Updated: Apr 22, 2020
What is it about Christmas that can lead to so much stress?
As a young wife and mother, I found myself tired, stressed, and often sick by the end of the holiday season. Looking back now, I can laugh about it, but early on I had some not-so-wonderful times.
Growing up, I believed that real women make things, especially at Christmas. I was determined to be the best wife and mother I could be, so one Christmas I headed to the local craft store, baby in tow, to buy something to make as gifts. I wasn’t sure what that “something” would be, but I figured such an enormous store would have plenty of inspiration.
By the time I’d settled on something, my baby was screaming, and I ended up at the car with a couple of items I hadn’t paid for–they’d been in a basket under the stroller and I had overlooked them at the checkout. I just sighed and loaded everything into the car, too tired to get the baby out and make the slog back across the parking lot to the store. It was the first and only time I ever shoplifted.
My eventual decision to forego craft projects didn’t solve the holiday stress problem, however. There were program rehearsals, special clothes, decorations, relatives, and all of the other holiday delights that so often don’t really delight us at all. On top of that, I often felt guilty for being so materialistic. My children had more toys than they would ever play with, and yet they were looking through the toy catalogs, making lists for more. I couldn’t imagine how I would ever convey the “reason for the season” to them.
After some soul-searching (and some pretty stressful years), I came up with the following strategies for making this season more enjoyable.
Make a plan.
Take a calendar, a pad of paper, and a pencil to a cafe or coffee shop. If you’re married, make it a date. Mark all parties, programs, and outings on the calendar. List every person or charity you want to give to, list what you plan to buy, and approximately what you want to spend for each. If you’re married, divide the list into who will shop for each item.
Set aside particular times for wrapping gifts, enjoying cocoa by the fire, reading Christmas books to the kids, etc.
Rather than taking the kids shopping with you, plan a trip to the mall only for the purpose of seeing Santa and all the decorations. For all actual shopping, hire a sitter or shop while the kids are in school.
Pitch the catalogs. They create clutter, waste time, and give kids way too many ideas. Besides, everything in a catalog is online anyway.
If you love projects with your kids, terrific! If you’re like me and don’t handle that well, give them the materials to make their own decorations, or the ingredients for cutout cookies (assuming they’re old enough). They will not feel neglected, I promise.
Spend a couple of hours gathering toys your kids never use. Bag them and put them in the attic, or donate them to the Salvation Army. If your kids protest, tell them you have to make room for new toys–can’t keep them all! Be firm.
Keep meals simple. If you’re entertaining, it’s not necessary to prepare the most elaborate cocktails, the most hip hors d’oeuvres, the fanciest meal or the most sensational dessert. Even consider buying part or all of the meal–frozen lasagna or rotisserie chicken, bagged salad, frozen pie, etc.–and maybe use disposable dinnerware! The important thing is to enjoy your friends and family.
Use all one kind of giftwrap –all white with red ribbon, all brown craft paper with plaid ribbon , all gold with red, etc. If that’s not to your taste, fine, but it can make wrapping simpler.
Go media and tech free a couple of evenings each week. Go to the library for special holiday books, turn the Christmas music on, let your kids work on crafts, and relax!
Prioritize Your Health
Stress, crowds, lack of sleep, and lots of rich holiday food can lead to sickness. In addition to limiting stress by doing the things listed above, be sure to get plenty of sleep, drink a lot of water, and try to not eat too many sweets. You’ll feel so much better!
I can look back on my early days and laugh at some of the stress I created for myself. I meant well, I promise! But the stress was hard on my health and well-being, and created stress for everyone around me as well.
This holiday season, give yourself and your family the gift of less stress and more peace and goodwill.
Do you have some great strategies for coping with the stresses of the season? I’d love to hear them–share them with me, and I will share them in another post!