By Hilary, Contributing Writer
Without fail, holidays stress me out. Don’t get me wrong – I love them! But every year I feel pulled in every direction by loving family and friends.
As an introvert, I’d love to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s quietly on my own terms – soaking in the significance of each holiday. Yet loved ones come home from far away and sometimes it’s the only chance all year long to see them. Extended families set dates for Christmas parties, and all of a sudden the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s become a frenzy.
Long ago, my husband and I nicknamed the week of Christmas our “Christmas Extravaganza” because we cram in 4 family parties into 3 days.
On one hand, we’re thankful for our families – and that they actually want to be together at Christmas. But on the other hand, it’s downright exhausting. There’s not much of a chance for a “Silent Night” when we’re running from party to party.
Reducing holiday stress
I’ve tried to simplify as much as I can. But some commitments are unavoidable. Since I know Christmas is coming and our schedule’s getting fat, here’s how I’ve learned to deal with the upcoming stress:
1. Have a plan.
I love planning. It may be as simple as a to-do list for each day, or as lofty as mapping out some general goals for each year.
Whenever I notice that I’m tensing up over a hectic schedule, I stop and make plans.
Image by Hilary Bernstein
First, I list absolutely every single thing I know I need to do – whether it’s shopping, cooking, decorating, cleaning, entertaining, or being entertained.
Once all my commitments and chores are on paper, then I list every day of the week. This list may include six to eight weeks, depending on how far ahead I’m planning. Then I think through my huge to-do list and divide it up into individual days. I think about when I’ll need to head to the grocery store or start cooking. And for some tasks that can be done far in advance, I plan to do them.
As much as possible, I try to stretch out my tasks so I’m not cramming too much into each day.
By planning in advance, I cut back on my everyday busyness, but still manage to get everything done.
2. Be creative with your commitments.
Just because everyone wants to get together in December, do they have to? Last year some of my extended family celebrated Thanksmas on Black Friday – Thanksgiving dinner, followed by a Christmas dessert and gift exchange. It was an unconventional way to celebrate Christmas, but eased the end-of-December party rush.
See if local friends can get together in January. Or, if December is a must, try a weekday or weeknight early in the month.
3. Guard your time.
Make sure you’re getting enough quiet time to relax and enjoy the special time of year. Treat yourself to coffee. Snuggle up with a book and a hot cup of tea. Light a candle and listen to music. Take a hot bath.
Image by Hilary Bernstein
4. Remember the reason.
Most importantly, make sure you spend enough time and attention focused on each holiday:
- Keep Thanksgiving as a day of thankfulness instead of Black Thursday or the kickoff to the Christmas season. Consider what you’re really thankful for, and give thanks.
- On Christmas, contemplate the wonder of God coming to us – and what that first Christmas must have looked, felt, sounded and smelled like.
- And at New Year’s, take time to reflect the past year and make a few resolutions for the coming year.
When you focus on why you’re celebrating, you’ll find a lot more meaning even in the busyness.
How do you manage a stressful seasonal schedule? How do you make time for yourself?