When you envision your holiday to-do list, what's your immediate reaction? Is it excitement? Or is it more like dread, fear, and stressed-out feelings?
Sure, we all want to be social and do fun things over the holiday season. The truth is that too much is happening in too many places, and we couldn't possibly do it all. Not to mention, the standards that we hold ourselves to are often based on pure fantasy - pretty pictures that we see on the internet. Do you worry that holiday fun has gotten out of control?
Here are some common areas where we might feel inclined to overdo it, over-extend, or try to out-perform ourselves, and how to curb our enthusiasm for less stress and more peace and relaxation during the holiday season.
It's not about throwing the biggest, fanciest, or best holiday bash.
No, you likely won't find the perfect December day when everyone on the guest list is free and available. Yes, you might do something silly, like forget to buy party napkins. The weather might be unseasonably warm, or unseasonably cold, ruining your plans for a bonfire, live nativity scene, front-lawn ice sculpture, or whatever you envisioned.
Knowing this, how to fret less and frolic more? What's the best way to throw a holiday party yet still manage to enjoy yourself? The key is to be realistic, and forgive your own shortcomings. Get the basics covered: house reasonably clean, enough snacks and drinks for everyone, and a little advance prep so the party can run smoothly without you having to oversee everything. And if things go wrong as they sometimes do, pour yourself a holiday cocktail or mocktail, and simply be grateful for this special time with family and friends.
Another area where we tend to become overachievers at the holidays is decorations !
Sure, it might be tempting to turn your home into a living, light-up gingerbread house that makes local newspaper headlines and overloads the power grid. But let's think of all the other, more fun things we could be doing than spending an entire weekend dangling precariously from the rooftop.
Instead of wrestling with extension cords, we could be making popcorn strings and spilling cocoa on the rug to the delight of our children. Instead of taking round after round of perfect Christmas photo card pictures in our perfectly Dickens-esque living room, we could find ourselves spontaneously singing off-key holiday carols around the piano. If sawing down a live Christmas tree at the farm in 18 degree temps makes you feel a bit grinchy, then settle for a pre-decorated faux-fir. Again, being realistic in our expectations of ourselves is the way to participate in holiday happenings without going off the deep end.
It's not about out-decorating your offices mates in the cubicle farm.
In some work places, the holiday merriment can get a bit out of control. If you find yourself getting a little too worked up with thoughts of making a chimney of your cubicle and renting an adult-sized Christmas Elf suit to the surprise, delight, and possible horror of your coworkers, it may be time to adjust your priorities.
Remember that in the end, winning the prize for most fantastic fruitcake or taking first place in the ugly sweater contest will not earn you that promotion. Participate in office festivities enough to appease the powers that be, but remember that work comes first, deadlines continue to loom despite the frivolity… and you have a right to remind folks of when it's time to back away from the egg nog, quit taking selfies with Santa, and get back to business.
It's not about Pinterest-worthy Holiday cookies that put Martha to shame, or out-baking the local sweet shop.
Nothing like telling the kids that you plan to bake "a few different kinds of cookies" only to find yourself covered in flour and quietly spewing profanity under your breath while fashioning miniature Santa beards from fondant at 2 a.m. and cursing the day you were born. Holiday cookie baking is supposed to be a fun and relaxing activity that the whole family can partake in.
Clear your schedule on a Saturday or Sunday to prepare for a good half-day or even a full day of mixing, chilling dough, baking and decorating. Call Mom for all the old family recipes, or make your choices from the endless selection online. (Tip: search for recipes that make use of simple ingredients that you already have on hand - peanut butter, chocolate chips, butter, flour.)
Get the kids involved, and don't sweat it if your treats overcook, undercook, or come out funny looking. Cookie baking will be a much sweeter experience and memory to look back on with love as the main ingredient.
As we launch into the holiday season and prepare to close out the year on a high note, we can avoid stress as long as we embrace imperfection and recognize that we can't do it all, and we shouldn't want to, anyway. Expect mishaps and mistakes. Approach holiday time with a good natured attitude, and be ready to laugh a little - or maybe even a lot.
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