How to Survive the Holidays...

...without losing your marbles.

Does anyone else hit that wall around this time of year where you're brain is fried from late-night gift-wrapping sessions, your credit cards are smoking from excessive use, and if you hear Jingle Bells one more time you just might scream...?  Oh good, it isn't just me.

Intellectually, I know the holidays are exciting and fun but as a daughter, sister, friend, mother and wife...they are also exhausting.  The endless loop of music that always seems to get caught up on those songs that you never loved to begin with.  Searching high and low for that perfect gift for the person that has one (or two) of everything.  Buying, addressing, stamping and actually mailing cards to family and friends.  Grocery shopping, cooking and baking all those delicious treats we only seem to get once per year.  Fighting with the elements, the light strand snarls, the eaves and the ladders to hang/arrange outdoor decorations.  Spending hours decorating your tree, your mantle, your tables and living areas, only to do it all again 2 days later when you realize that your small children will not leave said decorations alone and you must move everything to a surface above 4 ft tall.  Buying, stashing, remembering where you stashed, and wrapping all of those gifts.  Staggering under the weight of your purchase and then staggering even more under the weight of your credit card bill.

This year, I'm trying to keep it all in perspective.  I've made a list of reasons to ENJOY this time of year instead of getting overwhelmed and crazy like in years past.  I've got one taped to my fridge and one to the bathroom mirror, to keep me grounded.

1. Remember the Reason for the Season.  No matter what your religious affiliation, I think we can all agree there is more to this time of year than commercialism and advertising.  Kindness toward others.  Giving to those less fortunate.  Spending time with loved ones.  Remembering how good it feels to give, rather than just receive.  Filling your home with the scents and sights that bring back warm memories from your own childhood.

2. Don't be afraid to make a budget, and don't feel guilty for sticking to it.  Before you ever leave the house, decide how much money you have to spend on each person and stick to it

3. The holidays are not a competition.  It isn't about who can spend more, or wrap better, or bake fancier things.  It isn't about which house has more lights, better music, or a nicer tree.  Do what works best for you and your family.

4. Don't sweat the small stuff.  So you ran out of green sprinkles in the midst of your cookie decorating.  Your child "helped" by adding an entire container of nutmeg to the eggnog.  Aunt Madge sent you a fruitcake.  Again.  Not a problem.  You are resilient.  Creating memories that are special is much more important than creating a green sugar cookie "tree". 

5. Don't be afraid to walk away for a minute.  The oven is on, the kitchen is hot.  You burned your finger for the third time and you've already got bandages covering the other 9 digits from gift-wrapping related injuries.  Your kids are playing every holiday movie they own, over and over and over, at full volume.  Turn off the stove.  Grab your jacket.  Step out on the back porch for a few minutes and take a breath of cool air.  You'll feel better and your head will be cleared for the next onslaught. 

6. Take advantage of the Once-A-Year-Sights.  Dress everyone in warm jammies, load up in the car with a basket of cookies and a thermos of hot cocoa to spend an hour driving around admiring the lights and decorations.  If you live in a snowy climate - layer on the warm clothing and head outside for an afternoon of snow angels, snowmen and snowball fights.  Take the time to dress up nicely and stop by the Christmas Eve service at your church.  If you have little kids (or even if you don't) stop by your local shopping mall and take photos with Santa.  Don't forget to tell him what you're wishing for!

7.  Don't overlook the "other" family members.  When we're busy planning, running around, baking and wrapping, it's easy to overlook our animal friends.  They may be confused and on edge from the holiday chaos, but give them a few minutes of your time to reassure them (and yourself) that everything will be back to normal soon.

8.  Remember that not all gifts come wrapped.  Is there a special person in your life that could use a few minutes of your time?  A neighbor you could invite to lunch?  A teacher who might appreciate a nice note and a plate of cookies?  It doesn't take much to make an impact in someone's life. 

9. Not every moment has to be spent racing from place to place.  Rent a holiday movie, make popcorn and cocoa and settle in with your family to enjoy some quiet time together.  One of my favorites is the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas (with Boris Karloff as narrator).  If you don't have young kids in the house, you might enjoy National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (with Chevy Chase).

10. Give to those less fortunate when you can.  A local shelter, the Salvation Army, an animal shelter.  Every penny counts.  Encourage your family members to participate by saving up during the year and contribute together.  There is nothing quite like the warm, fuzzy feeling you get when Giving.

These are just a few tips to keep you sane.  What do you do to stay grounded during the holidays? 
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2 Response to How to Survive the Holidays...

December 13, 2010 at 5:28 PM

What a great list! You really did put it all in perspective. I really liked #6 -- we need to remember that this IS a special time, regardless of the stresses.

December 15, 2010 at 12:46 PM

all of this is so so true! it's so easy to feel overwhelmed this time of year. Lord knows we are, but this list is a great reminder! Thank you!

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