It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, at least here in Maine. Snow is falling on the pines. The chickadees are flocking to the suet and sunflower seeds. Shoppers are mobbing the mall, although I’m not sure where they’re getting the money to shop this year, which leads me to the subject of why this season can be stressful and what you can do about it.
- First of all, take a few deep breaths and think about what YOU want this time of year to be like. Never mind what your family, your friends, you Facebook friends and your Twitter tweeps think Christmas and the holiday season should be. What do YOU want and expect this season? I think that one of the biggest sources of stress, this time of year, is when our wants and expectations don’t match up with the reality of the season. No matter how old we get, we’re still that three year old who really expects a pony under the tree on Christmas morning. And when we get a sweater instead, we’re seriously disappointed, even if Aunt Joyce DID knit it with her own two loving hands. It’s not a pony and we wanted a pony and not getting what we want just doesn’t cut it at Christmas, does it? And that applies to 3 year olds all the way up to 83 year olds and beyond.
- The second source of stress is that we try to do too much at Christmas. We over-shop, over-bake, over-buy and wear ourselves to a frazzle, until we’re complaining about all we have to do and feeling pressured to do more. Don’t fall into this trap. Keep your holidays as simple as you can and leave plenty of time for unplanned changes, both good and bad. It’s the time of year when people get colds and flu, oftentimes right before a school concert or a family get-together. If you expect this and have an alternate plan for these kind of speed bumps, it will be a lot easier to cope with them, instead of making it up as you go along or taking a sick kid to a social gathering where he – and the people around him – will be uncomfortable every time he coughs. (Natural Care for Colds and Flu – a free guide can help with those nasty bugs too.)
- Enjoy old traditions, but make new ones too. It’s wonderful to have family traditions and the holidays are a time when we unpack the old ornaments, catch up with old friends and bake our old favorite cookies. It helps families bond and it reassures us that – even though it seems as if everything changes – some things stay dependably the same. Just don’t forget to leave yourself open to starting a new tradition, which is how all the old traditions started, after all.
- Make it easy on yourself by letting some things slide. Do you really have to clean your house completely because you’re having company? They’ll be focused on the friends, the food and the Christmas decorations, not the dust bunnies under the beds. Just organize the clutter a little and don’t apologize for disorder, because that just draws attention to it. Tell yourself that you’re just into relaxed housekeeping and leave it at that while you enjoy your guests and your family.
- Balance the extra baking you’ll be doing with easy meals that can make themselves or make-ahead meals that can be frozen for future use. I’ve finally started to organize my recipes on Lill’s List and will be adding to them on a regular basis, so try one out in your crock pot and don’t forget the easy no-bake cookie recipe. The delicious, fruity little round cookies keep for up to two months in the freezer, so you’ll never be caught without goodies for drop-in company.
Most of all, remember to savor the season, slowly and comfortably, at your own pace. Instead of dashing through the snow, 24/7, take some time to sit by the fire and sip a cup of hot chocolate from time to time.