A 1997 Gallup poll found that 29 percent of Americans found the Christmas holidays more stressful than enjoyable. I doubt these numbers have gone down much in the last ten years, but you do not need to let stress ruin your holidays! By making conscious decisions and setting priorities, you can stay in control this holiday season.
At back-to-school night this year, my first-grade daughter’s teacher told us parents that she frequently tells a tattling child to “Boss yourself.” What this means, she explained, is that the child should make sure she is doing the right thing instead of paying so much attention to what the other children are doing. I loved this saying and have been using it at home with my children as well.
Ummm, so what does this have to do with Christmas stress? Well, the same guidelines can apply for Christmas as well. Don’t worry about what other people are getting their kids for Christmas. Don’t worry that the neighbors across the street already have their lights up and you can’t even remember where yours are. Don’t worry that the cookies you are bringing to the cookie exchange are store-bought instead of homemade. You and you family need to decide where you want to spend your time and money this holiday season and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.
Give Yourself the Gift of Time
Christmas was not meant to be packed into a day. The “Twelve Days of Christmas” is more than just a song, after all. Christmas is a season that goes from December 24-January 6. That gives you 12 more days to get your Christmas cards sent out!
You can also give yourself the gift of time by cutting out activities no one really enjoys. Ask everyone in you family to pick on or two Christmas activities they really enjoy, and then focus on getting those activities done. Let everything else go.
Set a Budget and Stick to It
Extra expenses can certainly make you feel stressed out. Don’t judge the success of your Christmas by the number of packages under the tree. If you have a large family you buy presents for, suggest some ways to help reduce costs for everyone:
- Buy gifts just for the children
- Draw names so everyone buys a gift for only one person
- Set a limit on the cost of gifts
- Give homemade gifts
When you do go shopping for gifts, shop early in the Christmas season to avoid the last-minute crowds. Also consider shopping online. Many retailers offer free shipping during the holidays.
Cook Up Some Memories
So many memories involve food! Food plays a very important role in Christmas celebrations, from cookies to candies to Christmas dinners. If you enjoy cooking and baking, you’ll love this part of Christmas. If you don’t…remember our Christmas rule for this year: Boss yourself. Buy goodies, trade with friends, or just decide to be healthy and skip the treats altogether.
Even if you enjoy baking, it can be hard to find time to get it done at Christmas. It’s fun to set aside one day and have a marathon baking day with a friend. You enjoy special time together, and at the end of the day, you split all the goodies. Another option is to have a cookie exchange with a group of friends, where everyone brings a treat and you all share the goodies.
What about Christmas dinner? Growing up in my family, Christmas dinner was basically a repeat of Thanksgiving dinner. This meant that as soon as the presents were opened Christmas morning, it was time to head to the kitchen and start cooking. When I wanted to play with my new toys, I was peeling potatoes instead. To get yourself out of the kitchen this year,
- Start a new tradition and change your menu. A crock pot full of soup, tacos, or lasagna can make a great Christmas meal. You don’t have to eat turkey or ham.
- If you do want a more traditional meal, make it a potluck and ask people to bring items.
- Order some items from a restaurant or grocery store.
Take Care of Yourself
You know the rules for taking care of yourself – get enough sleep, eat right, exercise, drink plenty of water. It’s just following the rules that is tough. The busier you are, though, the more important it is that you take care of yourself. You won’t be any good to anyone if you get sick.
Whether or not your regularly write in a journal, try keeping a holiday journal. A journal will help you next year remember what you enjoyed and what you didn’t enjoy. You can also use it to reflect on your blessings and your spiritual journey through the Christmas season. By adding to your journal each year, you will create a wonderful keepsake for your family as well as a record to help you make Christmas better each year.