So, it’s December 17 – is all right in your world? Are you experiencing peace and rest? Are you reflecting on the meaning of Christmas while listening to Christmas music and eating a homemade cut-out Christmas cookie from a recipe that you found on Pinterest? I’m guessing not. Historically, on this day of the year the panic begins to make its way to our hearts – 8 days until Christmas. The good news, that’s more than a week! The bad news, all that Christmas stuff you have to cram into 7 days before the Christmas morning reveal, if you know what I mean. And right about now, you’re probably looking back thinking, I wish I had more time for ___________. I wish I had started ____________ sooner.
I can’t change your past, but I can give you some actionable items for your present and some tools for your future to help you maintain your sanity.
In the midst…
1. LISTEN. Turn on some Christmas music. Spotify, iTunes, Pandora, an actual Christmas CD… whatever you have at your disposal, Christmas music can help gain some Christmas spirit. If you’re feeling stressed, I recommend traditional Christmas carols or Handel’s Messiah.
They’re typically quieter and familiar, which can help reduce stress.
2. BREATHE. You can always take a deep breath or two in the middle of tasks. It’s good for the body and mind and can help reduce stress. If you are able, simmer a little concoction like these on your stove to get the house smelling nice, which will also cause you to want to take a deep breath to smell the Christmas spirit. Today I put some water in a sauce pan, sprinkled in some ground clove and whole cloves, added a cinnamon stick, about a teaspoon of vanilla and some orange peel. Simmered on the back of the stove and now the house smells lovely. Just remember to keep adding water as the water will evaporate. And I’m guessing burning cinnamon stick and orange peel doesn’t smell very good. You can also put all the ingredients in a small crock pot. Leave the lid on until it’s hot, then take the lid off to smell the gloriousness – it’s a little less maintenance and probably a little safer in the long run.
3. REASSESS. Check the calendar to see if every event is absolutely necessary or desired. Feel free to say no if the events aren’t the best use of your time. Check the holiday gift list, too. Do you already have enough for your children or grandchildren? Is what you’re going to add to the gift pile going to cross over into the land of “too much”? Is there anyone on your gift list you won’t see until after Christmas that you can shop for later? (Only do this if it isn’t going to cause you more stress to shop later – nothing worse than something hanging over your head.) And if you’re making yourself crazy over teacher gifts or Christmas cards, stop. New Year’s gifts and cards are perfectly acceptable. Above all remember this: YOU write the rules on what you do at Christmas. No one else does. Do what is most important and know it’s ok to let go of what isn’t top priority.
4. GIVE THANKS
Thanksgiving is the first of “the holidays”… at least it is if you’re an American. And I think it’s fitting because we have much to be thankful for. For some reason our thankfulness seems to end when Black Friday starts.
In the middle of the holiday season when you’re starting to feel the overwhelm and task list isn’t getting shorter, stop and think of a thing or two that you’re thankful for. It’ll put your mind on something positive and likely remind you of the important things and simple joys of life. Thinking about the things you’re thankful for often gives you a healthy perspective, too. The things under the tree, the cookies, the decorations – it’s all great, but it’s the people we are thankful for and spend this time with that matter most.
In the future…
Why does it always feel like Christmas sneaks up on us like we didn’t know if was coming?! Because we fail to PLAN AHEAD. And I mean WAY ahead. Make a list (maybe right after Christmas when you aren’t so stressed, but it’s all fresh in your mind) of all the things you want to do before the holiday hustle starts. Include everything: purchasing holiday outfits and pjs for the kids, scheduling haircuts, finding your white elephant gift, sending Christmas cards (getting that perfect photo if you include those with your cards), sending the evite for your ugly sweater party, the perfect day to drive around looking at Christmas lights, perfect presents to purchase and where you’ll find them… you get the idea. Include everything you need to do and want to do in your list. Then next year in October, take out the calendar and figure out when to do these things. Make yourself a master list and start crossing things off as they are completed (or highlighting the completed tasks if you want to be able to read it next year).
2. LEAVE ROOM
Make sure there’s space in next year’s schedule to accept impromptu invitations, and give yourself enough time to get everything done. Consider having the majority of your shopping done before Thanksgiving – chances are you already know what you want to buy for your loved ones, and unless it’s this year’s top toy or gadget, it won’t be super discounted. And in the end, it might be worth the few extra dollars to have peace of mind and a less hectic holiday, right? Leaving room in your schedule between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day might be one of the best things you can do for yourself. Because the thing we seem to lack during this season is time to get it all done.
Give yourself space to reflect on the meaning of this season. This year I got Experience Christmas by Christine Trevino. The back cover of the book says “A 25-day Advent experience for the heart wanting more from Christmas this year.” I couldn’t find a better way to say it myself – this is what I had been hoping for with all of my planning ahead to avoid the holiday rush. Time and space to reflect. And this book is a perfect way to do that. Each day includes scripture, song, reflection and prayer and takes about 15 minutes to mindfully complete. It may have been one of the best purchases this year. You can buy it on Amazon here in either paperback or Kindle form. But, BONUS – if you go to my Instagram account, you can enter to win a copy of the book. It would be a great addition to your Christmas library for next year.
Christmas should be the most wonderful time of the year. I hope you’re able to reclaim it for this year and plan ahead to make next year better, and more relaxed, than ever.