Does your ideal Christmas look like something out of a Netflix Christmas special?
I’m the first to admit that I get totally caught up in whole experience of Christmas.
I love buying and wrapping presents, baking, making craft, decorating, getting together with friends and family, singing carols, and seeing Christmas shows and light displays. Of course, there’s also writing Christmas cards (yes, I still do that), menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning.
The holiday season can significantly add to our already daunting to-do lists and mental load.
Which can make Christmas way less joyful and way more overwhelming.
Cue stressing out and resentment about why I have to do almost everything myself. (Ok, well maybe the latter is partly because I want it done my way – hello wrapping theme and perfect tree).
Christmas is meant to be a happy time of celebration, family and love. It’s a beautiful time to think of others, and focus on giving.
If you normally find it stressful and chaotic, then this is the year to handle things differently!
Examine your standards
A great place to start, is to examine your expectations and standards for the holiday season.
Think about them from 3 perspectives:
1. Are they realistic?
Do you have the time, money and skills to achieve what you have in mind?
2. Are they your own?
Are they meaningful to you and your family? Or are they based on pressure from extended family, comparisons to others, or Christmas related marketing?
3. Are they necessary and / or important?
What would happen if you didn’t do it? Would anyone that matters notice? Or even care? Would it have a real negative impact on the experience of Christmas for your family?
Let’s look at an example of my own: I decided my son and I would make all our Christmas wrapping paper this year.
Is it realistic?
It’s cost effective; plain brown paper costs a few dollars, and we use painting supplies we have at home. We have the skills required. But it’s time consuming, as we have a lot of presents to wrap (including some big ones!). My son can only paint a few sheets, before he becomes disinterested. So, I’d have to set up multiple painting sessions, over a couple of weeks, to make enough.
Is it my own standard?
Yes, I want to do this because I love having a wrapping theme and I love making things. It’s fun to do these things with my son.
Is it necessary and / or important?
Well, it’s necessary to wrap presents (although one person in our family has stopped wrapping presents because they don’t think they need to be a surprise – that’s certainly easier but doesn’t look so enticing under the tree). While everyone loves and appreciates the homemade wrapping paper, it gets discarded. I don’t think anyone would notice if their present was wrapped in store bought paper and it certainly wouldn’t detract from the gift or the Christmas experience.
The best solution for me is to adjust my standard. We’ve already painted some wrapping paper but it isn’t enough for all the presents, and that’s ok. My son chose some paper at the store to do the rest. We’ll save time and the gifts still look lovely. And I won’t be stressed about keeping him engaged or trying to squeeze in numerous painting sessions. (I think this is the first year that all my presents didn’t match!)
What standards do you need to adjust to make Christmas less stressful?
What about your family?
It can be insightful and helpful to involve your family in this too.
Have a conversation with your partner, kids (if they’re old enough) and any other important family members.
Ask them to answer these questions:
• What’s most important to you at this time of year? What makes you happy?
• Which Christmas family traditions do you enjoy the most?
• What could we skip to allow more time for the things we love?
You might be surprised by their answers! They may not need so many decorations in the house or they might want to start a new tradition!
12 more tips to replace stress with joy this Christmas
• The effect of perfectionism and comparisons can be amplified at Christmas. Don’t worry about other people’s decorations, menu’s, presents, etc if it makes you feel like you need to do more.
• Set a budget and stick to it. Think about the impact of any excess spending after Christmas. Will you have debt to pay off? Will it make January harder for you?
• Be realistic about the time you have. Create a plan for the next few weeks to keep you on track. Include time for normal chores and to look after yourself.
• Start shopping now for non-perishables. You’ll avoid a massive shop later when the stores are manic.
• Most families have heaps of food leftover after Christmas. Can you cook less?
• Decorations don’t need to be over the top. Decorate a couple of key areas, instead of the whole house. Or choose your family’s favourites and don’t worry about the rest.
• Delegate! Ask guests to bring a dish, ask the kids to help with chores.
• Embrace pre-made food. Make your signature dishes and then save time by buying things like ready-made Christmas cakes, biscuits (you could still decorate them), marinated meat and pre-made salads.
• Accept that the house will be messy for the day. Ignore it until Boxing Day!
• How many places can you really visit in 1 day? Be realistic and try to spread out the celebrations or you’ll be exhausted and spend more time commuting than connecting (I’ve been there!).
• Don’t do things that make you unhappy, if they’re actually unnecessary.
• Here’s the BIG one – you can’t please everyone. You’ll need to make a call where there are conflicting preferences. Don’t bend to everyone’s desires. Prioritise your sanity.
Lovely mum, there’s no right way to do Christmas. Focus on what’s really meaningful and enjoyable for you and your family and let everything else go.
It’s still going to be a busy time and you’re still probably going to do almost everything, but you’ll be doing what’s really important, with more joy and less stress.
Write down your answers to these questions:
1. What’s most important to YOU this Christmas? (e.g. spending time together, observing family traditions, simplifying, sticking to a budget). Now go and ask your family members too!
2. What do you need to stop or change to make sure this actually happens?
3. What do you need to start doing to make it happen?
Next week, in Part 2 of this series, I’ll be focusing on how to look after yourself and your family in this busy time. See you next week!
P.S. Do you know a mum who needs to read this? Please share it with her.