Inside: One mom shares her personal struggle with managing holiday stress and offers 4 tips that can help.
December is here and so is the stress of the holiday season. For me it started on Thanksgiving and has only gotten worse since then. Now that Christmas is only 2 weeks away, I’m starting to really feel overwhelmed.
But why? Why do I do this to myself every single year? Last year, I made a conscious decision to say, “No” to more and decided not to do Christmas cards. As much as I love giving and receiving real mail, it’s just one more thing to do during such a busy time of the year.
I felt guilty when I started receiving cards from others though. I also regretted not sending them out to family that lives far away and looks forward to getting them from us.
So this year, I drug my family through the process of getting professional photos taken and I put myself through the unnecessary stress of trying to design the perfect card. Now I still have to find time to send them out and hope I can do it before the holidays are over!
The stress we feel during the holidays comes from so many different places and much of it is from the little things that add up. It’s not just from the extra gatherings we attend during this time of year and all of the gifts we run around searching for.
We also have to figure out what to wear to the parties, how we’ll get there, what we’ll bring with us. If we’re bringing food we have to shop for the ingredients and then find the time to bake or cook the food.
THEN, once you’re at the event, some people have added stress about what they can eat or how they are going to refrain from eating too much.
Add to the list the regular everyday stressors of life like paying your bills and keeping your house clean. For moms, we also have to take care of our kids and make sure we aren’t neglecting them. Otherwise, they start to act out for our attention which causes even more stress.
If you’re like me and have even one birthday in your family in December (we have 3), then you can forget a moment of downtime.
All of this leads to the perfect storm. You have an idea in your head of the perfect Christmas that you want to provide for your family, but it never goes that way. If you’re already feeling stressed, when one little thing goes wrong you feel like you just can’t handle it.
Lost in Transit
For example, I bought my husband, whose birthday is December 7th, the birthday gift he really wanted online in early November. I thought I was getting a head start, but come to find out everyone else wanted the same thing. So the shipping status said that it would arrive on Dec. 5th.
I thought it would be cutting it close, and started to get him something else instead. I decided it was worth the wait though, because I knew it was what he really wanted. Well, Dec. 5th came and the package didn’t. Apparently, it got hung up on Black Friday somewhere in Norcross, GA (which is ironically the next town over).
I was able to get a replacement sent, but it won’t be here until AFTER Christmas, in January!!!!
Luckily, I had already ordered a vest that he wanted on Black Friday and was going to give it to him for Christmas. So I was able to give him that for his birthday instead. Except that when I took it out of the box to wrap it, it was the wrong size.
The company that I bought it from doesn’t do exchanges, but I could return the item for free and order another one. So I ordered another one with expedited shipping. But guess what my mom brain did…….ordered the wrong size…..AGAIN!!!
I know what you’re thinking, why didn’t you just cancel the order? Well I couldn’t. The store didn’t have any available customer service reps working on Saturdays and they don’t allow cancellations for online orders. Not only could I not exchange the wrong sized vest again, I also couldn’t cancel the order. The guy at the Fed-Ex counter at Staples is going to know me on a first name basis by the end of this.
I knew what I had done immediately after I pressed the order button, but it was too late. Something that wouldn’t normally be a big deal, caused me to break down in tears. Because I was already feeling stressed by all of the other things piling up.
The reality is, we can’t control all of these things. Not only are they out of our control, but stressing about them takes away from the real reason we celebrate holidays anyway.
So, I did what any girl would do in this situation. I let out a loud scream and pounded my head on the steering wheel. And then I drove my car to DSW and got some new shoes.
Before I did that, I took a few minutes to write in my journal. When I was writing, I realized that I can’t let all of these little things get me down.
I need to focus on what really matters. When I start to feel stressed by the holiday mayhem, I’m going to take a deep breath and remember what Christmas is all about. It’s about the birth of our Savior, Jesus!
Here are some other ways I’m MANAGING HOLIDAY STRESS:
I’m also trying to set boundaries and working on saying NO. It’s ok if we can’t go to every holiday party we’re invited to. We might miss something fun and the fear of missing out is hard. But filling every minute of your family’s time isn’t healthy.
Letting Go Of Being Perfect
It’s ok if every day isn’t perfect and I don’t have the perfect gift for every person on my list. What really matters is the spirit of giving and the thought that goes into it.
We don’t have to have the perfect Christmas tree with the fullest branches. And it doesn’t have to look perfect when the decorations are put on.
Before I had kids, I used to think each strand of lights had to be equal distance apart and the ornaments all had to be color coordinated.
I’ve had to let go of that, because decorating the tree with my kids is a tradition my family looks forward to. If I’m trying to boss everyone around and control where they put each ornament, that takes the fun out of it for everyone.
Putting Down My Device
I’m putting down my device so that I can just BE with my family and enjoy spending time with them. My kids will only be this little for a few more years. Eventually, they’re going to grow up and move out. They’ll have their own families and I may not get to see them as much over the holidays.
Although, my 5-year-old says he wants to live with me forever. So there’s a chance he’ll be living in our basement at 35.
Remembering To Breathe
I’m taking time to breathe and making sure that I’m going to yoga even when I have a million other things to do. I’m taking a few minutes to pause in the car before running into the store to get the crucial ingredient I need to make the special Christmas recipe.
Here are some other ways I practice self-care. As a mom, it’s so important that we don’t forget about our own needs so that we can stay strong enough to be there for our families.
I’m taking time to pray and asking God to help me remember why we celebrate. I’m asking for his help, because I know that I can’t do it all on my own.
And next year, I’m not sending Christmas cards! Who am I kidding, I probably will. But that’s ok. If I learn anything, next year I’ll make the cards in September when there aren’t any birthdays in our family.
This Christmas, I hope you’re able to take time to enjoy the traditions your family has while avoiding some of the holiday mayhem!