The holiday season is upon us. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or something else, this time of year can be overwhelming and filled with stress. The shopping mall is something like a nightmare, there are family dynamics to deal with, and our children get overtired and fussy. Holidays should be a time when we strengthen our relationships, but often it is the opposite.
How can we maintain some sanity in the midst of all the chaos?
1. Take a deep breath. Literally. Preferably while soaking in a hot bubble bath. We all need a few minutes to ourselves. A hot bath is relaxing, and we can enjoy the silence or even a few softly played Christmas songs on Pandora. Whether it's a hot bath, reading a good book, or some other activity you enjoy, be sure to take a little time each day to unwind. Now exhale.
2. Avoid the stores during peak times. The craziest time to shop each day is during the rush-hours right after work. Generally this means avoiding the stores between 4pm and 6pm. A great time to pick up your necessities is late at night after your kids go to bed. The stores will be less busy, and you won't be dragging toddlers through a crowd. Your spouse can stay home with the kids (they'll be sleeping anyway).
3. Make a gameplan for your family's holiday schedule well in advance. Having this in place will allow you to focus on the events that are the most important to your family. You can say no to the rest. That way you won't get overbooked and exhausted trying to keep up with it all. You don't have to agree to go caroling with friends on five different nights. Choose things that will work for you (and that you actually want to do!), write them on the calendar, and stick to the plan!
4. Give away your possessions. I don't mean give away everything you own. Rather, empty out some closets. Have the kids purge their toybox. Drop off a few boxes of stuff at Goodwill. Make room in your house for the new things you will inevitably get during this holiday season. It's a win-win because you will make space for new things, and someone else will get to enjoy and appreciate the things you no longer need.
5. Keep the main thing the main thing. There is a reason for the season. Stay focused on that. In the end, it's not about the parties, gifts, and never-ending delicious goodies. Focus on doing good things for others. Drop off a gift basket to a family in need. Send an anonymous gift card to someone. Shovel your neighbor's sidewalk, or do some volunteer work. It is extremely difficult to focus on our own selfish issues at the same time we are focused on helping someone else. Focusing outward helps us not to be focused inward. Don't forget what this season is really about.
If you are successful at those five steps, you will have a better chance of staying sane this holiday season. Nothing will ever be perfect, but you can enjoy this time rather than dread it.