Ah, Christmas. I love this season. Seriously, I love everything about Christmas. The lights, the carols, the ribbons, the wrapping paper, the crowds..everything. But, at the same time, the holidays can also create unheard of levels of anxiety in my life. There is just SO MUCH to do, and there never seems to be enough time (or a big enough budget) to accomplish it all. Parties to go to, presents to buy and wrap, people to entertain…UGH. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed I just want to hide under the covers. And then I get on Facebook and see all the posts about the picture perfect holidays everyone else seems to be having, and it sends me right over the edge. Sigh….
So, this holiday season, I decided to take a different approach in an effort to minimize holiday stress. I want more joy, peace, and hope this holiday season, and this is how I plan to get it:
Do you remember the childlike joy you had for the holidays when you were younger? Every single thing just brought so much excitement!! I want to recapture that joy, and to do so, I’ve decided to let go of some things in favor of others. I have decided to cut down on a lot of my social obligations to focus on more family and personal time. I committed to spending the month after Thanksgiving in a morning Bible study using a book my mother in law had given me for Mother’s Day. This means getting up earlier, which means going to bed earlier. As a night owl, I have found this pattern somewhat difficult, but I have been getting used to it.
Instead of attending every party/gathering/event my hubby and I sat down and narrowed our Christmas outings to two. We choose one work-related party and one party offered by our friends. While I do miss some of the interaction (especially as a homeschool mom who looks forward to these gatherings as a time to talk to other adults!) it has opened the schedule to more spontaneous fun with the family. My youngest son and I sat down after Thanksgiving and decided which holiday specials we wanted to watch, and made a calendar for the whole family. I have spent a lot more time on the couch this holiday season, but I feel so much more relaxed!
Normally, I jump into the holiday hustle and bustle of shopping just before Christmas, which is the only time we seem to be able to scrape money together. This season, I planned ahead. I had my kids write a list of 5-6 things they wanted and needed. My boys do understand our budget, and so they don’t ask for anything expensive, but I did tell them to focus on a couple of things they wanted just for fun, and the things they need (like shoes, jackets etc.). Also, while I did not go out shopping on Black Friday, I did spend a portion of the day using different websites to scout out upcoming internet sales. I was able to find some really good deals on things my boys wanted and with a point and a click, I got half of my shopping done in no time! With less pressure about the presents, I feel more peaceful in general.
A second thing we did as a couple is rearrange our family celebrations. This year my hubby’s only day off is literally Christmas. He works the day before and both days after. Normally we would try to squeeze in our family celebration, and add in time with his family to the mix. By the end of the day, I always ended up stressed out. This year, we celebrated with his mom and dad over a weekend the week before. It was much more laid back and relaxed, and I can wake up Christmas morning knowing I can stay in my pajamas all day if I want! My mom lives three hours away, and while we normally try to work out some kind of a visit, we talked this year and both agreed there was just too much going on (and not enough gas money in the bank) to make the trip. So, we decided to send gifts and make plans to see each other next month instead.
I mentioned earlier that I committed to spending more focused time in the word this season. While I do read my Bible regularly, sometimes I feel so distracted I wonder if I am getting anything from it. While reconfiguring my schedule was a little difficult at first, it has been worth it to get me refocused on the real reason for the season. I feel like this improves my outlook in general. While I can easily get discouraged while scrolling Facebook and wondering why I don’t have it together like everyone else, if I remind myself of the true purpose, it makes me a little less self-critical.
So, this season has been a simpler and quieter one this year. While our tree has never overflowed with gifts, this year the number has gone down even more, but each gift has meaning, and I didn’t go crazy trying to get them. My social schedule took a hit, but my level of personal satisfaction went way up. I am looking forward to a quiet holiday with my family this week, and it’s the most joyful, peaceful, and hopeful that I have felt in a long time.
Whatever your celebration looks like this year, I hope you find joy, peace, and hope too! Merry Christmas from my family to yours!