It’s time to be honest. I recognize that the holidays are supposed to be fun. I mean, what’s not to love? Presents, parties, sweets galore, family, days off from work and school. It’s a virtual nirvana, right? For some maybe. But for others, including myself? Let’s just say it can take a little extra effort to achieve nirvana status.
Call me scrooge, but if I’m telling the truth I struggle a bit this time of year and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Unquestionably presents are fun to open, but having presents to open means you had to buy said presents. With four boys, a husband and two extended families, that can add up pretty quick. Hello financial hit. Then there’s the sweets. You don’t want to know how many cookies I have to bake for school parties, work parties, church groups and the like. Add in a sprinkle of in-laws with a dash of no school for two weeks and I’m ready to hide in the closet with a glass of wine and a good book.
What I’m slowly learning over the years is that, for me, achieving happiness during the holiday months means unabashedly “stepping back” when I need to. This is something we all have trouble with because, as everyone knows (especially mothers) the expectations and pressures are real. People expect the presents. They expect the sweets and the parties. They expect to be hosted at a clean house with tasty meals and a rockin’ agenda. And chances are, they expect you to provide it.
In the past, I would suck it up and take one for the team. Not anymore. Here’s a few changes I’ve incorporated into this year’s holiday agenda that have helped leaps and bounds with my stress level.
- Buy Less Presents. It sounds so self explanatory. Until you hear that your friend and fellow school moms are spending double what you are per child or your oldest begs for a tablet that he just has to have because all the other kids already have them. Let me tell you what I’ve learned from years of keeping up with the financial expectations. More presents don’t equal more happiness. They just equal more “stuff”. More stuff that your kids will appreciate even less simply because there’s so much of it. I hereby challenge you to take it back a step. Use the money you save to help others less fortunate. This year we sent Christmas packages to the troops in Afghanistan and will be making and donating sandwiches to a local homeless shelter. Let your kids see that there’s more to the world than mindless “stuff”. I promise they will appreciate their smaller gift stash even more.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Say No. There are a lot of demands put on people during the holidays; especially mothers. Because it’s the season of good will, it can become increasingly difficult to say no. But here I am giving you permission to do just that. You don’t need to go to every single Christmas gathering. You don’t need to make cookies for every one of your kid’s school parties. You don’t need to make homemade Christmas cards this year (you really don’t). Life will go on, your friends and family will still love and appreciate you and, in turn, you will be able to better appreciate the holiday for what it has to offer without pulling every last hair out of your head in an effort to satisfy those around you at the expense of yourself. Hence…
- Take Time for Yourself. With all the demands put on us during the holiday season it can sometimes be difficult to remember to take care of yourself. I’m here to tell you that you need to do this. Sanity breeds productivity! Head out with a friend for a cup of coffee. Grab an hour to get a workout at the gym. Take a walk at the local park and enjoy the quiet. I promise the cookies can wait an hour. The presents will still be there tomorrow. It’s ok to take a break and enjoy the holiday.
- Remember the Reason for the Season. Finally, make a point often to remind yourself why we celebrate in the first place. When you take away all the lights, presents and pressures it becomes a pretty powerful and amazing time of year. No matter your religion, it’s a moment in time where you can be thankful for everything that you have and, in turn, share those blessings with others.
Is it possible to achieve perfect holiday bliss? Probably not. There will always be moments that call for a time out. We are human after all. The difference comes when you’re mindful of these moments. If you allow yourself to breathe and focus on what’s important, you’ll always find your way back to a happier road. Happy Holidays! 🙂