Stress Free Holiday Season

There was a time very recently when I didn’t like Christmas time at all.  Sure, I loved that it was about Jesus’ birth and loved the lights.  However, I hated the stress. I hated the pressure to find the perfect gift for family members.  I hated the commercial holiday being forced down my throat.  Most of all, I hated how the holiday made people mean, angry, selfish, and rude.  People aren’t usually nice in my area anyway, but I could see that people were extra mean just driving in their cars—never mind in the stores!  Yikes!  I’ve been shoved in stores during the holidays.  (Now I just avoid going to stores after Thanksgiving.)  But, this year has been different for us—we have been striving to have a stress free holiday season.  Sure, the rude people still get under my skin (happiest time of year, my foot!), but I am striving not to get things bother me.

I had enough of being stressed during the holidays.  I told people not to get us gifts in exchange for us not getting them any.  I told them that we need to keep our meals simple—no need for 3 main dishes and 20 sides, never mind the apps and the dessert! Just their presence and love was needed.  I simplified the holidays by starting to focus on what Jesus did for us and by creating memories for Lemon to enjoy when she’s older.

How do you have a stress free holiday season?  I thought of four ways you could change to make it easier for you, but there are more ways!

Limit the amount of gifts

Do getting the perfect gift and completing your children’s Christmas list stress you out?  Get them fewer gifts!  Kids are more grateful when they receive fewer gifts. When they get so many gifts, they just expect to get mounds of gifts instead of appreciating what they got.

Control yourself! Yes, I know that you love your kids, but why go into debt for one day?  Your kids may act surprised and happy when they get those gifts, but, most likely, they will not even play with it the week after Christmas.  They will forget about those gifts a month after Christmas, and, essentially, you wasted your money.

Do your kids say thank you when they get gifts?  No?  That bothers me too.  I had some children that I would give gifts to that would never say thank you.  I am less inclined to give those gifts because of that.  Why spend my hard earned money on children that don’t appreciate it?  Kids become more aware of gratitude when they see it or hear it.  Model the gratitude by regularly expressing appreciation for the things and people you have in your life.

We do the 3/4 gifts here at Christmas.  Jesus only got three gifts at Christmas, and that is good enough for my child.  (Sometimes we can’t help things and get her an extra gift.)  You may have seen online that some people get four gifts:  Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.  We don’t go by those rules, but it’s not a bad idea!

Another idea is experiences.  Monthly boxes (such as science or art boxes), memberships to local places (like the aquarium, zoo, dance classes), or a trip are good ideas for gifts.  These create more memories than a mound of toys.  Cornell psychology professor Tom Gilovich has found that people are more likely to be thankful for experiences than for material possessions.  A family dinner, a trip to the aquarium, or even a hike in the woods creates a spirit of gratitude that outlasts even the nicest Xbox.

Make Jesus the Focus

Do you remember that saying in the early 2000s WWJD?  Even though that turned out to be a cheesy saying, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to follow at Christmas time!  Instead of thinking of what you would like to get for Christmas (or allow your children to because obsessed with what they are getting for Christmas), make the focus on what you could give.  This will help take the some of the pressure and help you focus on making it a stress free holiday for you.

Focus on what Jesus did for you.  Christmas isn’t about Santa, the Elf on the Shelf, the presents, the food, the parties, or the decorations.  Sure, those things are nice, but those things shouldn’t be the focus.  I have noticed that when I focus on all the other things and not what Jesus did for us on Christmas, then I get stressed and not so jolly.  Jesus left the comforts of Heaven to come to earth for us, born in a smelly, dirty stable, roamed around the Middle East without a home to tell His message, died on the Cross for our sins, then came back to life three days later.  All for us!  Keep these in mind this holiday season whenever you feel the stress coming on. Jesus didn’t come to earth to get and do things for Himself; everything He did was for others.

Start by finding appropriate educational materials and talking about the experience of those that are less fortunate.  Some families sponsor other families, donate food, toys, and clothing, as well as giving their time and service.  Older children can help donate their time at soup kitchens.  Younger children can give their saved cash to the red kettle.  This helps get the focus off of you and onto others.  But, don’t just stop when Christmas ends!  The less fortunate doesn’t disappear when the holiday are over.

Just Say No

You don’t need to go to do everything you find on Pinterest, participate in every cookie exchange, go to every party you’re invited to!  You can say no.  In fact, doing everything is just a recipe that your child (or yourself!) will have a meltdown Christmas Eve!

If your child demands the Elf on the Shelf, but you know that it’s going to be stressful to move it every night, tell him no, or come up with a plan to make it easy for you!  You don’t need to give your child everything they ask for.  They’ll get over it.

If you’re invited to a party and you are just worn out and tired, decline!  It will be ok and life will go on if you don’t go to every party.

Say it with me:

NO.

Ah.  Doesn’t that feel good?

Simplify

You don’t need to do every cute Christmas thing you see on Pinterest.  Your house doesn’t have to look like it belongs in a magazine.  If your tree has all the ornaments at the bottom because that’s where your child put them, so be it!  The experience excited your child, and to see you taking over the tree could break her heart.  If you don’t have time or the energy to get the light up on the house this year, so be it!  You can’t see the lights from inside your house anyway!  Allow the neighbors to decorate their house for you to enjoy.

If the tradition of cooking a ton of food for Christmas stresses you out, consider having a special, simple meal.  Ask others what their favorite dishes are to eat for Christmas dinner and focus on those.  If it doesn’t stress you out more, ask others for help make the dishes!  Having a week’s worth of leftovers can get old quick anyway, and having a simple Christmas meal can help your waistline as well.

Think of what is truly important to you, what memories you would like to pass on to your children.  Doing everything will not give them memories; it’ll just cause meltdowns and chaos.  Ask them what things they like about Christmas the most (besides the presents, of course!) and focus on that.  One of Lemon’s favorite things to do during the holidays is taking the links off her countdown garland.

Take time to stop and enjoy the holiday. Don’t make yourself so busy that you become so stressed and miss out on the holiday itself.  That would make for a miserable January and February!  A stress free holiday is a great way to end out the year.  Life goes by so fast—make sure you take time to enjoy it.  Don’t let it pass by with making yourself so busy.

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