In mid-October, I walked into a local craft store looking for Halloween decorations. Instead of spooky and creepy decor, I came face to face with a full-on visual spectacle of the winter holidays. I was flabbergasted. Halloween had already been reduced to a bin of useless junk in the clearance aisle. By the end of the evening, I found myself holiday shopping on Amazon!
This experience propelled me into thinking about the impending winter holidays. As a pregnant mother of four small humans, I needed to think about how I would go about maintaining sound mind, body, and words. I want to avoid the holiday stress and instead experience the joy that is available this time of year. So I’ve put together a plan for staying calm and present this holiday season.
First, we do not need to do all the things.
It is so easy to get sucked into all the cute holiday activities going on. Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram hijack our rational thinking and convince us we need to do all the holiday things. Our social media feeds tell us everyone is singing and gifting and reading and baking and hosting and attending and sending and traveling, so we think we need to fit it all in as well. Wrong.
Let’s stop now before it starts. We do not need that noise in our holiday life. Close the curtains and shut the doors. Stay calm, sit down with your family, and decide what really matters. It’s OK if our plans look different from our neighbors, friends, and colleagues. We do not have to do something grand every day leading up to the holiday, nor do we need to feel guilty if “it” doesn’t happen.
Schedule an extra therapy session or two.
If you have yet to jump on the bandwagon of this non-embarrassing, super helpful, and extremely important form of personal care, the holiday season is a great time to practice staying calm by chatting with a personal therapist. I have had one for years (I signed on before having my third child as a preventative measure) and find it to be one of the most stabilizing, centering, and effortless ways of caring for myself.
Having a non-judgmental, unbiased, and reliable ear to hear me out in my good and bad times makes it all a bit more manageable. I typically talk about what I’m doing, what I’m planning, and how it’s going. I rarely go deep. It makes a difference to get the junk and mind-noise out verbally. To navigate this holiday season without giving in to the stress (third trimester with baby number five) will be challenging, so I’m making sure I’m venting to her and not the people I want to be celebrating with.
Exercise or do something that empties your mind.
When our minds are clear we can think clearly. For me, after sweating it out for 45 minutes, I often find that pointless thoughts and ideas have been released, and I can move forward more lightly and knowingly. Maybe exercise isn’t your thing but you love creating art or playing music. Maybe you need some coffee alone at a local coffee shop before you begin your to-do list. Or maybe meditation is your gig. Whatever it is, do it with intention this holiday season.
Decide gift-giving boundaries — and let others know.
You do not owe everyone a gift, and you certainly don’t have to engage in the stress of plastic-toy-junk-buying spree that is in our faces every day of December. Let’s decide ahead of time how, why, and for whom we want to gift. We can gently and lovingly let others know our plans if necessary.
Plan out a schedule at the start of the season.
Decide which days your family will engage in holiday events. You do not have to do something every day. You won’t miss out by not participating on a given day. As soon as you step out of your home you will be able to enjoy the lights, music, advertisements, decorations, and constant reminders! So decide when will you decorate, which days you will go somewhere special, when you will bake cookies, when you need to order your cards, and what gifts you need to get.
If the holiday season doesn’t go the way you envision, there’s always next year. Let’s not forget that the season is about the joy and the meaning of our holidays, not the junk, or the events, the stress, or all the things. You do the holidays your way, I’ll do them mine, and everyone else can go about it their way. Let’s go into this holiday season happy and excited with sound mind and presence so we can enjoy our children, our faiths, and our families — and a little of all the extras.