Every year around this time, every mom I know, whether 30 or 60, becomes so stressed by holiday pressure that it’s a wonder one of us doesn’t end up with a stroke. Little do we realize that our holiday stress is self-imposed, coming from that tyrannical place in our female psyche that says we should be all things to all people and perfect at them, to boot. Our homes ‘should’ be impeccably decorated, our meals ’should’ be flawless, the gifts we purchase ‘should’ be spot on and our children ‘should’ want for nothing. Let’s not forget that extra five pounds we ‘should’ lose. Is it any surprise that to many of us the holidays are anything but?
Well, as of today, I’m adding another ‘should’ to that list - moms should enjoy the holidays, too. The following tips are guaranteed to help us beat holiday stress and have fun this holiday season:
- Sit down one evening when the kids are in bed and make a list of all the things you dread doing at the holidays and all the things you enjoy. The key word here is “you.” Not the children, not the spouse- just YOU. I did this one year and discovered, strangely enough, that I don’t like decorating the Christmas tree. I love the ornaments and I love unpacking them. But, I don’t like getting them down from storage and I especially dislike putting them all away and discarding the tree at the end of the season. My holiday joy, I realised comes from baking cookies and decorating gingerbread houses. (the kind that come pre-baked, ready- to assemble) Odd choices, but nonetheless, as soon as I left the tree decorating to someone who loves it, (mainly one of my sons) Christmas became a whole lot more light-hearted for me. My son is happy with his lopsided decorating and I am happy handing around my Christmas cookies and pies. Another example is entertaining. If you like having guests, but don’t like cooking, ask everyone to bring a dish. Order the Christmas turkey already cooked. Let your mother-in-law make the potato latkes for Hanukah. It’s true these things won’t taste as good as yours do, but so what? Close your eyes for a moment and envision someone else taking over the holiday chore(s) you don’t like to do. Think of how light-hearted you’ll feel knowing they’re not your responsibility this year.
- If you’re really rushed for time, learn to be creative. For example, one single father taught me, “Children don’t care if cookies are homemade. They just enjoy decorating them. I go out and buy plain cookies from any supermarket, stick them on a cookie sheets and warm them in the oven for about two minutes. Then I let the children ice them and sprinkle coloured sugar on them to their hearts’ content. We have as much fun doing this and I don’t have to bake!”
- Start now by taking one page from your address book per day and typing up addresses from that page into your computer address labels program. (Every word processing program has one ) When you’ve gone through the whole address book, you now can print out labels for everyone on your card list. Order holiday stamps online at www.usps.com. Then divvy up the stacks of cards to everyone in the family who’s old enough to stick an address label and a stamp on an envelope. All you need to do then is write out the inside of each card. Another fun option here is have the children draw a holiday picture on one half of an 8 x 11 page and make colour photocopies. Fold the pages in half; stick them in regular business-size envelopes and each card recipient gets artwork done by your child. (I’ve always enjoyed receiving these much more than store-bought cards.)
- Buy one extra large roll of holiday paper for wrapping gifts, rather than assorted sheets. Keep the roll, scissors and tape in an accessible corner or office. As you purchase each gift, wrap it immediately, rather than all the gifts at once. Order as many gifts as you can from catalogues. They’ll often have a free wrapping option. If you need to ship gifts, ordering from catalogues helps save and stress there, too. Catalogue companies will send a wrapped gift directly to your recipient‘s address. No more standing online with packages at the post office! If you have small children, plain white paper is another entertaining way to gift-wrap. Take a plastic tablecloth and spread it on the floor with all the white wrapped packages placed on top. This prevents a mess on your flooring when the children decorate the packages using crayons, markers and Christmas stickers. When we did this at our house, one relative was so pleased with her homemade wrapping paper, that she brought it home and framed it!
You now have one stress-reducing suggestion each for presents, cards, gifts and foods. My next suggestion is for you: Losing five pounds during the holiday season makes you no more attractive than just having a joyful demeanour
. Keep a reasonable lid on what you’re eating, of course, but enjoy your holiday treats and don’t obsess over weight during this time. Instead of dieting, take fifteen minutes per day to walk. That’s right - just a brisk short walk each day. Don’t say you haven’t time. You do, especially since, if you’ve listened to my suggestions, you’ve assigned some of the time-consuming, unwanted holiday jobs to others who are happy to take them off your hands. Walking those extra fifteen minutes from now until New Year’s Day, will eliminate the need to worry about extra pounds after the season is over.