It was only one week into October when it happened. While minding my own business scrolling through Instagram, there it was staring me in the face, taunting me like one of those frightening blow-up clowns that bobbles back and forth. Brace yourselves, mama. I know you’ve experienced it, too: the selfie of a friend smiling contently in the front seat of her car with the caption, “Just finished my Christmas shopping!”
What?! Oh mercy. I’m already behind. My heart sank (yeah, my eyes might have rolled, too).
October has come and gone, but the holiday season is upon us whether we are ready or not. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with a to-do list that grows as quickly as your kids, far-away relatives asking when you’ll visit, gift-giving pressures, etc. When that happens, the “happy holidays” are at risk of feeling not so happy at all.
Here are five ways to avoid falling into the not-so-happy holidays this season.
1. Set and share realistic expectations. Start now by talking with your spouse, children, and/or extended family about what they hope the holidays will look like. Maybe the last few years included traveling at Thanksgiving, this year you’d love a low-key day in your own home watching football and munching on a take-out meal. Great! Go ahead and let Grandma and Grandpa know so no one is surprised. Is money tight this year? Talk to family about doing a gift-giving game instead of buying for every member of your tribe. Naming and sharing your hopes for the holidays will go a long way to ward off the bah humbugs (and hurt feelings).
2. Choose quality over quantity. Here in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, there are enough special holiday events to fill every day of your calendar, and then some. From holiday markets to light shows, concerts to fun runs, office parties to galas. You do not have to do it all. (Read that sentence again, sweet mama.) Instead of cramming your calendar, choose activities that add something of worth to your holiday experience. For instance, my family foregoes the various popular festival of lights attractions in the area (and the multi-hour wait times) and instead don our pajamas, plastic cups of hot chocolate, and freshly homemade Chex mix and cruise around our own neighborhood while listening to carols on the radio. It’s a simple tradition we look forward to every year. What’s most important to you? Choose those things!
3. Place yourself accordingly. The holidays are a marathon, not a sprint, sister. Similar to tip number two, it’s important to set a comfortable pace. Traveling over Thanksgiving? Consider packing a week ahead to avoid last-minute stress. Love being able to spend the entire week before Christmas curled up on the couch watching movies and baking cookies? Maybe set a faster pace earlier in the season and get your gifts wrapped and menus planned ahead of time. Remember, there’s no checkered flag at the holiday finish line, but that doesn’t mean you can’t crash and burn — leaving you nothing left to enjoy yourself. So, set a doable pace!
4. Make it about others AND yourself. If you’re like me, you might experience great joy finding just the right gift for your loved ones. It’s also fun to do little extra things that make the holidays extra magical and memorable for our children, but those things take planning and time. (Hey, elf, I’m looking at you sitting up on your shelf!) There are even ample opportunities to serve those less fortunate. Before you know it, the season of giving pushes self-care right out the frosted windows. Preserve your holiday happiness by remembering yourself. Keep your fitness in check and go for a walk or attend a yoga class. Plan a cocktail hour with your girlfriends. Take a long bubble bath after sitting cross-legged on the floor wrapping gifts.
5. Leave space for the unexpected. You will forget the stocking stuffers. Last year’s bottle of almond extract will be nearly empty, and you’ll have to run to the store. The memory of holiday traditions with your loved ones who have passed away will come rushing to the surface and you’ll need time to grieve. Building in some spare time helps to handle the unexpected without losing your cool. Prepare to be gracious with yourself and your family during this busy season. It is invaluable for keeping the stressful holidays happy.