It’s go-time, friends. December is just moments away and December means Christmas, and for many of us, Christmas means stress. If you bear with me for just a few minutes, I can help you keep your sanity and even find some joy in this spectacular season.
You can still have all the beauty and fun of the season; your presents and cookies and parties. But let’s streamline the details for you so you keep it together, find some rest, and are able to enjoy the results of all your hard work. Here you go…
You Can’t Do It All, So Don’t Do It All
Cookies. Pageants. Parties. Christmas cards. Decorations. Dinners to make. Dinners to attend. Presents. It’s okay to not do some of these things. What do you love to do? What do you need to do? I haven’t sent out Christmas cards for the past few years. I just couldn’t do one more thing and those had to go. Being in the age of social media where everyone can see how your family grows and succeeds right on Facebook, Christmas cards aren’t the “catch-up” they used to be, though I do like sending them and I love receiving them.
If you delight in sending out those cards though, do that. But maybe back off on all the kinds of cookies you bake and candies you make. Don’t feel obligated to “do it all”. Be realistic about your time and energy, and save some of both so you can actually enjoy the season.
Make Lists and Prioritize
There’s a ton to do, right? All the things…the baking, the shopping, the decorating, the school activities, the work activities…So we talked about weeding out some things you can set aside this year. Let’s tackle the things you will do, but let’s get them done smart and well.
Make a list of all the things you need to accomplish and purchase for the season: grocery list, presents, who you’re sending cards to, parties you’ve received invitations to, parties you’re hosting, teacher gifts, mailman gifts, seasonal gifts like tips for the babysitter or milkman (does anyone have a milkman, cuz that’d be pretty cool). And set your budget for all these things. Budgets vary. Every year may be different so don’t sweat having to live up to last year’s budget if it was bigger than what you can afford this year. Don’t overspend.
Once your list(s) is made, prioritize and schedule. Get or make a nice calendar book. You can probably even grab one at the dollar store and use it just for the season. Put on your calendar everything you need to do and attend. Then schedule everything.
If you need two dozen cookies baked by a Friday, schedule to make them on the Tuesday or Wednesday before. My reasoning? You can freeze them if you make them ahead and they’re done. You’re not waiting until the last minute. And…if you pencil them in for a few days before you need them, there’s still leeway. If something comes up Tuesday, you can move them to Wednesday. You’re not leaving yourself in a panic. Take charge of your time and use it in your favor by being organized.
Make the Most of Your Time
You’re going to need to shop whether it’s for presents or food or decorations or…So use your time, gas, and money in the smartest ways possible. Do as much shopping online as you can. You can do this while you’re waiting for dinner to cook or while you’re sitting in the carpool lane waiting for your children or even in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.
When you do need to leave the house to shop at actual stores, time it well. If you can, grab a buddy or a spouse and head out later at night. Many stores will be open until 10 or 11 p.m. during the holiday season and the later it is, it’s often much less busy. You can get in and out and avoid lines. The same is true for early mornings. Grocery stores are usually open 24 hours or if not, they open quite early in the morning. This is a great time to shop. You not only avoid crowds and lines, but there are often deep discounts on the food items they didn’t sell the day before…and they’re still fresh.
Minimize and Maximize
Minimize your duties and maximize your time: get as much done in as little time as possible, while doing as little as you must. Does that make sense? Use your time as best you can: Stay home to shop and shop online while you’re folding clothes, or half-watching a TV show. Multitask when possible. Throw in a batch of cookies and address Christmas cards while you wait for the time to go off. Make a game of it. “I have 20 minutes on that timer. I’m going to write out 10 cards before the buzzer.”
And do as little as you can get away with. Not in a sneaky way, but use gift bags for many of your gifts (maybe use a half and half rule since kids tend to have fun unwrapping gifts). Tuck a bunch of gift tags in your purse or briefcase and write them out while on a break. Don’t absolutely stuff every nook and cranny of your time with tasks, but maximize the time you have.
Find Places and Times to Simply Be
You will not maintain your sanity if you don’t rest. Plan a date night or a girls lunch. I know what you might be thinking: Are you serious? You’re telling me to cram in yet another activity?!
I’m not telling you, but I am suggesting. Imagine that you have 4,379 things to accomplish and you’re overwhelmed. But you know there’s a break coming and that next Wednesday you and your husband are going out for dinner or even coffee. Or that Friday, you’re meeting your friends for some laughs during lunch. When you get that date book to schedule all your obligations and tasks, schedule in some rest as well. And some fun.
Don’t forget your children. Make sure you have set aside time to enjoy some snuggles, hot chocolate, games, and Christmas movies. If they’re old enough, enlist your kids in helping bake cookies, clean the house, even wrap presents for family. After all, if you don’t spend time with those you love most and enjoy the season, what’s the point of the all the work?
Bonus: Don’t worry if you can’t spend as much as last year or much at all. Gifts are gifts, not obligations. While as parents we all want to spoil the dickens out of our kids on Christmas, I really believe that they are delighted by whatever their parents (and Santa) give them. Your love is not solely reflected in Christmas presents. It’s evident in the every day when you give kisses and hugs, and rides to school, sports, and dances. It’s obvious in the lessons you pay for, the sneakers you buy for the kids instead of yourself even though you need some. It’s proven in the meals you make, the doctor appointments you attend, and the way you show up every single day to love and support your children.
Remember your worth (and get some rest!),