5 Ways to Take the Chaos Out of the Holidays this Year

Unbelievably, it’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and the entire holiday season. And if you’re like many women, your thoughts are probably running the gamut from “This is my favorite time of the year” to “I’m dreading the next few weeks.” And everything in between.

And realistically, even if you really love this time of year, you’re probably not thinking, “I’m really going to enjoy the holidays!” Because you know how much work it’s going to be. And you know that the stress and the fatigue are real.

If that’s the case, what you need is a strategy that will help you take the chaos out of the holidays this year.

Believe me, I know all of those feelings. The 5 weeks between “getting ready for Thanksgiving” and “putting away the Christmas decorations” can be some of the most tiring and stressful of the year. And for most women, the idea of relaxing and enjoying Christmas and the holidays seems like a fantasy.

But does it have to be that way? Does “the most wonderful time of the year” always have to turn into “the most stressful time of the year?”

I don’t think it does. At the very least, it doesn’t have to become five weeks of stress, craziness, and utter fatigue. Because I think that we, as women, wives and moms, have the power to make it more wonderful and less crazy. We have power to reduce the stress and take the chaos out of the season.

But we need to acknowledge and understand that power, then harness it to benefit ourselves and our families.

If you’re yearning for a holiday season that’s more about family, fun and joy, and less about obligations, money and stress, here are 5 things you can do to move in that direction. Consider taking these steps to minimize Christmas stress and take the chaos out of Christmas this year, before things start to get out of hand:

5 Ways to Reduce Christmas Stress this Year

1. Figure out what you and your spouse really want. What does an ideal Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas look like to you? What does it look like to your spouse? Talk about it openly and honestly, and really listen to each other.

Don’t be surprised if your ideal holidays and your spouse’s look very different. For example, decorating the entire house may be important to you, but mean nothing to him. And watching football with the family after Thanksgiving dinner may get him in the holiday spirit, but bore you to tears. So bring all of your hopes and expectations out in the open, and encourage him to do the same.

2. Establish your priorities. Now that you know what’s important to both of you, establish priorities for your family. Make a list of the three or four things that are most important to each of you.

Maybe for your spouse it’s spending relaxed time as a family, choosing gifts that will allow the family to have fun together, and reducing Christmas stress to very low level. Maybe for you it’s starting the holiday season with a clean, uncluttered house, baking cookies with the kids, and entertaining small groups of friends.

Whatever it is for the two of you, let each other know, “This is what’s most important to me over the next few weeks.”

Then agree to honor each other’s priorities and make them happen. And recognize that, in doing this, each of you will probably have to forgo a few of your “favorites.” If you don’t, you’ll be right back to trying to do everything and driving yourself crazy.

3. Let go of things that don’t fit your priorities. This is where things start to get hard. In order to reduce holiday stress and create the kind of holiday season you envision for your family, some things will have to go.

You can’t attend every event, accept every invitation, make every gift, organize every craft, and decorate every inch of the house — not if you want to relax a bit and enjoy the things you determined are most important.

Obviously, some activities are required — your children’s Christmas program, your boss’s holiday drop-in, shopping for gifts, and cooking holiday meals. But some are not.

So you may have to say no to your neighbor’s dessert buffet, your aunt’s Christmas cantata, your daughter’s friend’s skating party, or your sister-in-law’s all-day shopping trip.

Because you can’t do everything, and this year you want to do the things that will make the season fun, relaxing and memorable for your family.

4. Plan the activities you really want to do. Choose one or two activities that each family member especially enjoys and schedule them now. Put them on your calendar, because that’s the only way to make sure they happen. (In addition, when other things come up, this strategy allows you to say, “Sorry, we already have something scheduled.”)

Maybe your son likes to go for a hay ride and cut down the perfect Christmas tree, and your daughter enjoys seeing the lights display at the local zoo.

Maybe your spouse wants to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and drink hot chocolate, and you love for the entire family to bake cookies together.

Schedule those things and other favorite activities now; that way, you’re certain to make room for them in your busy schedule.

5. Ask for and accept help. Chances are, your family doesn’t want you to drive yourself crazy over the next few weeks. And more than likely, they want to prevent that from happening. But you’ll have to say what you need.

For example, for many years my husband has shopped for the Christmas gifts for our sons. We always talk about what we want to get for them, but then he does the shopping. Great — that’s one less thing on my list.

He’s willing to help with other things too. I just need to ask, then get out of the way and let him do those things. Your husband is probably willing to do the same.

This year, take these 5 steps to reduce stress and create the kind of relaxing and joy-filled holiday season you really want.

Adapted from Peace. Love. Joy. - 75 Simple Ways to Take Care of Your Health, Happiness, and Marriage this Holiday Season.

Also published at CalmHealthySexy.com.

Gaye Groover Christmus, MPH
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