Holidays were intended to be a time of joy spent with those we love. White lights, perfectly decorated homes, scrumptious dinners laid out for our guests with prefect placement and decorations, and the family cat or dog laying by the fire so very well behaved to complete this picture-perfect moment. At least that’s how the Hallmark Christmas movies lay it all out. And while those are fun to watch – let’s be honest – they are not reality. At least not in my neck of the woods!
The majority of people I speak to who are hosting family for the holidays all relate to the Hallmark movies in one way – they are spending the holiday with those they love. However, they are often so stressed out they don’t get to be fully present in the moment and enjoy that time together. Most would actually describe the event a bit closer to the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation than a Hallmark moment. 🙂
Below are some tips to help you reduce the stress this holiday season:
- Make a list and keep it close: If you are cooking the meal for Thanksgiving or Christmas, or even just taking a side dish, make your list out now in the following manner:
- Start by listing all the dishes you intend to make.
- Next list the ingredients needed for each dish.
- Jot down if they will require the oven/crockpot/stove top or refrigerator (This helps you look ahead for any logistical concerns of too much food and not enough oven or refrigerator space instead of figuring that out the day of).
- After you have a list created, go through the spice cabinet and those items you only use once a year and see how much you have on hand (is it enough for the recipe?) and if they are still within the expiration date. Either mark it off your list or keep it on there as a reminder to purchase more.
- Put your list in your purse or in your car and when you go to the grocery each week between now and Thanksgiving or Christmas, pull that list out and purchase anything on sale or any item you know could be hard to find closer to that day. (I know someone whose daughter loved and wanted corn casserole for Christmas. On Christmas eve 5 stores were visited, stress levels rose high, over an elusive can of creamed corn.)
A meal planning list will decrease stress in the following ways: (1) All the “thinking” and “worrying” about the holiday meal gets out of your head and onto a piece of paper. You will instantly “feel better” and more organized. (2) Spreading the purchases up over a few shopping trips the weeks before will prevent one large grocery bill that causes financial strain (which contributes to stress) It will also prevent those last-minute runs to the store the day of, while you are also trying to cook, and eliminates multiple stops to find what you need if the first stop is not successful.
- Do not overspend: Set a “Christmas Budget” what can you truly afford to spend and not spend the next 2-3 months stressing about where the money will come from to pay the bills.
We overspend out of the goodness of heart, believing it will make our children “happier”. But the end result is that after the wrapping paper is torn off, and they play with the box more than the gift or have so many gifts they don’t know what to play with first, your worry sets in on how the rent will be paid next month or how food will be put on the table. That worry creates stress. That stress creates a stressful environment for the very child you were trying to make “happy”. Your love is not measured by the dollars you spend, but by the time and love you put into the moment. Buy a small gift or two and this year consider giving a “memory”. Take them to see a Christmas play, go see the lights at the zoo, make a memory that will last forever (long after the gift has been outgrown and sold at a yard sale.)
- Cleaning, Cleaning, cleaning … How many of you can relate to this? Right before the family comes over for the holidays – That is when you decide it’s time to clean closets, spaces, nooks and crannies you haven’t touched in a year! You start focusing close on those areas, and stress over getting them cleaned, and when the family actually arrives, you’re too exhausted to enjoy the moment. Don’t get me wrong…. it’s ok to dust, sweep and maybe even hide a few things in that upstairs closet (cmon’ don’t judge – we’ve all done it) but I challenge you to think back to your favorite holidays as a child. Do you remember how clean the house was? If the tableware matched? If the towels were holiday or every day? No. You remember family, and moments, and maybe Grandma’s amazing fudge… but you don’t remember if those nooks and crannies were clean.
There’s a story in the bible about Martha and Mary. Martha knew Jesus was coming for dinner. She was running around the house cleaning, cooking, trying to make everything “perfect” and exhausting herself. Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to him, connecting with him, and Martha gets pretty ticked off about it! In fact, she says (and I paraphrase here) “Jesus, aren’t you going to tell her to get up and help me?!?” And Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha – there’s only one thing that matters and Mary knows what that is.” While I believe it’s good to have a little Martha in us so we get things done – let’s be mostly Mary this holiday season. Let’s not forget to sit at the feet of Jesus and thank Him for coming into this world to save us from our sins. After all, Christmas is on His birthday this year. And at home, sitting and talking with family, playing board games or coloring pictures with the little ones, all of that which is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of the Holiday season. We need human interaction. We need connection. We need to give Martha a time-out and be a Mary …
Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to you my friends!