It has been a bit quiet here at Townsend House over the past few weeks. It wasn’t my original purpose to take some time off from blogging, but it happened, and I am enjoying the break. Giving myself a little bit of time off has helped me realize how much I strive for a stress free holiday.
I love the Christmas season – it is definitely my favorite time of year. From Thanksgiving right through to the New Year, I love every minute of it. However, it is also very easy to have it fraught with stress and anxiety. I want to enjoy the holidays; I don’t want to be stressed out during the holidays.
Why is it important to me to have a stress free holiday?
The biggest reason? It is more fun to not stress, isn’t it?
When I think of holidays past, there have been some doozies for me. Trying to do every little thing, trying to make sure we get to all of the parties, make all the cookies, go-go-go.
Unfortunately, when I start go-go-going like that, I tend to get sick, and it is often on Christmas Day. How am I supposed to enjoy Christmas with my family when I am sick as a dog and want to go back to bed? Not fun!
A few years ago I had finally had enough. I was incredibly sick on Christmas Day and we didn’t have a Christmas dinner that year. I had had enough. I needed a change in my holiday season.
I needed to let go of the expectations I had placed on myself to make the holiday perfect for my kids and my family, and I also had to let go of the expectations of everyone outside my immediate family as to what we should be doing during the holiday season.
That was not an easy task.
I remember that year, and that moment ended up being a catalyst for me to make a broader change in my whole life.
To let go of the idea that I was the reason people were happy or unhappy.
For some reason I was under the impression that what I did or did not do was the cause of people’s happiness. It sounds like a very conceited thing to me now, but I did feel that way. It was my people pleasing nature that caused me to want to make sure everyone else was happy and satisfied, leaving nothing left for me and my family at the end of it.
After I was able to come to my own understanding that I cannot make people happy, everyone is responsible for their own happiness, it is a choice, and I was not happy being sick and stressed out on Christmas for the 5th year in a row.
How do you manage to have a stress free holiday?
I have to be honest here, and say that the tips that I have may not relieve all the stress in your holiday. There are still times when I am running around like a crazy person trying to get something done, or get to a party, or realizing that we have three basketball games on Saturday instead of the two I had planned.
It takes a certain bit of flexibility in order to let that stress melt away.
The biggest tip that I have is to make a list of your most important items.
What are the activities and traditions that make the holiday season special to you?
I remember growing up my mom would always ask my brother and I what one dish we had to have at Thanksgiving – that without that dish it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving. And she did something similar when it came to Christmas. What is the one thing that made Christmas, Christmas?
The one thing that I always looked forward to was our Christmas Eve open house.
Every year my mom would manage to pull off a great open house after the Christmas Eve service at our church. There was always a ton of food and sweets, and everyone piling into the house to hang out. They are some of my fondest memories of growing up, and it is the one thing that I have wanted to do since starting my own family.
The difficulty of pulling of a Christmas Eve open house is not lost on me – especially when factoring in all of the other activities.
Last year I decided what the most important activities we would need to do to make Christmas special for our family. Then I listed everything else that we did during the holiday season.
There were some non-negotiables, basketball practices and games, the kids’ Christmas concert. But then there was everything else.
After looking at the two lists, I was able to narrow down the items that we liked to do, but were not really necessary, and would instead cause more stress throughout the holiday season.
It may not seem that simple to do, especially if these activities have become traditions in your own family, that you may feel bad saying no to, but if doing those activities takes away from your own joy and happiness during the holiday season perhaps it is time to speak up about it.
Having the ability to say no when it matters is something that took me a long time to learn, but I am happier now for it, and so is my family.
When I am stressed, my kids can see it. When we are rushing around from one activity to the next it ends up not being fun. I want Christmas to be fun and memorable for my kids, and I don’t think that overwhelming ourselves with activities is how to do that. I think simple traditions, hot cocoa, decorating cookies, making a gingerbread house, celebrating Advent – those are the types of activities I want my kids to remember.
It isn’t about the amount of presents, or the number of parties or extra activities, but it is about family, and togetherness and really enjoying that time together.
Do you get overwhelmed during the holiday season? What is one thing that you would like to say no to this year and why?