Ahh, the holidays…that time of year when everything should be merry and bright…but, in wake of all the hustle and bustle of musts and have to’s, life is rarely that.
During the holidays (and most days really) I try to take life one moment at a time. I know, I know. Easier said than done. But, if I intentionally stop and breathe when I can, regroup if I need to, and just say no when necessary, I usually manage to get through the holidays.
Sounds sweet, right? It can be if I use a few of the holiday “rules” that I carry in my toolbox. (I use the word rules lightly because these are more like handy coping tips and tricks I choose to follow.)
My Sweet Holiday (Sort of) Rules
1-Make A List & Check It Twice
If you’re like me, you have a list (on paper or in your head) of all the tasks you need to accomplish throughout the holidays. Usually, this contains many tasks each day and there’s most likely a time limit on when you need to get each task done. It can feel so overwhelming when you have a huge list of to do’s. You may even worry you'll run out of time before you can do them all. Did you ever stop and notice what tasks are on your list?
Is the world going to end if you don’t do all your tasks?
When I begin making my list, it’s more of a stream of consciousness writing exercise...I randomly scribble down what I have to do as I think of it. Unless I organize my list in some kind of logical order though, it can be jumbled and all over the place. (Which leaves my mind jumbled and all over the place.)
So, part of making a list is to also organize it. This involves sitting down, reading over the to-do’s and to-get's and putting them in sequential order of when I need to do and get them by. Priority tasks go at the top of the list followed by not so important tasks. This allows me to clearly visualize what I absolutely need to do and get. Sometimes, the menial tasks just become bonus and can even be eliminated altogether.
When organizing your list, ask yourself these simple questions: Is this task really necessary? What will result if I don’t get this task done? and Is this task going to make my holidays better or make me more exhausted and frenzied?
I understand that some tasks need to get done. Maybe other people are counting on you or you just like to follow certain traditions each holiday year. That’s cool. I find the best way to prioritize the many tasks that I’ve committed to and need to accomplish (and still make it through the holiday season in one piece) is to limit myself to only one or two tasks per day for lengthier tasks and three max for smaller ones. If you like, you can add to your list the estimated time it takes for you to accomplish each task. That’s being really organized.
It only takes me about a half an hour to make and organize a list. Making a list gives me a chance to stop, sit, and, breathe a little as I prioritize what is most important. Try it… and don’t forget, just like Santa…check it twice!
I love holiday decorating! Lights, and tinsel, and fairy magic!
But, the thought of pulling out my 15 plus gigantic boxes of sprinkles and twinkles from the storage shelves that they’ve been smooshed into the previous year, makes me anxious! I know it’s so worth it, seeing everything lit up and glow-y, but apart from paying someone else to do it, there has to be an easier and less grueling way to assemble it all.
Actually, there is an option…NOT do it at all.
You may dispute me on this… at first. You may have little ones and other family members that count on and insist on the decorations each holiday, so you HAVE TO decorate for them. This may even sound nonfestive and a little bit humbug-ish. But, what I’m asking you to do is think outside of the box for a minute. Open your mind and heart to a new way of seeing the holidays- a minimalistic way. What would the holidays feel like if you decided to decorate less or not at all? Hmm.
Last year I chose not to decorate. It was sooo refreshing!
Now, I have to say my family wasn’t home last year during the holidays because we went on vacation and visited other family. But, I’m telling you it was so refreshing not to have to put up decorations. What a nice break. We still enjoyed holiday décor wherever we went, because it is everywhere during the holidays, but I didn’t have to assemble it. I loved taking a year off from the grueling task of lugging, sorting, assembling, and then putting it all away again.
If this is just not an option for you or you absolutely must put your holiday décor up each year, pace yourself and start early with the decorating, so you have longer to enjoy it. Get help from family members and make it a group activity, or hire a professional to string your lights and just sit back and sip your eggnog.
However you decide to decorate for the holiday season, remember to take a few moments here and there to just enjoy the experience of it.
Speaking of mindfully enjoying your decorations…and because you made such efforts to put them up …here are some sensory activities that I use to really savor my décor for this time of year. Use all your senses to mindfully enjoy your decorations and your holiday environment.
WATCH: When it’s dark outside and at the end of the day, find a comfortable place in front of some twinkly lights. Breathe softly in and out for a few minutes as you GAZE AT the glow of the lights. Reflect back on your day. Find at least one great thing that you experienced today. Feel grateful for this and happy. Feel the warmth of the lights as they relax your body and begin to turn off your mind. Take a few more soft breaths and notice if you’re peaceful and ready to sleep. Sweet dreams!
LISTEN: Gather (from your home or local dollar store) different shapes and sizes of bells. Jingle each one and listen to the unique sound they make. Just try and feel grumpy or stressed after hearing the sounds of bells. If you anticipate having a particularly difficult and frenzied day through the holidays, keep a bell close at hand so you can JINGLE, TINKLE, and DING your way through it.
SNIFF: Do some holiday baking. While you’re preparing the ingredients, smell each one. Sweet, salty, spicy, or savory? Imagine where each ingredient comes from and the process it took to get into your hands. From a farm? An herb garden in your backyard? Or from the North Pole? (just kidding) Do these ingredients make a new SCENT when combined together? Enjoy the SMELLS as your baked goods are cooking and then linger over the yummy AROMAS as you set them to cool.
TOUCH: If you have wrapping to do, take your time wrapping each gift with purpose. Feel the different TEXTURES of paper, ribbon, and other present coverings. Are they soft, rough, crinkly, smooth, furry, or bumpy? Run your hands over their surfaces and notice how they make you feel. Happy? Excited? Calm?
TASTE: There are so many sweet tastes that we can enjoy during the holidays; candy canes, fudge, cookies, and cakes. Try a new flavor that you haven’t had before. Hot, bitter, umami, sour. Different variations of these don’t have to necessarily be unpleasant. Live it up a little and try something new…it’s the holidays after all!
We all know the holidays means stress, so here are some helpful stress relievers that I try to practice this time of year.
ROCKIN’ Around The Xmas Tree: Throw on some upbeat carols, hymns, or any fun music that gets you in the spirit of the holidays and dance yourself around the Christmas tree, Menorah, Solstice bonfire, Kwanzaa candles, or Mawlid shrine. Let your body go while you dance to the beat of whatever drum you choose and feel the stressful energy leaving you.
WALKIN’ outdoors: bundle up and get out there! Walking helps relieve tense muscles, brings fresh air into your lungs, balances your moods, and gives you more energy (which is definitely needed during the holidays).
TALKIN’ with a loved one: sharing your worries with a friend or family member keeps you from feeling bogged down. Between organizing, decorating, shopping, lugging, wrapping, cooking, baking, crafting, celebrating, and whatever else you have to do this holiday season, spending a few moments chatting and unloading with a loved one makes a huge difference in lowering your stress levels.
Wishing you a fun, minimalistic and stress-free holiday season. I hope you take some much needed time to regroup from the festivities…Read, draw a bath, create something, or just keep it simple, sugar and quietly enjoy the company of YOU!
Tracy Bryan writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12. She likes to tackle important and diverse topics that affect kids and their families. She also writes a blog for adults and one for kids aged 7-12 called The Awesomeness Blog.