Attitude is Everything

I was driving through the city where I live the other day with my daughter. “Oh look!” my daughter said happily, looking out the window. “They are starting to put up the trees!” This time  of year, the city is in full swing, putting up live Christmas trees and lights on many of the light poles throughout the city, especially the downtown area, although they don’t begin to light them until after Thanksgiving. Our city’s nickname is “The Christmas City,” and we have tourists come in each year to experience being in “The Christmas City” during the Christmas season. There are lots of poles that get decorated with trees, so the city starts preparing early.

Hill-to-Hill Bridge

The Christmas City, showing one of the trees now being installed on poles all over the city. Photo credit: Flickr

What got me about this exchange with my daughter is the attitude she expressed. She was excited to see those trees going up. She and my husband are already counting down–gleefully–the number of days and weeks left until Christmas. The two of them approach Christmas full of joy and excitement about the many experiences that season brings.

What is your attitude toward Christmas when you think of it? Most recent years, I was downright resentful to see Christmas decorations and other items for sale before Halloween. How could they be thinking of Christmas already? I would grumble to myself. I’m not ready to start with all of that. I had an attitude of dread toward Christmas. I felt rushed into it all, and I didn’t like it.

I looked at those who enjoyed and looked forward to Christmas, like my husband and my daughter, scornfully. They enjoy Christmas because they don’t have to DO everything, I told myself. They can do what they want, what they like. I have to keep up a crazy schedule for two months just to get all the shopping, baking, wrapping, card-writing, and decorating done.

Then I realized the one thing that allowed my attitude toward Christmas to change. I didn’t have to do everything either! At some point, I also realized I was allowing society to rush me into Christmas. I had to make choices about what I did and how I responded to the Christmas cues all around me. My husband has begun to do a lot of the Christmas-related preparations that would stress me out, including gift shopping and even baking cookies. He enjoys doing these things and he does them with a great attitude, feeling the joy of the season AND the joy of taking away my stress.

This year, I have not started to really plan the many aspects of our Christmas holiday. I don’t feel ready yet, but I don’t feel badly for not feeling ready. I am at peace with where I am. I know that when it’s time, I will make plans and carry them out. When I’m ready, I will move forward and experience Christmas with a heart full of joy. I will do the things that add to my enjoyment of Christmas, while limiting and eliminating the things that cause me stress. I will realize that I am one person and get help or let things go when I feel rushed.

Because of these important choices, my attitude toward Christmas is so much better! I encourage you to think about your attitude toward Christmas and how to improve it, even if that means you change long-held traditions. Most of us try to do too much all through the year, and I urge you to make Christmas a time of year when you slow down and savor everything, rather than get even busier.

5 Easy Steps to Making Christmas Easier

15577242905_05e2043cc6_z

Gorgeous fall foliage from Michigan, October 2014, courtesy Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Christmas may be coming to your thoughts more and more often now. Today is exactly 2 months until Christmas! And while you really don’t need to be thinking about it a lot, if you find yourself itching to get started on preparations, here are 5 things you can do to prepare for Christmas now that will make it much easier (read less stressful) when the time to celebrate comes.

1) Get rid of some clutter. Now is the perfect time to go through clothes, pare down decorative items, and clear out things you just aren’t using anymore. Decluttering will make things simpler when it comes time to put up the tree and Christmas decorations.

2) Go through kids’ rooms. If your kids are like mine, they have too much of everything. Too many toys, too many clothes, and so many accessories and trinkets that I wonder where they all came from. October is a great time to do a good room clean out, which will make room for the new stuff they will receive in a few months.

3) Decide how much to spend. Making a Christmas spending budget now has some advantages, if it doesn’t cause you stress. Knowing how much you have to work with will leave you well equipped to make good decisions when you do your shopping.

4) Make a list of people you want to give gifts to. Also, list how much you would like to spend on each person. Don’t forget to write down any gifts you might have already purchased at sales during the year.

5) Plan your baking. You don’t have to plan your baking this early, but doing so can help you find the best prices on the ingredients you will need, as well as being able to plan ahead so that everything gets done on time. That being said, I encourage you to keep it simple. If you don’t have time to do a lot, don’t! The stores are full of goodies, and everyone will enjoy them whether you make them homemade or not. Participating in a cookie swap is another great way to get a variety of goodies even though you just baked one thing.

So if you just can’t hold back the urge to get started on Christmas, here are some things you can do to be more prepared later. However, feel free to blow off this list and just keep on enjoying fall for now! Feel free to post in the comments your own best pre-planning tips or anything that helps keep your stress levels down in regards to Christmas!

Don’t Plan Ahead (too much)

photo (3)

 

 

This is a photo of the plaza outside my town’s city hall and library. Yes, those are Advent candles. They were mounted a few days ago.

I attended 2 meetings last week–a staff meeting at the school where I teach, and a planning meeting for women’s ministry at my church. Christmas was heavily featured at both of them. A friend posted on Facebook that the first Black Friday information has already been posted online. Walmart and other stores already have their Christmas decorations, cards, and other items out on the floor for sale.

On some level, Christmas is beginning to break into the awareness of many people. In the past, hearing about Christmas in October would start to get me angry. I would exclaim that “I’m not ready to think about Christmas yet!” Shortly thereafter, I would give in and start making my to-do lists.

So many of the books and articles I have read on how to get Christmas under control focus on planning ahead. Just plan ahead, they seem to promise, and you won’t be stressed at Christmas. Planning ahead will make you more organized and you will feel happier about Christmas.

I’m not going to tell you not to plan ahead for Christmas at all. I think a certain amount of planning ahead is necessary. However, planning ahead is not the whole answer to taming Christmas. No matter how much you plan ahead, it fails to do one thing that is a very big part of my purpose for this blog and my e-book (available here). Planning ahead doesn’t keep Christmas in its proper place–as one day of the year, or maybe a week or two if you look at Christmas as a season. Planning ahead may make you more prepared for Christmas and reduce your stress level around the holiday, but planning too far ahead will still give Christmas a larger presence in the year than is necessary or beneficial. Do you really want to be actively engaged in  planning Christmas for 3 months, or 25% of the year? I don’t.

You may not be able to get away with refusing to plan for Christmas in October. Certain things need to be planned well in advance for them to go smoothly when the time comes. Our school had to plan field trips and Christmas program practices. The ladies at church needed to settle on some details about the Christmas luncheon and cookie swap (which is held early in December). And those poor maintenance guys need to put up trees and lights all over the city in preparation for the tourist season, so they need to start early. However, you can contain the planning and refuse to get too deeply into your own planning until Christmas is closer.

As Christmas comes into your awareness in little bits and pieces, try to evaluate whether it is something you really need to deal with yet. For instance, I did discuss the cookie swap with the church ladies, but I stopped short of planning what kind of cookies I will be making when I attend. That’s something I really don’t need to plan for quite yet. Our school may have it’s field trip and party schedule in full swing, but I don’t need to plan any details of my class’s party yet.

As you decide what things you really need to plan at this time, I hope it will give you peace to let go of the rest until Christmas is closer. One thing I do start to plan in October is gifts. Since I crochet and sometimes sew some of the gifts we give and some of our holiday clothes, planning in October will allow me the time I need to finish these projects early. Completing these projects at a more leisurely pace in October and November allows me not to hurry with them in December and gives me a greater sense of relaxation as Christmas draws near.

Did you like this article? My ebook, Taming the Christmas Monster, is full of ways to take the stress out of Christmas, leaving only the joy and peace of this special time of year. Available on Amazon for Kindle.

 

ebook

Ebook Now Available!

Christmas Monster Cover

If Christmas just generally stresses you out with its busy-ness, expectations, and endless to-do lists, this blog will be a great place to get encouragement, ideas and courage to change things for the better. My new ebook. Taming the Christmas Monster, is also available for Kindle on Amazon.com. This book will take you through the process of evaluating the way you’ve been celebrating Christmas and help you discover how to have a meaningful, joyful and peaceful holiday. You can learn to enjoy and look forward to Christmas again!

Christmas Decisions

Today is October 6th. If Christmas is prominent in your thoughts today, I would urge you to put Christmas out of your thoughts for a while longer. A week is a start, and a month would be even better. Yes, I know I’m already blogging about Christmas; however, I’m doing so in an attempt to help people who are hyperfocused on this holiday to an unhealthy degree.

What is an unhealthy degree, you ask?

Well, if your thoughts about Christmas are causing you stress now, in early October, when it won’t even be Christmas for another 79 days, I think that’s an unhealthy degree of focus. If you are already making to-do lists, I think that’s an unhealthy degree of focus. I can say this because for many years I did make to-do lists in October. Because of my work schedule (and my inability to ask for help and/or sijmplify), I thought it was necessary to start Christmas preparations in October. I no longer do this, although between work, writing and my kids’ activity schedules, I am probably busier now than ever before.

If your thoughts about Christmas are dark and angry, I also think that’s an unhealthy degree of focus, even if you aren’t doing anything about Christmas yet. Let me make it clear: this blog is NOT anti-Christmas. The purpose of this blog is to get rid of the stress and negativity many people feel toward Christmas so that true joy and peace can be felt. The things causing the stress need to change, but we won’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I’ve always enjoyed Christmas, and I like it even better now that I’ve tamed it in a way that works for me and my family.

If you just can’t put Christmas out of your mind, this would be a good time to decide what changes you want to make this year. What things have worked well for you? What did you enjoy most last year? What things do you want to try this year to simplify the holiday or make it more a more meaningful time?

Making decisions before you start your Christmas preparations (which I still think should be in about a month or even a little more) will help you celebrate purposefully and not miss any important aspects of the season, while giving you the best chance of being objective about what you spend, what events you attend, and other aspects of the holiday that may be causing you stress.

Before jumping headfirst into what I used to call “Christmas craziness,” take some time, be honest with yourself, and try to figure out where Christmas has gone wrong in the past. I guarantee you that making decisions about Christmas before beginning preparations for it will give you more peace and joy than almost anything else you could do this year.

Feel free to post in the comments section any questions or comments you may have about the blog or about taming Christmas. I am working hard to finish up the editing and formatting of the e-book this week, so check back for updates!

 

807561379_e6771a7c8e_z

 

Photo credit: Copyright 2007 by thornypup

 

Don’t Panic!

keep-calm-only-11-weeks-till-christmas

If this graphic makes you tense up, take a deep breath and stay tuned! Over the next few weeks, I will offer lots of good ideas and suggestions on how to have a peaceful feeling about Christmas.

For today, I want you to focus on the fact that Christmas is one day out of the year. The Bible says that each day has enough trouble of its own, so for today, just think about today. It’s Friday–do something enjoyable, spend time with loved ones. Check back Monday for some more ideas.

No More Dreading Christmas

It’s a horrible feeling, dreading Christmas. For years I felt it when October rolled around. I had a physical reaction to the beginning of Christmas preparations. My chest tightened; my stomach clenched. Instead of thinking about beautiful decorations or the look of surprise on my kids’ faces as they opened gifts, I was thinking about the loss of all my free time until January and the expenses for which we weren’t prepared. Instead of meditating on Advent-themed scriptures and the miracle of Christ’s birth, I was making long to-do lists and wondering how I was going to get everything done on top of work and all the kids’ normal activities.

A few years ago I decided it wasn’t worth it. I had to change the way I was doing things so I could find true joy in Christmas again. The end result–this blog and an e-book called Taming the Christmas Monster, which will release to Kindle next week–is intended to help those who feel frazzled by Christmas back to a place of peace and sanity again.  This year, I don’t yet have a to-do list. My stockpile of gifts is smaller than ever. I don’t have much of anything planned for December yet, but when I think of Christmas, my thoughts are good. Whatever happens, I know I will sense the joy and wonder of this time of Christ’s birth, and that is all I need to know right now.

If you have dark thoughts about this special time of year, this blog and my e-book are for you. If you just want to crawl under the covers and wake up on December 26th, subscribe below. If the thought of buying gifts, sending cards, decorating, baking and attending parties, performances and other events overwhelms you to the point where you feel like a failure before you’ve even begun, stay tuned. I will be posting frequently as the time draws nearer, and the book WILL be on Amazon next week to guide you through action steps that will make Christmas manageable again.

It is possible to love Christmas again, to find its joy and peace. If you don’t celebrate Christmas from a place of faith, this blog and the e-book are still for you.  The stress of Christmas never had anything to do with my faith–it was everything else that seemed to get in the way of what Christmas was supposed to be about. My faith is an integral part of who I am and my experience, so I need to talk about it when I share those experiences. The same principles apply, however, whether one celebrates the coming of baby Jesus or just sees Christmas as a special time for family and togetherness.

If you like this blog and what it has to offer, please subscribe below. There are many harried people out there, overwhelmed by Christmas and all it signifies. If you can relate, tell your friends. Chances are, they can relate too.