Monday, November 28, 2016

Dialing Down The Stress of the Season

Do you get to the end of every month and say, "Oh my God, how did it get to be {insert month name here} already? Is it just me? (Please say it's not just me!!)

We're two days away from the end of November, which means The Holidays are right around the corner. We celebrate Christmas in our house and I LOVE it. But the preparation and organization required? Not my strong suit. I have the technology to help me stay on top of things, but somehow I still end up stressed. (Seriously, even typing this, I feel my blood pressure going up.) Add to that a book deadline looming...

Deep breath.

This year, I'm trying to take a different approach. Not only by making sure I take care of myself (and not letting my running routine slide into oblivion), but by planning ahead and/or cutting out things that ratchet up the stress.

First -- Food! Did you ever notice the people in your house seem to want to eat EVERY DAY? My kid, who's 11, actually wants to eat every 45 minutes when he's home. December is a busy month, so my first goal is to keep him out of the house as much as possible. BUT, barring that, planning ahead is a huge stress reliever since I'm the one who cooks! My new favorite go-to recipe site is, hands down, Gimme Some Oven. I've made the slow cooker butternut squash soup four times now, and it is downright dreamy. This from someone who actually doesn't LIKE butternut squash on its own. For Thanksgiving I threw all of the ingredients for spinach artichoke dip in the slow cooker and it was nearly as big a hit as the turkey. I'm a big fan of the slow cooker and I NEVER do any of that pre-cooking nonsense some recipes call for and everyone has lived to tell. So, take that for what it's worth and dig the slow cooker out of the basement.

Second -- Holiday cards. I'm really really bad at holiday cards. I always miss the international mailing deadline to send cards back to the US OR I've changed phones and not ported over my contacts correctly so I find I'm missing at least half of the addresses I need anyway. I love keeping in touch, but this year I'm taking a page from my mother-in-law's book and making a donation to a charity in lieu of postage and cards. I'll keep in touch electronically or, better yet, write two or three meaningful letters to send to those I really want to reach out to. In January.

Third -- Gifts. I'm a terrible gift giver because I can talk myself out of almost anything. "Oh, they won't like that/probably already have one/would buy that for themselves if it was something they really wanted." Every holiday/birthday I dive deep into the internet searching for that "perfect gift". And waste SO MUCH TIME. So this year I decided I'm not giving things at all. For the family, I'm making a "Saturday Jar", which is a mason jar filled with folded pieces of paper, featuring things to do. Some are local sightseeing things we always say we should do, some are lazy movie days and some are things we do anyway, like dog walking in the hills. For my husband, Mr. Tech Gadget, himself, I'm doing something similar but more couples-focused and giving him a year of date nights. This only works out to one/month because I'm not that creative, but it's the first gift I'm excited about giving him in the past several years. Plus, for some of the things that require planning ahead (like tickets to a play at the local theatre), it means we have a date on the calendar and something to look forward to, so yay!

Fourth -- Expectations. For a lot of us, the holiday season is filled with expectations about how things should be. And the stress in that is mind blowing! I've been following Hands Free Mama for awhile now and her message always seems to be spot on with what I need when I need it. Sure, sometimes it's a little touchy-feely, but the core message remains the same -- letting go to grasp what really matters. I'm not a motivational or inspirational writer, but Rachel Macy Stafford is and I daresay her site is worth your time.

Fifth -- Goals. Goals and expectations go hand-in-hand for a lot of people, me included. My goal is to finish my draft of my book before my kid gets out of school for the Christmas holidays. I'm only at about 25K so this is a major goal at a time of year when there are a million other things on (Including my kid just now telling me  -- at 9pm -- he needs to take Christmas chocolate to school tomorrow? Seriously?). I'm already mentally scaling back from my word count goal, but only slightly, because I know I need it out there to help me make some progress this coming month.

To be honest, I'm not sure how/if any of this is going to work. I can easily imagine deciding something like, "Oh, I've got dinner sorted with an easy recipe, so maybe I should bake thirteen kinds of cookies." I have a feeling it will be very much a work in progress, so any holiday stress-busting solutions -- throw them my way and maybe we can muddle through these next few weeks together? In the meantime...I've got to go scrounge the cupboards to see if we have anything that will pass for "Christmas chocolate."


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

The election took up so much space in my brain that I ran into the holidays like a brick wall. Thank God for Amazon Prime, am I right? I also skip holiday cards now. One less thing to do. Great post, Brenda!

Brenda St John Brown said...

The election is STILL taking up space in my brain. :( It's like a bad dream that will NEVER END! Also Amazon Prime is a lifesaver.

Carrie Beckort said...

Spot on, Brenda! I found myself nodding through all your points. (I have to say I'm secretly glad I'm not the only one who hears 'I'm hungry' CONSTANTLY from the kid!) Thanks for the site, I'll have to check out some of the recipes. A few years ago we convinced most of the family to only do gifts for the kids. We're working on the others. And long ago my husband and I moved to a joint gift for Christmas (such as we need a new printer, or camera... this year I think it will be my upgraded SUV). I almost don't enjoy decorating anymore it's all become so stressful. I want to enjoy the holiday again, and I think you've listed some great steps to get there.

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Love this post! Thank you, I feel much the same but my kids are grown, and I've failed to evolve! Great tips and lots of encouragement here, I am so appreciate of you work, and ideas. Merry Christmas!

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