The bats and spiders and mini Snickers were barely packed away before the stores unveiled the latest editions of their annual Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza marketing extravaganzas earlier this week. So now it’s on. The onslaught has begun. We are looking at two full months of relentless pursuit, mounting pressure. So stay strong. Stay focused. Plan a strategy. We can do this.
How, you ask? How, when all the darling little ads reappear, the ones that make even our husbands and sons get a bit teary? How, when buttery little star cookies and tin soldier chocolates and reindeer antlers are everywhere? How, when even dinky office cubicles and school lockers and online sites are all bedecked with greenery and tangles of blinking lights? Keep calm? Stay focused? The malls smell of cinnamon, everyone’s nice for a change, spending too much is suddenly good and patriotic rather than depraved – aghhhhh! Gilt, guilt, gilt, guilt…there’s no way to survive!
But of course there is. Mind you, you have to want to change it up. You have to make the decision to stay in front of the madness, not get swept away. The holidays can indeed be a lovely time of year, a time for restoration and hope, gatherings of friends and family, special meals, once-a-year treats. Magic. So…
Manage your time:
- Set sensible priorities. Say goodbye to impossible goals (and you know which ones they are).
- Organize your time so you are not rushing to finish everything at the same time.
- Get rid of things from past holidays that did not work, made you furious or drove the family crazy. Put your energies behind those things that make the holidays meaningful and fun.
- Pick and choose what you and yours really want to do, rather than what others think you should be doing. Of course, there are holiday obligations. But don’t let your bossy little sister or your dad’s second wife call the shots every time.
- Do not say ‘yes’ to every invitation.
- Ask for help with chores and errands. Ask – don’t wait for an offer.
- Be sure to set aside totally unscheduled time. You need to relax and regroup on a regular basis.
- Take breaks. Often. Sometimes a nap is the greatest luxury of all!
- Take stock; be flexible. What’s happened over the past year? Any deaths, marriages, divorces, engagements, foreclosures or births? Has the family structure changed? Should the annual dessert bash be held at a different house this year? Do new family members have some traditions to add?
- Share responsibilities. We all have a family saint or martyr, the one who does all the running and cleaning and loose-end management. It’s probably you, but if not, be sure to lend him or her a hand. Try potluck for a change, or a less demanding menu. Help with the decorating.
- Don’t worry about the actual date. Getting together is the point. Sometimes kids can’t get back home from school until the day after. Sometimes families get too competitive about who is where on which day. Go with the flow. The weekend after Thanksgiving is a great time to snack and gossip and share, for example.
- See the holidays as a season, not just a day or two. It’s just as much fun to visit family and friends right after the big days. There is much less pressure then, and more time for each other. Think hiking, skiing, skating, time on the beach.
- Plan recovery time. Be sure to allow enough time for you and the family – any children in particular – to rest and relax between meals and visits. The holidays are exciting and exhausting. We need time and space to recover between rounds.
- Share your plans. There will be far fewer hurt feelings and misunderstandings if you and the rest of the family share your various commitments and obligations ahead of time. This should help minimize conflicts, such as scheduling a tree-trimming do on the same night as a brother’s (mandatory) office party.
- Travel smart. Stay off the road during rush hour. Plan for weather and traffic delays. If driving long distances, allow for rest stops and coffee breaks. Holiday drivers are too often distracted and tired drivers, so plan accordingly.
- Get enough sleep. If you are driving yourself crazy with plans and ideas, keep notepaper on the nightstand. Do not take the phone or laptop to bed!
- Eat properly.
- Respect your regular exercise routine.
- Don’t let the to-do list take over. The idea of planning and setting goals is to make your life easier, not to drive you over the edge!
- Relax and regroup. Seriously. Take breaks. Stretch, try deep breathing and yoga.