I LOVE the holiday season! From Thanksgiving through the New Year, I’m all about the peppermint mochas and the spirit of giving and turkey with cranberry sauce and New Year’s Resolutions. I like to pack on the pounds indulging in delicious pies and cookies and rich food that by January I can’t even look at! I love a good holiday party! White Elephant Gift Exchange you say? Sign me up! It’s all fun and games until somebody loses their cookies or their mind.
I don’t know about you, but while I love the festivity of the holidays, I HATE being stressed out.
I just want to relax and be cool, you know. Easy, breezy. That’s my motto! The holiday season can bring on loads of stress and that can make this time of year a real drag. I made a choice a few years ago to stop letting the stress of the holiday season ruin my enjoyment of the holidays. I’ve cut down on my commitments while working toward perfecting the art of how not to get stressed out over the holiday season, and I want to share some of my tips with you! Hopefully, they can help you this year and in the years to come!
HOLIDAY TIP #1: Be choosy about your traditions.
I have a specific list of “must do’s” in the holiday season: 1. One night of shopping without children on Church Street, which includes dinner and the company of another adult or two. 2. Cutting down a Christmas Tree with my family. 3. Making cookies. I like to keep my “musts” pretty simple and also flexible. There is no specifics as to when/how/where these things happen. I just know I want to do them.
And you know what I don’t want to do? The Elf on the Shelf. No, thank you.
I don’t want to know exactly what I’m getting for gifts and I don’t want my kids to think they are going to get everything they ask for. I let my kids make long elaborate lists for Christmas. Our Santa brings 3 items and a book (although last year, I think he forgot the books, whoops!). We like to ask our family members to get our kids activities instead of toys. Who needs more toys? We certainly don’t have room! I don’t like to put too many parameters around gift giving, though. I feel sad when I am told what to buy for people. For example: Please buy your nephew this one item. Ummmm. You can’t tell me what to do. Maybe I want to buy him a pogo stick. Obviously I want to get something he will like, but maybe he doesn’t even know that a pogo stick is a choice. Can’t I be trusted to get a good gift?
And then, if my kids don’t like something, I want them to be able to say, “I don’t like this” without a grownup being mad at them. This I see as an opportunity to help your kids manage disappointment and not melt into a puddle. I really want my kids to learn that skill. They haven’t yet, so maybe my method sucks. A few years ago, my mom gave my daughter a porcelain doll that had previously been mine. She was pissed and you could see it all over her face. We laughed at her a little but then helped her figure out how to show her disappointment in a more polite way. She can laugh at that moment now and she still has that porcelain doll in her room.
HOLIDAY TIP #3: Keep an open heart and an open mind.
The holidays bring up a lot of emotions. Loss becomes more significant. Whether that’s death, divorce or something else. We are all just trying to get by in this world. Be kind, patient and thoughtful. This can require a little extra effort, but does not need to be stressful. Take a breath before responding to your curmudgeonly uncle. We all have baggage and that baggage tends to get tossed around during this time of year. Everyone has expectations and they may be different than your expectations. Everybody has traditions that they MUST do and they are different then your traditions.
Before spending your energy getting upset, think about if it’s worth it to waste your energy and peace this way. Is the other person’s behavior affecting your core values, ruining your life or teaching your children something you’d rather they didn’t learn? Is getting upset about someone else’s behavior that you may or may not be able to control worth creating a bad memory? Could you avoid those conflicts in order to have a more peaceful holiday?
HOLIDAY TIP #4: Don’t do anything that makes your life more difficult.
A few years ago, my husband and I my traveled over Christmas with our two kids to my in-laws in Virginia . We drove. We shipped Christmas presents to Virginia and then packed them in the car for the drive home, making our car super full. Additionally, the weather did not cooperate and there was a huge ice storm that hit the day we were supposed to leave. I had tickets to a musical at the Flynn Theater and I had to miss it. Following that trip, I decided my family would not be traveling during Christmas anymore while my children were young- because it is too hard.
As my in-laws are aging and having a more difficult time traveling, particularly in the winter, we may reassess our travel ban in the near future, but for now, I’m really happy with our decision. We also decided to always do Christmas morning in our own house. We invite family over for breakfast and if they want to come great! And if they don’t, no hard feelings! I don’t want to force anyone to do what works for my little family and I don’t want anyone else to force me to fit into their schedule either.
HOLIDAY TIP # 5: Keep expectations low.
I intentionally try not to have an idea of what I want things to look like. Norman Rockwell and Martha Stewart are not invited to my Thanksgiving dinner. Nothing will be perfect and that’s okay. Or maybe it will and I’ll be pleasantly surprised! All I know is if I hold on to expectations I have about the way the pie looks or the way my children act or the songs that are playing on the radio and then those things go bad, I will be upset and I don’t want to be upset. So I try to roll with the punches. See what happens and be cool with it! Turkey is overcooked? Oh well! You forgot your pumpkin pie at your house? Lucky duck, you’ll have a great after Thanksgiving treat!
So if things start to get a little hairy this holiday season, just remember, you always have a choice. Make some good ones for you and your family so you can enjoy all the festivities it has to offer.
Happy Thanksgiving through New Years!!