members (and friends if you celebrate with friends) about how you love your Aunt Mary’s green bean casserole and your sister Haley Grace’s sweet potato pie (okay, I do live in South Carolina, so I had to go there) and would they be willing to bring their delicious dish to Thanksgiving dinner will most often bring about a nice result.
Your relatives will feel complimented and you will have your pot-luck!
The same thing goes with asking for help with the cleanup. I know that Uncle Bill and neighbor Todd like to watch football and let their dinners digest.
However, a gentle question asking them to help with the dishes goes a long way – especially if they can see the TV from the sink! And if they can’t, all the better for you, because you can turn on the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas romance movie marathon! – (and yes, I know I’m being sexist 😉 And truthfully, I tend more towards the football myself )
Figure out who you can ask for help! Make a list of who you can ask and for what.
3. Find time for self nurture
This can truly be the hardest part of the fourth quarter sprint that is the holiday season!
I find that using my “success schedule” – a weekly color-blocked calendar of my days– is very important here. If I color block my Google calendar to specify what I am doing throughout the days of the week, I can see how much time I’m spending on self-nurture vs. how much time I’m spending on everything else.
My “personal” time color on Google is “flamingo pink.” If I look at my weekly calendar and there are not at least three to five flamingo pink blocks on there, I move other things around to get them in. This is something I do on a regular basis throughout the year. I have 30 minutes in the morning and an hour at bedtime that are dedicated to quiet mindfulness/ meditation every day.
During the holiday season I also make sure to schedule in pedicures, massages and nature time. Again, these are things that I do for myself on a regular basis. But, if I get busy for a time I will let them go (but, just for a short time).
During the holiday rush it’s particularly important that I take this time out. If I don’t, I will be burnt out and stressed by the time Thanksgiving or Christmas roll around. Even though it’s a busy time of year, I may let other things go (like volunteering at every one of the kids school parties, band concerts, etc.) to take care of myself during this time when everything is extra busy!
Create your success schedule! Use an online or a printable weekly calendar. You can either color block your entire schedule like I do, or just jot down what you will do for yourself to give yourself a mindfulness or self-nurture break every day.
4. Love before money
We made the mistake early on of having “Super Christmas!” for our kiddos. Remember my intro about how I used to love to…
Well, one of those things my husband and I both used to love to do was have a TON of presents under the tree for our kids! It was definitely fun to see their faces with the surprise. But, it was also complete mayhem!
Now that my kids are 11 and 14, I look back on that and feel like we really did them a disservice. Now they expect a TON of gifts.
It’s not as much fun for us as it used to be, buying them toys, and it’s much more expensive now because the things they want cost a lot more than the little kids toys did.
It is really hard as parents to keep up with what so many other parents are buying for their kids. When we moved to South Carolina from Southern California it was to save money! Part of that is re-educating our children about the amount of STUFF they need verses want.
We are also re-educating our children about our values.
We want them to understand that material things do not equal love. We are helping them to understand that spending time together doing things we enjoy is more important than things.
This re-education process can often be more difficult with extended family. I find myself not only buying expensive gifts for my family back in California, but also spending a ton on shipping. I would rather spend money to help them fly out here to visit (or for us to fly out to visit them) than on material gifts.
In some families they use a “Secret Santa” system. They make a point to spend the holidays together, but instead of everyone buying everyone else a gift, they pick names and only give one gift to the person whose name they picked. The families I know who do this also put a monetary limit that can be spent on the gift. This allows them to spend money on traveling to be together (or hosting many people), instead of on things that while they may be appreciated, are not as appreciated as the time spent together.
What can you do to create a love over money environment for your family this holiday season? Can you brainstorm with some of your family members about how you can spend quality time together?
Your stress-free holiday
So there you go! Four ways to cut down on the stress of the holiday season. Take on the action steps. See what you can come up with for yourself and your family!
I would love to hear from you! Post your comments about how you did with the action steps OR your tips for cutting down on holiday stress!