Somewhere around September when the weather changes, the kids go back to school and the leaves begin to wither, it starts. By Halloween it’s gathering momentum and by Thanksgiving, it has us in a full-body press. “It” is The Holidays, and whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or simply “the season,” what everybody has in common during the last quarter of the year is stress with a capital S.
No wonder. All those events and activities, family gatherings. The kids are out of school again, house guests are coming or you’re planning a trip. Don’t even mention shopping for gifts, sending greeting cards or decorating the house. The credit cards are maxed out, you’ve got more chores than you can shake a stick at and your “to do” list is longer than Santa’s beard.
And you swore it would all be different this year.
Take heart. It’s not too late. With intention, it really can be different this year.
First thing to remember: take good care of yourself: Eat healthfully, get plenty of rest (schedule it in), exercise, drink lots of water. Breathe deeply. Relax and have fun. (Schedule that in, too.)
During the holidays when already too-busy lives become even more hectic, some serious time management is in order. Write down a list of all the things you want to do and set aside times to accomplish certain tasks. Prioritize. Assign some chores to the children, trade out tasks when possible. Consider scratching a few items off your list.
Make a budget and stick to it. Shop by catalogue. Remember, it’s not the price, but the thoughtfulness of the gift. Don’t waste money on some gimmick that will wind up on the back of someone’s closet shelf: Use gift certificates if you’re unsure of what to give.
If the kids are out of school and caretaking schedules are disrupted, look for ways to share day care arrangements. Check out holiday activities for children at children’s museums, libraries or the Y. This might be the year the older ones get a seasonal job, or perform volunteer work.
Remember, adults aren’t the only ones who feel more stress during the holiday season. Children experience it, too. Keep communication lines open and spend quality time with your youngsters. This is a wonderful time to share your family’s holiday traditions through story-telling or special seasonal activities.
Getting the young ones outside the house for full-body exercise will help them and you to work off stress. Go out and play together.
Having houseguests? Try to make them as self-sufficient as possible. Ask for help. And even though it might be fun, don’t wear yourself out by staying up late every night, or stuffing each day as full as a Christmas goose.
Family gatherings may be complex given blended families and special holiday arrangements. Conflicting family expectations and demands can create guilt and resentment. If family gatherings cause tension and anxiety, consider alternatives that can lessen the effects. Make plans well enough in advance so you can discuss them with others involved. Avoid any last minute surprises or disappointments.
Finally, take time for yourself. Find a place where you can be quiet and restful. Take a walk, breathe in the fresh air. Look around you, notice nature’s response to the season and let yourself be amazed.
However you celebrate the season, may it be peaceful and joy-filled.