A Little More Holiday… A Little Less Stress
“We need a little holiday ― not a whole lot of stress”
By Tonya Sacowicz
The holidays are upon us, and we all have Norman Rockwell-ish dreams of what the holidays should look like. But let’s be real. The holidays often end up being stressful and challenging instead of bringing the joy we dream of. Add in family expectations and tired children and, well, the holiday season can be downright miserable at times. But there are things you can do to minimize holiday stress and even bring back the joy.
What are those things, and how can we make them reality in our lives?
- Realize it is OK to let the Martha Stewart Syndrome go. Regardless of what holidays you celebrate this time of year, we all seem to think that we have somehow failed if our home does not look like a designer-magazine shoot. Some people have the time, money and ability to create that look in their home, but the reality is that most of us do not ― and it is OK! Your kids will not grow up and say, “Wow, our holidays were terrible because we did not have our house transformed into a Christmas village complete with a moving train and an LED mini-tree.” They are going to remember their special times with family, the time you spent with them and those simple traditions that carry on, year after year.
- Don’t over-schedule yourself or your kids. If your kids are school-age, remember there may be holiday concerts and plays at school or your house of worship to attend. Plus, we all know there are birthday parties every single month for one of the kids’ friends, plus the holiday events for work, with friends, your favorite local charity, etc. You can force yourself to do it all, but why? When you push yourself that hard, all you end up doing is making yourself and your kids overtired, stressed and often times, sick. This makes the holidays miserable. So schedule those things you must ― school performances and work functions ― and then choose just a couple of other things that are super special to you. Accept those invitations and politely decline the rest, If you do that, I promise you still will have a wonderful holiday season ― with a lot less stress.
- Stay HOME, especially if you have small children. Traveling “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house” isn’t nearly as appealing as the song makes it sound. It’s not a moonlight sleigh ride snuggled under a warm blanket. Instead, it is expensive plane tickets, getting up at ungodly hours to catch a flight with tired, cranky kids. Then there’s being crammed into a plane and trying to avoid dirty looks because your infant is crying and your toddler is kicking the seat in front of you no matter how many times you plead with him to stop. Instead, ask everyone to come to you this year. Send your out-of-town guests a list of local hotels (because you are not one!), assign your local friends and relatives a potluck food item to bring so you are not doing all the cooking, and host a gift exchange where you draw names so that you only have to buy one gift.
- Speaking of gifts. …. Let’s be real. Shopping during the holiday season is miserable. Stores have earlier morning and later night hours this time of year. Ask the grandparents to watch the kids or hire a teenager for a few hours to babysit. Shop during the non-peak hours. And while we are at it: Take advantage of the local stores that will pick and pack your groceries for you. Shop online and pick up your order at the store’s designated spot; some stores will deliver right to your door.
- And that amazing holiday meal you dream of cooking? Is it really worth all those hours in the kitchen, getting up at 3 a.m. to get the turkey in, make the cinnamon rolls and then bake four different types of pie that go home on paper plates as leftovers, often ending up in the trash? For some of you it is (confession: I am one of those), but for many, it simply isn’t worth it. Most grocery stores, and increasingly many restaurants, are offering complete family holiday meals hot and ready for pick up or cold with preparation instructions. And several local restaurants and resorts are open and have amazing holiday meals ― you show up, get waited on in a lovely decorated environment with amazing food made by a talented chef and then someone else cleans it all up.
- Let go against some of the rules! It is the holiday party, and there are lots of yummy and beautiful treats. Our kids are begging us for them. Yes, we normally want our kids to eat hummus and veggies. I get it. But sometimes some of the greatest joys we have and what helps build memories are those times when we are allowed to break the rules. So let your kids stay up late at their cousins’ house, giggling and watching movies. Let them eat extra cookies at Grandma’s house, let them get soaking wet in the snow on your family ski trip and take a hot bath afterwards. I promise the positives of all the extra fun will outweigh the negatives of a late night or a bit of extra sugar.
- Take time each day for two very important things: time for you and time for your kids. If it means getting up 10 minutes earlier to have your coffee in peace and quiet, if it means taking a walk during your lunch break or it means an hour of your guilty pleasure on TV after the kids have gone to bed ― whatever that looks like for you ― do it. You need that down time and in all the holiday chaos, it is even more important. And your kids need you. They need to connect with you. They need to snuggle with you or talk to you and share their day and their stresses. Sometimes these more intentional carved-out moments are when your kids share the most and you often are the most needed. Be there for them and with them ― no phone, no TV, just you and them, even if it is only 15 minutes. Because when they are all grown up and starting families and holiday traditions of their own, which do you think they will remember? That toy they just had to have under the tree? Or the memory of how during that time of year, Mom or Dad (or both!) made it an extra priority for them to know they were loved? I think we all know the answer to that.
Have a wonderful holiday season and relish these precious times with your children. It is true. They go by far too quickly.
*Tonya Sacowicz is with Newborn Care Solutions, a trusted partner of Family Fun Arizona.