Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Holidays are coming up, how can I make them less stressful?

It seems like every year we go from mid November through to the beginning of January on autopilot.  There are family functions and parties involving way too much candy and food and WAY too much stress.  We tell ourselves every year that this year will be different.  By the time January 4th rolls around we are exhausted, stressed and feel like we need another vacation.  How about we give it another try?  Here are a few tips to make this holiday season more memorable and enjoyable for both you and your children.
1.             Make commitments wisely.  During the holidays, everyone wants a piece of you.  There are so many fun events and parties, but don’t forget that YOU get to make the decisions about what you will do and who you will be with.  Take a minute to think about past holidays.  Of all the parties and events that come up, which ones did you enjoy?  Talk with your spouse or significant other and even your children about the activities that they love to do, the ones that really bring the joy of the season for you.  Separate them from the activities that just added stress and frustration to your lives.  Decide together what celebrations you will attend.  Say no to the rest and try hard not to feel guilty about the rest.  It will be a challenge to STICK TO IT but keep remembering you get to choose. 
2.            Holiday cards for some are a headache.  Lots of people are now sending e-holiday cards.  These are a great option for some people and can even be sent personalized.  However for some that just does not feel right.  I remember every year my mother (who was a teacher) did not finish our Christmas cards until after New Years.  Why not make that the plan. These days a lot of people are opting for New Years Cards instead of Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanza cards.  That way it is one (or 200) fewer things you need to do in the middle of shopping, baking, cooking, cleaning and partying.  Maybe it can be one of the things you work on when your children are enraptured by their new presents (for the whole day that that lasts.)
3.            Consider using some of this new found time to give back to other people.  Maybe you know of a needy family you could bless with extra gifts.  You could take advantage of the many charities that help the underprivileged this time of year.  Maybe it is a family friend that you know has been struggling lately and you show up with a big meal and some company.  Whatever it is, you will be amazed at the seasonal joy giving to others will give you. 
4.            Gifts can drive person nuts.  For me, I am always terrified that I will miss someone.  I have the recurring dream this time of year that someone shows up at my door with a gift and I have nothing to give them.  The first step here is to take a breath and realize that your friend or neighbor is giving you a gift because they want to and are NOT expecting anything in return.  If this continues to be something you worry about it is pretty easy to prepare some small “universal” gifts for such occasions.  Maybe you make a trip to the store and get some premade cookies or chocolates.  Keep them in the freezer or fridge ready to go in case someone surprises you with a gift and you want to return the favor.  One of my favorite things to do is bake my own “family” cookies.  I always make extra for these occasions. 
5.             It is amazing how we adults can make things so very complicated and children have a way of simplifying everything for us.  If you think about your childhood or ask your child to think about the holidays they remember, you might be surprised to find that they things they remember the most are the simple ones.  Like taking a drive or walking around to look at all the holiday lights.  Or helping make cookies that ended up burning.  Remember that of all the things you do this season what your children will remember the most are the attitudes and atmosphere that surround them.  They will remember snuggling on the couch watching a Christmas movie more than they will remember how perfect the tree and decorations were.

 Don’t try to do it all, do what is fun and forget the rest.  You will find yourself on January 4th a happier and healthier person for it. 

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