The holiday season is officially here! Even in the insanity of 2020, images of happy, perfectly coiffed families frolicking still dance around the Internet. Every year we are told what a celebratory family “should be.” Especially with younger kids, many mothers hold holiday stress in their hearts and look at the month ahead with doom in their eyes.
Momma, step back. Is this you?
Are you looking out the window feeling the gut gripping pang of holiday stress where your list of ‘to dos’ gets longer while your children more excited? Is your partner more anxious as your Visa bill grows and bank account dwindles? Do you feel beads of sweat when your boxes of decorations slowly clutter your space? Are the shadows under your eyes becoming darker?
Please. Let’s be real. None of our homes need to resemble a Norman Rockwell painting or anything on Pinterest.
After the chaos of this year – I declare this year a stress-free holiday and all about self-care.
Just give yourself permission. Simply check in with yourself to ask “What do I need most?” before you even get out of bed in the morning — and to set clear priorities.
Here are five tips for caring for YOU this holiday season. It’s a list you’ll want to check twice!
Lower your expectations
I am an Italian Christmas cookie baking and deep frying dessert fanatic. It’s a joy for me, but as 2020 comes to a close, I am asking myself, “Do I really need to bake everything from scratch?”
Perhaps this is the year to purchase baked goods from your school or farm stand. I bought a Thanksgiving pie from a local church sale; it felt great to support their fundraising effort and saved me time (yeah!!).
If baking cookies is your tradition, there are fabulous pre-made mixes which produce tasty treats. Focus on the time spent sharing the finished goodies with your loved ones or in simplifying the process while still having the fun together.
Take a break from stressful obligations
Use paper plates; order your groceries online for delivery; serve breakfast for dinner. Every once in a while won’t hurt! In fact it’s pretty awesome!
Think about the items on your current to-do list. Which ones make you feel tired and drained before you even start them? Brainstorm ways to take a break from these holiday stress monsters. Maybe this is the year you send Happy New Year cards or Valentine’s Day cards after the rush is over — or skip the cards all together. A quick social media post or email can scratch that holiday stressor off your to-do list in short order!
Balance doing with being
Modern life has turned the holidays into one manic activity or materially focused message after another. How many of those are necessary? What matters is being with others – physically, mentally, emotionally. Being present is an enormous gift.
Allow yourself to stop. Take the time to pause. Listen to a loved one’s story or memory. Watch your kids play. Dance in your family room for no reason at all. Shut down the remote learning and work and pop popcorn in your yard to feed the birds!
Repeat a new mantra: “Nothing will make me rush today.” or “There is enough time to accomplish all I need.” These repeated phrases can slow down and calm your nervous system yet keep you productive at the same time.
Be outdoors to reduce stress
Research has shown that after spending time in nature, mood improves, attention span increases, and calmness descends.
Take short walks during your or your kids’ lunch break. Walk to the corner store instead of driving. Stand outside for 10 minutes simply breathing. Crack your windows at home or in your car. Spend some playtime outside with your kids (we tell them to go out in the cold, right?). You know that your dog is begging you with her eyes for a walk or romp.
All it takes is a moment to shift your attention and bring yourself back to center. You can even turn taking a hike into a new holiday tradition!
Focus on experience vs things
This year has caused many financial hardship. Thankfully, the holidays aren’t about things, but about memories. Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby) said, “If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.”
Remove the stress of gift expectations. Experiences will shape who your child becomes, not the thing you buy them. Over the years, I have held on to a number of core holiday traditions, which have been handed down for generations in my family. Even at 18 and 14, my sons look forward to doing them all each holiday. I don’t know if these will transcend into their own future nuclear family. But I definitely know that certain smells, tastes, cooking activities and family jokes will forever remind them of our home, and the holidays – and bring a smile on their face and in their heart.