Thursday, December 22, 2011

Celebrate the Holidays with Less Stress

Do less, do less, do less.   That is my mantra for Christmas this year.  Every other year, it has seemed like a last minute panic:  "Oh no, I forgot to fill in unnecessary thing here!"  I would give gifts to over 20 people, straining my finances and my time, and would always wonder, "Did they truly like the gift?  Was it really worth paying it off over the next few months?"

This year, I told my large family and my husband's family that we are not doing gifts for anyone but the kids this year.  Hooray!  What. A. Relief.  I never know what to get them anyway, and it just turns into a big stress-ball of "Is it good enough?"  Heck with it.  They didn't even balk.  They understood.  They don't need any more stuff.  If they need something, they buy it.  If I get to it, I will give them handmade gifts.  That would be fun.  If it is easy and fun, I will do it.  Doing less frees me up to enjoy time with them instead.

Gifts were my biggest stressor.  Check.  Done.  That's a lot less wrapping too.  The gifts for my husband and son are all wrapped and under the tree.  That was easy.  My baking will be done on Saturday, with my mother, brother, and sister, and our small boys.  If it's too noisy, I will take a break.  If it drives me nuts, I will leave.  They will understand, and I will just have fewer cookies to eat.  Not a problem.

Then the next stressor is that both our families live nearby...  Which means we are expected to attend both big meals.  Which is pretty cool, really.  With my husband's family, that is at his sister's house.  She wanted to do it at 7 pm, for what reason, I do not know (there are young children involved).  With dinner, gifts, and friends popping in, it's usually at least a 3 hour affair.  We would come home exhausted, and be weary and half-awake for the morning presents at home, and big dinner an hour away at my parents.

This year, we told her we would be leaving at 9.  We have an almost-4 year old who needs to be in bed.  If we miss that sweet spot of sleepiness, we will be up all night, which would make for a less than joyful Christmas.  She understood, and may push dinner earlier if able.  I will help her prepare, if she lets me.

People understand.  They really do.  Sometimes we are so afraid of disappointing family that we do things we don't like to do.  That doesn't do anyone a favor.  Sure, some would get mad if you say you're not coming/are leaving early.  But if we never try to change it, we will never know how easy it can be.  The ones who love you don't want you to be unhappy trying to make their party/event/gifting.  Everything does not have to be perfect to enjoy.  As a matter of fact, less than perfect is usually a lot more fun.

I have a dear friend who makes these fancy coffee cakes every year.  It doesn't feel like Christmas without them, she says.  I don't entirely understand this.  They are pretty awesome, and I know it's her tradition.  However, some years it stresses her out so much, I wonder how she can stand to do it.  Personally, if there are too many things to do, I cannot enjoy any of them because I am too busy.  That's just me.  But if you have the time and energy, and it feels good to do, then go for it, my friend.  If it feels bad and stressful, consider simplifying.  The world will not end if you do not trim the tree perfectly, or make that special something that calls for 10 hours of prep time.  You may just open up space for something more beautiful if you skip something.

Find the things that are truly important to you.  Do them, and drop the rest.  That way you can be fully present in the joy and the fun that this season means.  If you rush from thing, to thing, to thing, will that fulfill you?  Or when the whirlwind is over, will you sit back and say, "Is that it?  Thank goodness, it's done," having missed or not enjoyed the good stuff.  The love.  The warmth.  The joy. 

Whatever your beliefs, this time of year is a time of celebration of light and love.  By doing less, and taking our time with what we do, it can be full of meaning and joy, like it was when we were kids.  We spent hours playing, remember?  Christmas was made for fun and love, and we knew it.

Do I sound selfish to you?  Darn right.  I want to enjoy Christmas with my husband and son.  I want to have the presence of mind to see the joy on James' little face and to enjoy a whole day off with my husband.  That means I have to pull back and do less than previous years.  The greatest gifts to me are time, love, and appreciation.  Darn right, it's worth it, and darn right, people who love me understand completely.

Happy Holidays, everyone.  I hope it is everything you wish it to be.