It truly doesn’t make any sense that, for many, The Holidays are synonymous with Stress. I mean, isn’t it the time of year when we come together with family and celebrate love and peace? Several years ago, after being caught up in the holiday frenzy, I realized that our condition is largely self-inflicted. Personally, my stress stemmed from my desire to recreate The Perfect Christmas from my childhood, which probably never actually existed anywhere but in my head. The baking, the annual trips to see The Nutcracker, gift exchanges, the decorations, and a Santa Claus who does not disappoint — these were all December staples in my mind, that had to get done, by hook or by crook. And so, since my children were born, it’s been Operation Holly Jolly starting right after Thanksgiving.
Until I realized we could celebrate Christmas without going overboard.
That’s when I decided to enlighten those around me with “Justice Fergie’s Happy Holiday Countdown” – a weekly guide to simplifying the holiday season, right in line with my blog motto of living richly. It’s been a couple of years since I created my Countdown, so I thought I’d share them again this year, in the event it might save someone from being driven to drink.
Speaking of which.
Responsibility.org conducted a national survey on parents, the holidays and stress and found that Americans, especially parents with kids ages 18 and younger, report higher levels of stress during the holiday season. Fifty-one percent of parents with kids ages 18 and younger report stress due to holidays, which isn’t surprising because: Class Parties! Teacher Gifts! Santa! The survey revealed that 22% of us drink to cope with holiday stress, with over 1/4 of dads reported managing stress with alcohol. Since, for 60% of us, alcohol is a part of our family traditions around the holidays, it’s important to remember that our kids are watching us and taking cues on what it means to celebrate and how to cope with stress.
So have the occasional glass of bubbly to toast the year behind you and the year ahead, and even take advantage of Eggnog Season by spiking your mug, but if it’s stress driving you in that direction, consider some other ways to handle it. In fact, I’ll break down some of the most common stressors and what quick and simple strategies you can implement over the next couple of weeks:
To start, compile your Chanukah or Christmas or Kwanzaa or New Year’s Dinner recipes and create a menu board. This should be quick and easy – not a major project. I’ve been doing a mix of tearing out recipes from my fave food mags and gathering some on my Gourmandine and Fete boards on Pinterest. Now it’s time to pull them all together. It will help us see what gaps need to be filled, whether everything we had in mind actually goes together, and let us know if we need to pare down some (much to my dismay, we probably don’t need 4 potato dishes. Haterz.). Read on here.
This week, find a half a dozen (or more if you’re popular like that), gifts that you can quickly grab and take with you to the slew of holiday gatherings in your future. You could even use these to give to unexpected visitors or invited guests as they’re leaving your place to send them on their way with some holiday cheer. Remember, it’s the thought that counts! These gifts don’t have to be expensive or one-of-a-kind; the best gifts are those that are thoughtful. Seeing as how we’re trying to simplify and streamline our holidays, it’s totally ok if you get 6 of the same item – just choose something that has wide appeal. And, if you’re up to it, you could even make the gifts yourself. Then again, if you’re making your gifts, then you’re one of those completely organized types who has it all together and you probably don’t need these tips at all. I love you anyway. Read on here.
TIP NO. 1: PARE DOWN YOUR LIST OF GIFT RECIPIENTS
This is hard, I know. But just think about it for a moment: if you didn’t get a gift from everybody you knew, or even everyone in your family, you’d probably not mind one bit. Before we get swept up in the materialistic madness, let’s remind ourselves what the season is all about. Love and family and kindness…and those can all be shown in ways beyond a wrapped package. So take a moment to think about who you really and truly need or want to purchase a gift for (as opposed to bake some cookies for or send a card with a thoughtful note or treat to lunch) and write their names on a list. Read on here.
Pull Out Your Calendar and Take Stock. Perhaps you’ve already committed to some events. Take note of those. Then, take a look at the invitations you might have received but have not yet RSVP’d to. Choose only those events that you would really love going to. Hopefully that will help you whittle the list down a smidge. And, if you realize that you’ve already said “yes” to an event that isn’t on your Would Love To Attend list, no worries. You can always decline, politely. Explain that you’ve had a change in plans and that you are sorry to miss it. You could even send over a bottle of wine or a seasonal bouquet for the event. Party hosts at this time of year understand that folks are overloaded and they’ll understand if you aren’t able to make it. Trust me, that 30-second feeling of guilt for turning down an invitation will be instantly outshined by the feeling of joy now that you’ve freed up an evening or two to take time for you and/or your family. Read on here.
Admit it. The cutesy cards from friends and family have been landing in your mailbox since darn near after Thanksgiving. And it makes you feel…pathetic. December was here before you had a chance to throw away the leftover Halloween candy and you fully intended to have your family’s holiday photo taken – with the kids in matching outfits against a seasonally appropriate background – but you had to reschedule the photo session more than once and eventually gave up. But now you wish you hadn’t! The truth is, a part of you actually likes mailing out holiday cards and you know how much your family members across the globe like receiving them. Read on here.
What a concept! But sometimes even the best of us need to be reminded. Most of us social media types, moms, entrepreneurs and what have you are highly productive overachievers who take advantage of every waking moment to “get stuff done.”
This holiday season, please please please take a day or two – or more if you can swing it – to give it all a rest.
Even if you’re not miles away from home on a sunny beach (like I may or may not be, ahem), you can still use this down time to relax, rejuvenate and reconnect with yourself. Here’s a few ideas on how you can capture that vacation feeling amidst the holiday hustle and bustle: Read on here.
Hopefully these tips can provide a little relief to what can be a crazy, crazy time of year. Even if you just try three of these strategies, I guarantee you’ll feel a little lighter – fruitcake notwithstanding.
This post is part of a #TalkEarly series sponsored by Responsibility.org. To learn more about the #HolidayResponsibly initiative visit them online.
It’s not too late to join an important and ongoing discussion about alcohol responsibility by sharing your thoughts and opinions about how to have or start conversations with your children around alcohol responsibility. Participants will be entered into a drawing for more than $5K in prizes. Click HERE to get started.