This week I have eleven meetings at work, a potluck/gift exchange, a holiday party, a volunteer event, a doctor’s appointment and a knitting project that has to be done before Santa takes off from the North Pole on Christmas Eve. I have a great idea for a New Year’s Day blog post — you guys are gonna love it — but it isn’t going to write itself. I also need to go to the post office before it’s too late to ship my godson’s gift to Ohio and I only have a couple weeks left to submit the last of the medical receipts before I forfeit the last hundred bucks in my 2013 healthcare spending account. I think my driver’s side front tire has a slow leak and I really need a wheel alignment which is NOT the way anyone wants to spend their dollars in December.
My to-do list, while long, isn’t unique. I’d bet good money that yours looks similar. We all have more stuff to do than time to do it and when we add in Christmas festivities, no matter how fun they might be, it adds a layer of complexity to our already hectic lives. To help keep things in balance I gathered a little list of common sense stress busters that will help during the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
Schedule some down time. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with setting aside some time to do nothing. If someone invites you to do something during your scheduled down time it is OK to say no. Christmas is supposed to be fun, but if you’re running at full speed from Halloween to Valentine ’s Day, you are probably not having that much fun.
Take it easy on the cookies and booze. Have a drink, have a cookie…heck, have 2 of each. Just don’t have six of either. Overindulging may feel harmless at the time but suffering a hangover or the dreaded cookie belly will only add to your stress level later.
Check out the neighborhood Christmas lights. I do this pretty regularly with my daughter. After dinner, we pile into the car and rock out to Christmas tunes while we scout the neighborhood for new light displays. When I’m feeling super-festive I pull some cookies from my Christmas cookie exchange out of the freezer and brew up a pot of hot cocoa. It takes time that I could be spending crossing off “to-do’s” but I find that it centers me and it creates memories for her. The to-do’s can wait till after her bed time and we are both better for it.
Get a pedicure. Sitting with your feet in warm bubbly water after a long day of shopping and chores is a real treat. Some spots will even treat you to a massage and hot towel. If you are short on time or cash, a manicure is about half the investment of either and it still makes you feel and look great.
Do a good deed. It is so true that service to others warms the heart. You don’t have to do something grandiose and, in my view, it is better if you do your good deeds in secret. The kind deed that nobody else knows you did is the most rewarding. Drop a gift at the Angel Tree. Shovel the neighbor’s snow when you’re doing yours. Feed someone’s parking meter. Whatever you pick — small or large — you will find that your mood lifts just as you uplifted someone else.
Check out what’s on Netflix. Indulge yourself with a little brain candy TV once in a while. Of course a two day Dexter marathon is not going to be helpful but if you’re thinking about checking out one or two episodes of the most recent Sons of Anarchy it really can’t hurt. Just be sure that your Netflix session doesn’t become an all-night Netflix bender.
Get some sleep. Schedule yourself some time to sleep. It does no good to run ragged from now till Christmas day to end up collapsing after the meal and sleeping through the evening festivities. I know you have clandestine operations to execute once the kids are in bed but set some reasonable guidelines about when you’re going to turn in and try to stick to them. Your body needs rest to keep you going strong till the ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
Just let go. This is probably my most important piece of advice. If you have an idea or project that you just can’t make time for, forget it. Let go. Say no. If you planned to decorate the yard like Clark W Griswold but couldn’t find the time, let it go. Taking that plate of cookies to the neighbor is still a kind thing to do on Dec 27th after the Christmas ruckus dies down. It’s OK. Focus your first efforts on doing the things you really want or need to do. Invest yourself in what you can do well and fully.
Don’t allow social media to set your standard. People post the best, prettiest, most ‘perfect’ parts of their lives but they conveniently leave out the parts where they’re fussing over parking spots at the mall, burning the Christmas cookies and freaking out over their Visa balance. Resist the urge to compare yourself to what you see on others’ social media pages. It is far too easy to get carried away by the picture perfect parties and exaggerated shelf-elf shenanigans and forget that whatever you do to celebrate the season is enough. If you’re enjoying yourself you can be sure you’re doing Christmas right.