We are fast approaching the holiday season! Webster’s Dictionary defines holiday as a time of leisure, recreation and freedom from labor. Does that sound like your holiday? Probably not! These days our holiday season is full of rushing around store to store finding gifts for everyone we have ever come in contact with, cooking as if a famine were imminent, and decorating our houses according to Martha Stewart standards. By the time the special day arrives, we are too pooped to be perky! You have to wonder what message this is sending to our children about our priorities in this blessed season.
We can begin the de-stressing process by first taking time to plan our holiday time. What message do you want to send about what is important to you? (things or relationships?) What activities can your family engage in to demonstrate what you feel in your heart? (activities that bring you together or activities that stress you out?)
Here are some ideas to include in your plan for de-stressing your holiday:
- Give yourself a holiday from the holiday
This might mean giving yourself permission to not do EVERYTHING— buy a dessert instead of baking all day, don’t attend every party, buy less gifts, allow others to assist with the chores, draw names instead of buying for everyone, and just say “no”. It might also mean that you plan in advance for down time. Schedule a nap, or playtime with your loved ones. Basically, resign as General Manager of the Universe!
- Spend time with those who are special to you
We have all heard the saying, Life is not a dress rehearsal. Take this to heart…we will never be able to relive this day again. If something happened to you or your loved ones in the coming year, would you have wished you had spent your time differently? Call up an old friend from the past, or tell someone those things that you always wanted to say, but never got around to (i.e., “I appreciate what you do”, “I admire you”, or “I am sorry.”) Rather than spending hours looking for the material gifts (that, by the way, will be put away by next year!), give thoughtfully of your time. For example, give your loved ones a list of things you love about them, write a poem for your family, give a “one-hour” coupon that’s good for any project of the recipient’s choice, visit someone who can’t leave home, or cook a meal for a single parent. These moments will be remembered and appreciated long after batteries go out in that perfect gadget.
- Remember (and practice) the reason for the season
We know that youth are more likely to grow up healthy when they serve others in the community. When children start to reach out and help others, their world grows and so does their confidence. The best way to teach this lesson is for adults to model this behavior. As a family you might decide to serve Christmas dinner to those in need at a shelter. This is a wonderful way to give to others while also reducing the stress of cooking for your household! Other ideas might include: visiting at a nursing home, helping an elderly neighbor with chores, providing a ride to an appointment or errand, babysitting for new parents so that they can have time together.
Several years ago, my friends and I decided to make our gifts to each other more meaningful by jointly contributing to a charity rather than exchanging “stuff” that we didn’t need anyway. We selected Heifer International (www.heifer.org), a charitable organization that provides animals to needy families and teaches the family how to earn a living from the animals. Each year we have a Heifer Party where we eat, have tons of fun, and sometimes even dress funny. Each of us contributes the money that we would have typically spent on gifts for each other. At the end of the party we select the animals we want to purchase and send in our donation. Just think of the long-term benefits of money as well as the shopping time saved!
- Have fun!
Learn to enjoy the moment rather than always thinking about the list of things yet to be done. Think of things gone wrong as an opportunity to collect stories to tell your grandchildren. Toilets clogging, gifts broken, the tree falling over— imagine how funny these will sound when you tell others about them later! To put things in perspective, ask yourself, “How important will this be in 5 years?” Does it matter that the tree lights did not work, the soufflé fell or that dinner was late? Probably not . . . what is more important is that you spent time with those important to you and enjoyed the moment!
Each of us gets to purposely decide how we handle those stressful moments in life. Though frogs do have the best method (they can eat what bugs them!), we humans do get to choose every day how we will react to potentially “pesky” situations!! My recommendation . . . choose laughter!