It’s December–Don’t Panic

It’s been almost a month since my last post. I thought I would get to post before this, but my best laid plans didn’t go the way I thought they would. I’m okay with it, though.

I probably would have just said in a nutshell, don’t get stressed about Christmas. Don’t worry about getting things done yet, you’ve got plenty of time. Easier said than done, I know. But not stressing can be done–and it should be.

It’s December now, and I wonder how many of you are in full-on panic mode at this point. I hope none of you are, but probably you wouldn’t be on this list then.

So . . .

Think about what is making you most stressed. Here’s a good test to see if you should stress about it. Are you going to still care about it in 5 years? How about this time next year? For probably 95 percent of the things people stress about at Christmas, the answer is NO.

I still remember the year I told my husband I was not going to have time to bake cookies, and if he wanted them he would have to bake them himself. We had probably been married about 12 years, and I had always baked (and sometimes he had baked some cookies, too).

You know what he did? He baked. And he wasn’t the least bit stressed about it. He had fun, and the kids helped, and I did what I needed to do, without staying up half the night and getting myself sick over it.

Becoming Realistic

You are one person. Chances are, you have a job, maybe kids, and not a whole lot of extra time after you get everything done that you need to do on a daily basis.

You deserve to sleep. You deserve to do things YOU enjoy during the holidays (and other times). Christmas should be fun, not stressful.

It’s time to become more realistic about what you can accomplish at this time of year, and how much you can realistically expect to get done. Then, you need to let things go.

What can you let go? In previous years, I have let go of sending Christmas cards, I have not decorated as much, and I have comandeered my husband to wrap gifts (and trust me, it wasn’t very pretty, but it got done).

I went from being someone who spent weeks making homemade, craft fair-quality gifts to save money and sewing dresses for the girls and ties and vests for the guys every year to being able to let my husband do at least half of the shopping and some years, all of the baking. I haven’t even touched the sewing machine this year (although I might do so to help my daughter make some little gifts for her friends).

I decided at some point that if I as the mom wasn’t finding joy in Christmas, then my kids were probably going to be suffering for it and I was probably costing them joy and sending a very bad message about what Christmas was all about, too.

Was stress and losing sleep and being cranky worth it just to have everything be what I thought was perfect? I decided NO.

Beyond Simplicity

My current approach to Christmas goes beyond the concept of simplicity. That’s part of it, but just simplifying is not really the whole point of what I’m trying to do here. There’s a reason for the season, and it’s not the perfect cookie or the perfect gift or the perfect outfit.

Christmas celebrates Christ, and He surely doesn’t care about any of the stuff I just listed. I want my Christmas to be centered around the stuff He cares about–spending time with family, doing meaningful things together (including helping others), and celebrating together.

So wherever you are on completing your to-do list, I hope you can take a little time to evaluate how you’re feeling and doing this season, and if you are feeling mainly stressed, that you can take some time to think about what you can let go to make your schedule more realistic–and ultimately bring some joy into the season for yourself and your loved ones.

Although it may seem even more stressful at first to make changes and do things differently, if your experience is like mine it will lead to a much Merrier Christmas when it’s all said and done.

Feel free to write me a comment if this post resonated with you and, if you feel comfortable, let me know how you have tamed Christmas.

tree pic

Decorating the tree together with ornaments collected for over 40 years.

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.