Simplify Your Holiday Schedule in Two Easy Steps


One December several years ago,  my husband casually observed, “You don’t like Christmas very much, do you?”  I was heartbroken.  I love the holidays, but I realized that I had lost my enthusiasm by trying to do too much – stress had taken all of the fun out of it.  I certainly didn’t want to ruin it for my family, too.  That was the year I started making an effort to prune my “holiday overachiever” mentality, relax and enjoy the season.  Easier said than done, I know.  Still, I’ve managed to convince my husband that I’m really not a Grinch.  You can simplify and reduce stress in two easy steps:

1.  Prioritize activities and events. 

Gather the family together and get out your calendar.  Decide which events are on your “must do” list:  visits with family, religious observations, and school activities such as holiday recitals and concerts may be most important to you.  Then, look at the rest of your options.  If you discover, as we did, that you are invited to holiday parties three nights in a row, you may want to rethink your plans.    Ask your kids which events are really important to them.  You may be surprised to discover that rituals we take for granted, such as visiting Santa, may not matter to them, particularly as they get older.  This will free up some time for some much-needed R & R.

2.  Simplify your “to-do” list. 

  • I’ve really pared down my holiday baking.  Try one of the “One Dough Makes Ten Cookies” recipes or organize a cookie exchange with your friends.  Keep it simple by sticking to your strengths.  I finally gave up on making candy from scratch – I’m just not good at anything that requires a thermometer.  Instead, we make peppermint bark by melting chocolate in the microwave, spreading it on a cookie sheet and sprinkling it with chopped up candy canes.  My kids absolutely love smashing the candy canes and have been demanding to know when we are making peppermint bark!
  • I’ve also simplified my shopping – we live in a remote mountain location – so what I can’t buy locally I buy online and ship directly to long-distance family.  No more all-day trips to the outlet mall.
  • I also don’t send hand-made cards anymore.  I like Smilebox for making a nice slide show e-card that can easily be emailed or shared on social media.

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I know how strong the temptation is to make everything “perfect” for your family, but is it really worth it if you’re trying too hard and losing your holiday spirit?  As working moms, we have enough on our plates already.  Relax and enjoy yourself and your family will, too.

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The Working Moms’ Guide to Surviving Enjoying the Holidays


‘Tis the season to be jolly, right?  If you’re like a lot of other working moms, the holidays can be a stressful time, no matter how hard we try ( or maybe because we try so hard) to enjoy them.  On top of our already packed schedules, somehow we have to squeeze in shopping for gifts, wrapping, decorating, sending cards, baking, holiday parties and family visits.  It can be overwhelming.  Worse, the holidays fall during the shortest days of the year, which, for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, can spell depression.  So what’s a busy working mom to do?  Here are some ideas for not only surviving the holidays with your sanity intact, but actually enjoying them.  I’ll be exploring each one in detail over the next few weeks.

1.  Take care of yourself.  The “winter blues”, neglecting workouts, overeating, drinking too much, putting pressure  on ourselves to do it all:  these things can make us feel awful.  On top of that, we feel guilty for feeling awful when we’re “supposed” to be full of tidings of comfort and joy!

2.  Prioritize your time and simplify your schedule.  When I stayed home with my kids, we made cards from scratch, plates of cookies  for everyone we knew, and gave handmade gifts.  After returning to work full-time outside the home, I knew something had to give.  Also, now that the kids are involved in their own activities, we don’t attend every event. There is such a thing as too many parties.

3.  Make the holiday meaningful.  For those for whom the holiday has religious significance, maintaining religious tradition is the obvious way to do this.  But even non-religious people can find ways to focus on the spirit of giving and sharing love with family and friends, for example by volunteering.  Giving gifts  that have meaning is another way to reduce the commercial aspect of the season.

Happiness is something we can choose, and there’s no better time to focus on being happy and peaceful than the holiday season.  It’s the greatest gift we can give ourselves and our  families.  Tune in next week for tips on caring for yourself through the holidays.

 

How to Really Feel Thankful


With the holidays upon us, we may look forward to enjoying the company of family and friends, good food and time off.  Or we may not.   Extra shopping, preparation, travel and other additions to our already packed schedules can make the holidays feel stressful.  Also, as the days grow shorter and winter approaches, many people feel depressed (Seasonal Affective Disorder).  Feeling stressed, anxious or depressed when we tell ourselves we are supposed to feel cheerful can make it even worse.  We feel guilty about feeling sorry for ourselves when we know we should be grateful.  After all, we have much to be thankful for:  if you are reading this, it means you have a computer with an internet connection, making you more wealthy than 95-97% of the world’s population.  Still, knowing we should be grateful and actually feeling that way are two different things.  So how do we get back to feeling thankful?

One simple technique is to keep a gratitude journal.  It sounds too easy, or maybe too cheesy.  How can writing down what we’re thankful for help when we don’t feel that way?  The answer is to start small.  Promise yourself that every day for a week, you will write three things you are thankful for, either when you first wake in the morning or right before you go to bed.  Try to write three different things each day.  You will be amazed when simple phrases and sentences turn into paragraphs and pages.  Albert Einstein said, “Everything’s energy and that’s all there is to it.   Match the frequency of the reality you want and you can’t help but get that reality.”  This quote explains why gratitude journals work.  I find that writing in the morning changes my outlook for the whole day.

Remember to give thanks.

Keeping a gratitude journal can re-focus our priorities:  if we’re grateful for our husband and kids, why are we spending more time working and less time enjoying them?  It also sets a great example for our children.  When we can articulate what we are grateful for, it helps them to do the same.  That’s important, with Christmas approaching and long lists being written; it can help kids to re-frame their outlook as well.  Why not try it for the days leading up to Thanksgiving?
How do you remember to feel thankful?  Please share in the comments.