As I enter the month of November, I start to think about Thanksgiving and all the other holidays that will follow. My first reaction is always positive, thinking of all the things I am thankful for, my faith, my friends and family that I enjoy spending time with and I can’t lie, even the gifts. But then, my thoughts immediately turn to the amount of preparation and events that I must get through, added to my already loaded schedule. Panic sets in! The positive thoughts become negative ones. Visions of endless to-do lists, dealing with crowded stores, decorating, cooking large meals, running to all types of parties, children’s concerts, entertaining relatives and spending tons of money take over my thoughts. I am exhausted just thinking about it. There has got to be a way to manage all of these extra tasks without losing the joy that the holidays represent. After some research and thought, I prepared some ways to not only get through the holidays, but actually enjoy them.
Keep Your Regular Routine (as much as possible)
We each have our daily routine that keeps us grounded and moving forward. We are creatures of habit, and once we steer too far away from that routine, our stress levels increase. Try to keep wake-up times, meal times and bed times as close to normal as possible. Of course, there will be events that will interfere, but if most of your days are routine, the ones that aren’t will not create so much frenzy. Planning is the key word here. Sit down with your calendar and try to schedule shopping, cleaning and decorating time blocks around your normal tasks, leaving some flexibility for unknown invitations and events that occur. If you have out-of-town family or friends who will be staying with you over the holidays, prepare your home so they can easily get themselves breakfast and lunch, have shower needs readily available and perhaps print out some things they may want to do while you are at work or handling other commitments. This way, you don’t have to assist or entertain them every minute of the day. Imagine, you may actually have some free time alone to sip a hot beverage, gaze at the tree and listen to your favorite holiday tunes if the relatives take your kids out on an adventure. I am smiling already just thinking about that scene.
We all have visions of the “perfect” holidays. These visions are created from holidays of our past as well as photos and stories we see in magazines and on television. Yes, it would be wonderful to achieve all of those goals, but at what price? Sit down and figure out what parties and events are non-negotiable, and what can be shelved for another year. Learn to say “no” when you are being asked to help out at yet another bake sale or holiday event that you know will push you over the edge. A sincere regret advising you are too booked up to give the proper time needed to help out at this time is enough. Throw any guilt out the window. You deserve to have holidays that bring you pleasure. Plan time to do simple things like watching the local tree lighting in your town or driving around the neighborhood to see the lights and decorations.
When it comes to decorating your home, every inch of the house does not have to be decorated. Choose a few of the “can’t live without” favorites and put those up. A few well-placed items, a lovely wreath, a menorah and some candles will create a warm holiday glow. Thanksgiving and holiday meals do not have to be banquets. Prepare a menu covering the basic favorites, always being mindful of dietary needs of your quests, so everyone can enjoy. Don’t feel bashful asking guests to bring a dish to the meal. Not only does it cut down on work for you, but it also allows you to taste different dishes from other people’s family favorites. There are some dishes you can prepare ahead and freeze to reduce the stress on the actual day. When it is all said and done, the main focus is to enjoy a meal together with our loved ones and to remember the meaning of these holidays. It doesn’t matter how gourmet or how many different dishes are on the table. In addition, we are all trying to avoid the holiday weight gain, and will appreciate that paired down meal come January when we step on the scale.
The holidays bring on many mixed emotions. Some of us feel lonely, not having family near, having gone through a recent divorce or loss. If that is the case, consider asking friends over for a “Friendsgiving.” Donating some time to help out at a soup kitchen or other volunteer work is a great way to alleviate feelings of sadness by helping others in need. For some of us, getting together with family can bring up memories of past disappointments, rekindle sibling rivalries, or revert us back to old childhood patterns where we feel like we are 10 again. When these old patterns start to emerge, walk away for a few minutes and remind yourself of who you are now. If a family member is trying to chide you into old issues, try not to allow them to get under your skin. Step away and seek out someone who knows what you are like today to help ground you.
Take Care of Yourself
This is absolutely essential. If you are feeling blue, find a way to pamper yourself. A mani/pedi, spa treatment, a 15 minute nap, a walk outside, ice skating, or curling up with a cup of hot chocolate and a good read are all ways to disconnect and have some pleasure. Getting run down from inadequate sleep, poor nutrition and being around crowds can land you in bed with the flu. That is certainly not how you want to spend your holidays. Remember, it is your holiday too, and you need to be mindful of yourself, not just your family and friends.
The holidays are just a few weeks out of the year. Anything left undone this year, can always be done next year. In the famous words of the Grinch in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss, “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!”