Holiday Season: Begin with the End in Mind
The holidays. Yes, it’s that time of year again. Woohoo! Christmas music is on at all time unless my husband is home. He doesn’t appreciate the music this early. If I don’t start listening in October or at least November I can’t get Christmas out of my system by the time December 25th rolls around. I would live at Santa’s workshop if possible. But for some reason I think that is a hopeless dream.
Anyway, the holidays seem to evoke excitement and warm, fuzzy feelings. But as Thanksgiving and Christmas draw nearer, the warm, fuzzy feelings quickly turn to stress and headaches. Every year I hear people talk about how much they love the holidays and in the same breath talk about the stress that surrounds them. I have been one of them. And I can’t help but ask, “Why?” Sure, there are a few extra items on the “to do” list but aren’t they supposed to be fun? And aren’t fun things supposed to reduce stress?
Additionally (this word feels like I am writing a report but I must go on). Additionally, at the end of each holiday season I hear people say, and I myself have said, how I wish I would have relaxed and savored each moment, especially the ones that didn’t go exactly according to the list. They usually make the best stories later.
Because I like to name feelings and I love making list, I’ve decided to talk myself through some of the top holiday stressors-ones I have experienced. Ones I have heard that others have experienced. And ones that if not purposefully dealt with can literally ruin the entire season.
One more thing before diving in. To do anything in life well we must begin with the end in mind. Thanks for the lesson, Dad. Lucky for us, we are still a couple weeks away from Thanksgiving and have time this year to do just that: begin this holiday season with the end in mind. How do you want to remember this year? How do you want feel during the holidays? I doubt any of us would answer with “stressed, sick, tired, and ready for the season to end.” Yet if we don’t live the next two months on purpose there is a high possibility that our default mode will be “stressed, sick, tired and ready for the season to end.” So, here we go!
- Family. Don’t ya love family? Even the crazy ones! Sometimes you just have to roll your eyes and appreciate the weirdos. If your family doesn’t have crazies, YOU may be the crazy. But seriously, this is one of the top stressors I hear around this time of year: traveling to see family, family coming to visit, large families, and even small ones. I quickly learned when I married into my husband’s family that while I LOVE being part of a huge family, I have to take a step back at times. The first Christmas I spent with the Joys, my sisters-in-law kept checking on me, asking how I was. I can’t help but chuckle as I think back to that first Christmas with fifty people at the Christmas Eve party. And that wasn’t even the entire family! On the flip side, if you are used to a large family and marry into a smaller one, holidays can seem a bit slow. Knowing how to handle each situation which will greatly reduce the stress. Neither one is right or wrong, just different. Take some time to step away to refocus. Your family will thank you.
- Food, Part 1. Who doesn’t love the holiday feast? But how many of us stress about having to slave in the kitchen for five hours only to sit at the table for ten minutes, followed by two hours of clean up? As with all these potential stressors, know yourself. Cooking may be the highlight of your season. If not, you have a few options. One, make the most of it. If making the entire meal from scratch is the consensus of the majority, grab your favorite drink, put on some music and enjoy making memories in the kitchen. Two, if possible, make a few items ahead of time and freeze them. The cooking will be less overwhelming if some dishes are already prepared. Or three, it may be time to re-evaluate. There is nothing wrong with having some frozen dishes from SAMs waiting in the freezer or even…wait for it…ordering a few meals ahead of time. Yes, I said it. Ordering your holiday meal may be the very choice that alleviates the majority of your stress. You don’t have to be Rachel Ray in the kitchen. Take a breather and do what works for your family.
- Food, Part 2. As a Registered Dietitian I hear many, many fears that surround holiday eating. You want to dive face first into the dessert table while still maintaining that figure you’ve worked all year to maintain. Oh, and not to mention that clean bill of health you just received for the first time in years at your last check-up. Or, you haven’t stepped foot in a gym since January and somehow reason that indulging in every holiday treat for the next two months is a good idea. You can start taking care of yourself in January, right? Wrong! Why blow it now? Or why wait two months to start eating better only to gain another ten to twenty pounds, turning right around to take them off? Start today. Practice moderation. Enjoy those holiday meals and treats. But don’t lose all self-control, not to mention good health, in the process.
- Presents. Yep, this one gets me. The Clicks are not big gift-givers. My mom just turned sixty and what did we get her? Nothing. Nothing wrapped anyway. We took her to dinner and threw her a surprise party with a chocolate bar and her closest friends. That’s what we like: experiences. If your family is like mine, don’t stress about having eighty-five presents under the tree. Spend the money on an experience instead. And don’t worry that it’s unconventional for this time of the year. On the other hand (and there are always two hands), there can be a lot of joy in gift giving. If you are a part of a gift-giving family, shop early! Give yourself plenty of time to look and look some more. For me, buying early significantly reduces stress. Or better yet, find a family that is truly in need and make their Christmas one to remember. Most of us could manage with much, much less.
- Parties. Holiday parties at work, church, school, with your workout group, lunch group, book club and some just because. Parties are just the thing to do around the holidays. They are fun! The food, the friends, the music, the environment. Gatherings are extra special. But when parties are happening every other day they can quickly become stressful. Here is my advice: Go to some; consider not going to all. If having a packed schedule energizes you and your family (the “and your family” part is key here) then party away! But, you may need to say no to a few things so you can fully say yes to others. On the flip side, if you are a homebody and never get out, you may need to say no to staying in so you can say yes to the outside world. You know who you are.
- Money. Why does money always show up as a stressful topic? Too much and too little can overtake us if we are not careful. Here is the short of it: set a budget and stick to it. If you don’t have it, don’t spend it. I promise you will have no regrets when January rolls around and you can easily and fully pay that credit card bill. Or better yet, go Dave Ramsey style, pull out cash and spend only that amount. When it’s gone, the spending is done. Another option is shopping sales throughout the year. While it’s a little late for year round shopping there are still great sales to be had. Check out Black Friday sales which are already happening in some stores or Cyber Monday on November 28th. Be careful to know your product to ensure the “sale” is actually a sale. And remember, it is never too late to set a budget. Hear me on this: you do not have to go broke to have a wonderful holiday season. Know your limits, set a budget and enjoy spending within your means.
Beginning with the end in mind and planning through some of the top stressors is great but ultimately we must keep in mind the purpose of the holiday season. We should spend this time of year being more grateful, enjoying the time with loved ones, and celebrating the birth of our Savior. This life and everything in it would be meaningless without Jesus Christ. Remember this truth and you will be just fine. Because let’s be honest, who could really make it through the holidays without Jesus anyway?