By Nicole Kerr
School is in full swing with all of the early morning practices, games, concerts, and other activities that come along with the season. And in case it hasn’t occurred to you yet, the holidays are right around the corner with all the baking, cooking, gift giving, and parties that creep along with them! For a time of the year that we are supposed to be joyful, there sure is a lot of stress. So before you decide to drown yourself in pumpkin spice and egg nog, try a few of these tips to help you get through this holiday season with the right mindset and a smile.
1. Remember it’s okay to say no.
There are so many activities and party invitations this time of year that it is impossible to fit them all in. So please don’t try. Wait to RSVP to invites until you have had time with your family (or on your own) to review your calendar and consider what activities you really want to make time for. It is hard, I know. But if you really don’t want to go to something, don’t go! And even if you do want to go, be selective. If you have so many “good” things on your calendar that you are stressed out, you won’t enjoy any of them!
2. Keep Things Simple.
Holiday gatherings and meals can get so complicated with the turkey, ham, cold salads, hot sides, bread, appetizers . . . and don’t forget desserts! Try making some new holiday traditions with your family and friends that put less stress on the host. Ever since my college years, when my brother and I were on our own, our family started making a Christmas Eve tradition of going out for Chinese food (think A Christmas Story movie)! No one has to plan or cook or clean. So simple and fun! Last year with my husband’s family, instead of the full turkey and sides we did a brunch with breakfast foods. Everyone brought something to share and we made waffles. It was so much less stressful than one person having to prepare a full meal.
3. Give the Gift of You.
I love giving gifts, but I will be honest, there is so much pressure around the holidays that I don’t enjoy gift giving this time of the year. And frankly, we can’t afford to buy gifts for everyone. One quick solution is to draw names so you have only one person in the family to buy for. But even then, it can feel like you have to get something really great, or it’s just everyone exchanging $25 gift cards. So this year, give the gift of you. Get your siblings movie tickets and tell them you want to go with them to a movie of their choice. Give a coupon to watch your nieces and nephews so their parents can have a night out. Invite your friends over to your house for a simple dinner and game night. Bake several batches of cookies, banana bread, or some other homemade item, wrap it up cute, and write a personal note. This is especially great if you can get your kids involved in the process. The best gifts are the ones you give with love and special thought.
4. Remember the Reason for Celebrating.
The holidays were not created just to give you a headache. Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful! Spend time during the weeks before thanksgiving to reflect on all that you have to be thankful for. Go with your family or a group of friends and volunteer at a local mission to serve a meal. And Christmas is a time to remember how much God loved us, so much that he sent His Son down to earth as a tiny baby. Make a special effort to read through the Christmas story in Matthew or Luke, but don’t stop there. Read through the rest of the book as a reminder of the ministry of Christ and His ultimate sacrifice.
5. Take Time to Breathe/Make Memories.
So you followed tip #1 and said no to a few things. You should also make an effort to say yes to a few things that will recharge you. Make sure you give yourself a little time at home to relax or schedule a coffee date with a friend. Take time to make memories. One of my favorite things to do for my birthday (which is also during this season) is to go to a pumpkin patch with my young niece and watch her run around and explore. This time of year is so beautiful with the changing leaves, Christmas lights, fresh snow (yes, even snow can be beautiful if you take time to enjoy it), and creating special memories with family and/or friends. Don’t let the busyness of the season steal your joy!