Most of us are aware, the holidays can be an incredibly, busy time. As women, the bulk of the preparations for holiday gatherings fall on our shoulders. Things might be different for you, but I know for me I am the one who makes the holidays happen. I do the shopping, the decorating, the baking, the meal planning, the wrapping and the packing when we travel out of town. I am also the one to clean up after the gatherings, take down the decorations, get rid of the torn paper, ribbons and bows and unpack and do laundry when we come back into town. This is also a busier time of year at a university bookstore as we are checking in students’ rental books, getting in books for next term and making those available for students who want to buy their books early.
You might wonder why I do it all. Why don’t I delegate some of the holiday responsibility or just not do some of the typical holiday activities? Realistically, I do it because I want to. I love Christmas. I love everything about it. However, I do understand that not everyone feels this way. In fact, contrary to Andy Williams song It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, the holidays can be the most difficult time of the year.
There are numerous factors that can make the Christmas season more of a burden, rather than a delight. Financial strain, job loss, illness, family tensions, influences from our pasts and the loss of a loved one, can all make the upcoming festivities seem more like a chaotic, commercial filled nightmare.
For those of us who call ourselves Christians, the meaning of Christmas is clear. This is the time we celebrate and remember the birth of Christ, the one we refer to as our Savior and King. Knowing this and believing in Him are key to understanding the Christ part of Christmas. However, our society celebrates Christmas without Christ. The gift giving, family gatherings and well wishes are a way of showing love and of reconnecting with those who are important to us.
I’d like to offer a few ways to get through the holidays without losing your mind, even if you don’t celebrate because of Christ. I will do another post, specifically to that next week.
1 - Pick and Choose
You honestly do not have to do everything. Figure out which things you absolutely love about Christmas and which ones don’t matter as much. I used to send out Christmas cards. I still love receiving cards in the mail, but I have found that is one thing, at this point in my life, that I had to let go of. As much as I love this tradition, I don’t have the time to commit to this holiday task. Perhaps you could do without all the decorating; a single Christmas tree in your window is as much decor as you need. Don’t worry about lights in the windows or a Better Homes and Gardens tree in every room of the house. Love baking, but feeling stressed out? Pick out one or two favorites to make. Let’s face it, often we just plain overdo.
2 - Set Boundaries
You don’t have to go to every holiday party you are invited to. You also don’t have to be at every family gathering. If you have family out of town this can get a little bit overwhelming. For years after we were married my spouse and I traveled back to NY and WI every Christmas. We’d do four or five days in one place, come home for two days and then go to the other place for another four or five days. My spouse being a professor and homeschooling our girls made it easy to make this sort of commitment, but it was hard! We went through bouts of stomach bugs, snowstorms and not being able to have our own Christmas traditions. It was great for our kids in that they built an amazing relationship with both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, but there did come a time when we said, we couldn’t do it any more. Now we usually go to one place for Thanksgiving and the other for New Years, that way we are home for Christmas with plenty of time in between to regroup and prepare for our own holiday celebrations.
3 - Take Care of Yourself
At the holidays we tend to get less sleep and eat more foods that, while delicious, are not necessarily good for us. Extra calories in cookies, rich high fat meals and eating out more when shopping and party going make us feel sluggish and tired. Those types of food need to be eaten in moderation and we still need to make good choices by eating enough fruits and veggies, as well as drinking lots of water.
In addition, make sure you are getting sufficient rest, as well as exercise. I am preaching to the choir here, everyone. I struggle with getting exercise at other times of the year, but the holidays and the cold, drab weather make it even harder, but we all know that exercise is not only good for our physical health, but our mental health as well.
Investing in your hobbies or learning something new can also be good for you. Knitting, painting, playing music or doing puzzles can give your mind a much needed break from the stressors of the season.
If you have the time and resources you can also invest in your well being by scheduling a massage, a manicure or taking yourself out to do something you enjoy, like a movie or a visit to a coffee shop to read a book.
4 - Be Grateful
No matter where you are at in life, you have things you can be thankful for. Food, clothes, heat, a bed to sleep in and a pillow to lay your head on. Things might be difficult for you this Christmas, but you can still find things to be thankful for, if you look. Every morning I am able to get out of bed and stand in a hot shower, I am thankful. During loss, and difficulty gratitude can make the difference between thriving and floundering,
These are just a few ideas of how to get through the holidays without losing your mind. I hope you find these helpful.
Do you have lots to do at this time of year? Be sure to take time to relax and enjoy the season.