We all love the idea of the holidays: the lightly falling snow, the gentle jingling of Christmas bells, the delicious holiday foods.
Sounds great, but who actually has that kind of Christmas? In my house, the holidays usually involve some combination of a blizzard when we need to drive, screaming children who may or may not be throwing Christmas bells and a still frozen-in-middle turkey hitting the table.
Depending on when you start celebrating, it can add up to more than a month of non-stop stress. Well, my friends, here are three ways to take some of the crazy out of Christmas this year.
1. Take care of yourself
For the parents in the crowd, you probably remember those grumpy baby moments. Your little darling starts crying, and you run through the checklist.
- Are they clean?
- Are they hungry?
- Are they tired?
- Are they bored?
The same thing holds true for you. We typically don’t manage life well when we’re hungry or tired or dehydrated. Throw in a little holiday stress, and you’re guaranteed to have rotten day after rotten day unless you make a change.
Keep your sanity by keeping your health a high priority. That doesn’t mean going on a diet or starting an exercise routine, but it does mean balancing out your Christmas candy bender with a little healthy living.
There’s plenty of holiday-centered healthy living advice on the Web, but here are a couple of suggestions to get you started.
- Be sure to eat balanced meals. That means taking some fruit and veggies from the buffet table along with the ham and potatoes – preferably vegetables and fruits that aren’t covered in cheese or chocolate.
- Get a full night’s sleep and keep a regular sleep schedule through the season. Stick to your normal bedtime and wake-up time even when the kids are on break.
- Remember alcohol is dehydrating. Balance out your festive drinks with some H2O. In addition, if you’re cranky, tired or have a headache, try drinking a glass of water first since all those can be a sign of dehydration.
- Make sure you move a little every day. Take the stairs at work or park as far as possible from the store when shopping.
2. Ruthlessly purge your to-do list
Taking care of your mental health is just as important as maintaining your physical health. To keep your sanity in check, you need to do something about your overloaded December calendar.
If you’re the organized type, you probably already have all your obligations written down in one place. That makes purging easy. Yay!
Otherwise, pull out a calendar or make a list in chronological order of everything you “need” to do and every event you “need” to attend.
Now get out the big red pen. Look for everything and anything you don’t enjoy and check it off. Then, make a second pass through and try to cross out at least a third to half of the checked items. You may not be able to get out of going to the school Christmas program, but you can probably beg off from going to the local craft fair this year.
Even if you have been doing certain activities for years, you’re under no obligation to continue those traditions. If friends and family give you any pushback, tell them you’re feeling stretched thin this year and can’t do it. End of story. You don’t owe them any more explanation about why you don’t want to spend an afternoon listening to them gossip while making Christmas cookies.
As you go over your calendar, ask yourself:
- Do I enjoy this activity/event?
- What happens if I say no?
- Can this be postponed until January (think: doctor visits)?
- Is there a way to do this in less time (i.e. shopping online or delegating tasks)?
By purging the clutter from your calendar, you’ll have more time and energy to enjoy the traditions and people who are truly meaningful to you.
3. Keep your expectations in check
Finally, we all want that Norman Rockwell moment, but let’s be realistic. The baby will meltdown at the most inappropriate time. The recipe will be a bust. Something will go terribly wrong.
Like these pilgrim people I attempted to make last year.
Yes, real life rarely matches the vision in our heads. But keeping expectations to a minimum can help ensure those bumps in the road don’t totally ruin your day. It’s not that we’re giving up on the Rockwell ideal. It’s that we’re embracing life’s imperfections and accepting that you don’t have to have a picture-perfect holiday to have a meaningful one.
How do you plan to stay sane this holiday season? Join the discussion with other Money Talks News readers in the comments below or on our Facebook page.