For many, if not most, the Christmas season can be the most stressful time of the year. What is supposed to be the most joyous of all holidays can be a real struggle to get through. There is often an increased workload at the office, more requests for social activities, and of course some intense shopping at overcrowded stores. Even on Christmas Day you may not have much sleep before being woken up by the kids, open countless presents, cook a big dinner, and host a crowd of people in your home. You are pushed to the limit and you are supposed to be joyous at Christmas? I think it is time to simplify.
Many say Christmas is about the kids and I think this is true. What do kids want most of all this Christmas? The latest Xbox game? A new bicycle? A talking globe (that would be cool)? Those are the kind of things that they would tell you but secretly I think they value something else more: you. All the kids I know love spending quality time with their parents but how much fun are you when you are stressed out by ‘holiday cheer’. I have heard the theory that you can reduce stress over Christmas if you are more organized, and while that can be very true, I think for many the solution is to ‘reduce Christmas’. If your holiday schedule is limiting your time with your family then cut back. Decide what really is important this holiday season and prioritize.
Reducing Christmas stress is not an easy task as there is so much demand on your time. Try and simplify your gift giving list (we’ll provide our thoughts in following blogs about materialism gone wild at Christmas). Only go to the parties that really interest you and fit into your relaxed schedule and politely decline ones that you would rather miss for some family time. Try and avoid overtime at work if possible. Prioritize your workload to complete the essential stuff and skim over or skip non-essential tasks. Make it your mission to get a good night’s sleep as often as you can. You will not be awarded a ribbon for exhausting yourself.
- Pre-Christmas: We will create a list of gifts we would like to give to people. Each of us will spend a maximum of 3 hours hunting for the gifts on the list as it is far more efficient turning Christmas shopping into a scavenger hunt instead of trying to come up with ideas as you shop. We are trying to make as many gifts as possible so we will allocate time these tasks. We will go to a few parties but will not go to more than one a week before Christmas. We will combine our normal family activities and decorating the house. We will be working our normal hour’s right up to Christmas.
- Christmas Day: We have told everyone who has asked that we want to spend Christmas Day as a fivesome in our new home. Christmas Day will be exhausting enough for the kids due to the natural excitement of it all so there is no need to cram too much into the one day if you can spread it out over many. We will get up early, I am sure, but not too much outside of our normal routine. The morning will be spent opening gifts and hanging out as a family, enjoying a popular easy to make breakfast, before going outside for some fresh air and a fun activity as a family, like skating, sledding, or playing on the beach (the weather will decide). Since it will only be the five of us for dinner, and we will prepare what we can ahead of time, it will not take long to cook. Our kids will much prefer more time outside than a bigger, fancier dinner. This does not mean that it will not be delicious and memorable. After dinner we will play some family games or enjoy some of the new toys before going to bed at the normal time.
- Between Christmas and New Years: We will simplify our work tasks to a point where an hour or two a day combined will be more than sufficient (we are lucky, our work is portable). We are going to travel a few hours away to where our parents and a lot of our extended family will be. We have decided to do this after Christmas when everyone is more relaxed and informal. We will do some visiting each day and will include some fun family activities. We will go to a few gatherings but they will be smaller in numbers and more casual than if they were before Christmas or on Christmas day. This should be a really fun time for us as we should not be exhausted and craving relaxation as much as we have in the past. There has been too many times where I have pushed myself so much before Christmas that I was ill between Christmas and New Years.
I think our Christmas plan has it all. It will have gifts, nice food, and plenty of visiting, but our family should also be rested enough to really enjoy the holiday season for what it is. We would like for our kids to associate some special activitie and family bonding as a part of Christmas as much as they would associate a big dinner and receiving presents. Christmas is a wonderful holiday but it should not be stressful. If stress gets in the way of a good family time then do something about it. I am interested in hearing comments on ways you have thought of or have done to reduce stress at Christmas to make the season more enjoyable.