It’s the best time of the year. All our troubles will be far away. How many of you think this way about Christmas? On the contrary, many people I talk to start to dread the holidays well before Thanksgiving. What was once a joyous time for them has become a stressful time of overeating and being pulled in too many directions. For too many couples, the stress comes between them.
I remember one year when we had a new baby, we didn’t even put up a tree. It was just one more thing to do, and baby was too young to notice. I fretted about buying nice gifts everyone would like and making baked goods from scratch for friends and even business associates. I even delivered them myself all over the city. What was I thinking? Thankfully, I have changed my ways and find I am more peaceful and excited about the holiday.
Here are some tips I have picked up over the years:
- Schedule it out—decide the things you really like to do during the holidays. As early as possible in the season, preferably with your spouse, make a list of the things you enjoy and don’t want to miss. If you enjoy caroling, baking or visiting lights displays or musical performances, add to your list, and try to schedule them first.
- Add the items you feel are mandatory, and include religious observances that are important to your family. Schedule these important activities before your calendar gets full of holiday parties and other obligations. Be creative, maybe you can combine a social group get-together with one of the activities you have on your list (seeing a concert together or baking together). I even schedule time for addressing cards and wrapping presents. Once I have everything on paper that I need and want to do, I feel so much better. I can see that it’s not an overwhelming list, but rather something small or fun to do every few days.
- Would you like to start new traditions? We enjoy collecting Christmas ornaments whenever we travel, so putting up the tree is like traveling around the world. Our kids enjoy writing letters to Santa and choosing charities to support as a family gift. These things don’t add to our time commitment, but they enhance our enjoyment of the season.
- Consider what you can remove from your list. Can you purchase items online instead of shopping store to store? Do you need to send 200 cards with personal messages? Is making homemade cookies that important to you? Would you rather not exchange gifts with so many people? Bring it up; they probably feel the same way.
- If family obligations are causing stress, tackle this issue head on with a frank discussion of expectations. Be open to changing the way you have “always” celebrated. Alternating family visits on different holidays or different years usually works better than trying to fit everything into one or two days to please everyone else. For years, we never had Christmas morning in our own home, but now we treasure that time.
- Financial stress is never good for a marriage. Maintain a detailed notebook from year to year with lists of gifts you have purchased for your spouse or other important people in your life. You can add ideas during the year, and you will have a better idea of what you will spend, or where you need to trim back. A small, thoughtful gift is often more appreciated than an extravagant, impersonal one. A handmade item or a love letter always sends the perfect message without breaking the bank.
- Keep an eye out for friends and neighbors who are lonely or otherwise suffering hardship, and lend a helping hand if you can. The holidays can be nearly unbearable for the grieving, unemployed or seriously ill.
- When you feel stressed, think about all you have to be grateful for this year. Have a Merry Christmas.
Are you feeling the holiday cheer or more like the Grinch? What causes the most stress in your holiday season? Have you found a solution?
Read this helpful article for more tips: Your First Christmas as Husband and Wife – Making the Holidays Fun, Memorable and Stress-Free