Ideally, the holidays should to be a time of thankfulness, reflection, and celebration. Yet the idealistic visions of a perfect holiday are often marred by tensions and stress. Financial pressure, over-commitment and unrealistic expectations are among the culprits. However, I’ve discovered a few adjustments that can bring joy and peace to the season.
-Have realistic expectations. Magazines, The Hallmark Channel, even commercials depict elaborate holiday decorations, spotless homes and amazing meals. All of those images push us toward unrealistic expectations of ourselves and everyone else. Instead, do what is realistic for you without feeling guilty, lazy or inadequate.
-Be flexible. You might have to make concessions about when and where celebrations occur to avoid stress in families. Be willing to get together on a different day before or after the holiday if need be. The actual day isn’t as important as the opportunity to gather in a relaxed, unrushed atmosphere.
-Downgrade décor. Just because neighbors or family members decorate excessively doesn’t mean you can’t opt for a different experience. Simple decorations are just as festive (and perhaps more peaceful) than over-the-top extravagance. Include a few items that are special to you or your children, but don’t feel obligated to go overboard.
-Don’t break the budget. Gifts, parties, decorations and travel create a lot of financial pressure during the holidays. Your budget may require reducing the number of gifts you give or finding other ways to cut costs. Ignore the retail hype that plays on your emotions and avoid the temptation to buy with credit cards. Your stress level will skyrocket in January when the bills arrive.
– Just say no. A full holiday calendar equals exhaustion. Consider the logistics before accepting too many invitations. Leave holes in your calendar for quiet evenings at home or impromptu gatherings. You’ll be glad you did.
Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers.