Once again the holiday season is upon us and looking at the expressions on the faces of many of the people as they rush around trying to complete their “To-Do List” it’s hard to see it as a time of thankfulness, peace and goodwill. Stress levels seem to skyrocket at this time of year as people rush here and there, till it all becomes one big blur! . Too often people get caught up in trying to create the “picture perfect” Christmas holiday, not realizing that it’s “picture perfect” because it’s just that a picture.
In the real world most of us are leading incredibly busy lives with little time left over for extras. Yet every holiday season many of us (and I’ve ben guilty of this too) scramble to find the perfect present for everyone we think we ‘should’ get one for, send out cards to people we rarely think of but think we ‘should’ send a card to, plan trips to spend time with distant relatives because we feel we ‘should’ (after all, Christmas is about family togetherness, isn’t it?), make costumes for children’s Christmas pageants because that’s what mothers ‘should’ do and plan and prepare a huge dinner for a host of guests because that’s what we ‘should’ do to celebrate the holidays. By the time we’re done ‘shoulding’ all over ourselves, it’s no wonder we’re exhausted, stressed out and miserable, longing for the holidays to be over.
So in the interest of maintaining one’s sanity, this year let’s all make a pact – no more ‘shoulding’ al over ourselves. Instead let’s plan a holiday that really is relaxing and enjoyable and way less stressful.
Here are 7 suggestions to help you stop ‘shoulding’ all over yourself (and ruining your holiday):
1) Start a new tradition around presents. Instead of getting one for all and sundry, decide how many gifts you’re going to give. While giving a gift (or two) to each person in the nuclear family isn’t too bad, once you move into the extended family circle it cam become overwhelming, so if you aren’t comfortable with eliminating gifts all together, draw names, so each person gives (and gets) only one present.
2) If sending Christmas cards is your way to remain in touch with people important to you and you want to continue, go over your list and remove those who no longer really fall into this category. Often people get into a habit and continue sending cards when it really doesn’t make sense any more. And make it a rule that each adult looks after their own card sending – no hunting for addresses for a spouse’s co-worker who you wouldn’t recognize if you bumped into him/her. And don’t send a card just because you feel you ‘should’!
3) Take a hard look at any plans to travel. While some is fine, trying to fit everybody in is exhausting and often results in overtired, short tempered people. Instead of trying to visit with everybody in a very short time frame why not make plans to visit at other times of the year? Spacing travel out over the full year is far less wearing and can provide you with mini-holidays which can help reduce stress and provide you with some much needed relaxation.
4) Being a involved parent is wonderful. However sometimes we get carried away and think we have to do everything we’ve ever heard of or seen others doing with and for their children. Again, be realistic. If your child needs a costume for a Christmas play see how you can adapt things around the house. It doesn’t have to win a costume design Oscar. Chances are if you make it your child will love it.
5) Meal planning also has to be looked at realistically. Wouldn’t you rather be spending time with family and friends than cooking up more food than an army needs. Years ago I decided that I’d rather buy pies than spend the time in the kitchen making them and I reduced the number of side dishes I prepared. In fact we really didn’t need all that food. And while I stil make a few favourite cookie recipes, I supplement with ones from a store. And guess what – everybody still enjoys the meal – and I have way more time to visit with people and relax.
6) To make sure you don’t end up over committed and worn out this holiday season set some boundaries for yourself. During the holiday season it seems that there’s always another good cause looking for volunteers and another charity needing help. Remember, you can’t do everything. Decide ahead of time how much time and money you have available for such causes and then stick to it. Don’t let peole walk all over you or try to make you feel guilty. It’s not up to you to save everybody.
7) And finally, stop putting yourself dead last. Take time to relax and enjoy the season and the people who mean the most to you. Take a break from shopping and sit and just listen to the music, or enjoy a quiet cup of cocoa, whatever soothes your soul and makes you feel relaxed.
If you follow these 7 suggestions you’ll have a much more relaxed and enjoyable holiday season.