Christmas can easily become such a stressful time of year -– too many events and not enough blank boxes on the calendar, too many people on the gift-giving list and not enough in the wallet. Too many expectations, real or perceived, and not enough hands to do it all. The idyllic holiday scene in your mind usually doesn’t match the living room scene.
So even though we still have seven weeks until Christmas, it’s not too early to get your busy calendar nailed down, and to solidify your family’s commitments. Then, once you’ve made your commitments, don’t let anything else in, barring an unforeseen event or emergency. If you want your holiday season to be family-oriented and chaos-free, do yourself a favor and guard your family’s time together.
Last year, we did this exercise in early December. I think it’s more apropos to do it earlier, before the busyness begins. So even though you may not have even thought about your Christmas events yet, you’ll be so thankful to have your family’s commitments organized before December hits. That’s why this week’s 12 Weeks To a Peaceful Christmas exercise is to plan out your holiday schedule.
Here are a few tips to keep your upcoming Christmas season a bit less stressful.
1. Write down some descriptive words.
Take a moment with a cup of coffee, a pen, your family calendar, and your journal, and list three to five words that describe your ideal holiday season for this year. Be careful to appropriately define the word ideal. I don’t mean “magazine picture-perfect.” I mean, what’s best for everyone in your family, in your current situation.
• My words: joyful, prayerful, fun, people-centric, restful, celebrating the birth of Jesus
2. Update your calendar.
Now take your calendar, and get it up to date – at least through the end of the year. Scribble in your kids’ upcoming school performances, your company parties, and the day you’ll want a babysitter to go Christmas shopping with your spouse. When your calendar is up to speed, your brain isn’t scattered and you don’t have that nagging I-know-I’m-forgetting-something feeling.
You can even add the things you’d like to do but aren’t sure yet if you will. Do you want to take in a performance of The Nutcracker with your daughter? Hoping to catch a community-wide festival with the family? Look up those dates and mark them down. You’d hate to miss out because the dates slipped by.
3. Evaluate your family’s commitments.
Once your calendar is up to date, back up and look at the next two months, the big picture. Is there enough white space? Are there blank boxes?
If so, good. If not, you’re booked. Don’t accept any more commitments.
4. List the rest of your priorities.
Now make a list of things your family would enjoy doing for the holidays. Keep it realistic (no “speed off to the airport with no one knowing and buy first-class tickets to Hawaii”), but keep it light-hearted as well. Think of the fun things you’d like to do.
Movie image from s_herman
Some ideas for your list:
- watch A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, Christmas Vacation, or The Nativity Story
- address and mail Christmas cards to close friends and family
- drive around and look at Christmas lights
- make and decorate cookies with your kids
- make a Christmas craft as a family
- sit down with your spouse and write some family goals for 2010
- relax, laugh, and play games with my extended family
- get enough sleep
Then, for as the holiday season approaches, make those things more of a priority than doing what you feel like you should do. Pay your bills, get enough sleep, and spend time with the in-laws, of course. But don’t scale that gingerbread house from scratch if you just simply don’t have the energy, time, or money to do so. It won’t be fun if you’re doing it because you feel like you’re supposed to. Remember the words from the first task? Keep your to-do list focused on making those words a reality.
5. Smile, laugh, and relax.
Remember your life’s priorities during the holidays, and respect them. Don’t force it to be more than it is, and don’t neglect its spiritual remembrance. Reflect on your childhood holiday memories. I’ll bet most of them have to do with family, friends, and a general festive atmosphere. If you’re like me, you barely remember all the gifts and all the events.
Are you already stressed about the upcoming holidays? Where do you think the pressure stems from? Does your attitude about the holidays affect your family? What are you looking forward to?