Smack dab in the middle of a stifling and humid July day, I decided not to go home for the holidays. Home… picture postcard perfect New England covered in a light blanket of snow and filled with Norman Rockwell-esque good cheer. Or something close. Even so, with Jingle Bells in the air, warm fires, and a much-loved family to welcome me, I decided to forego the annual holiday trip home.
I quickly texted my sister, explaining that what I most wanted was to spend time with the people who have shaped and filled my life for as long as I can remember. I wanted less frivolity and more listening. Less jolly and more genuine. Less running about, and more tranquility. I wanted to grab a peaceful, leisurely lunch out before the super-charged holiday crowds would make getting a table difficult.
She got it. Immediately.
How about you? Are you stressing over the season that is just around the corner? I don’t want that in my life anymore, and so I’ve culled a three-part “Easy Does It” strategy for the season:
Part One: Planning
Plan ahead – as in start right now, October. Think in terms of pacing yourself and doing a little at a time. Make a holiday spreadsheet, or buy a pretty notebook and brainstorm categories such as:
- Where you will spend the holidays
- Gift list and budget
- Holiday hosting, menus, and recipes
- Traditions to keep, refresh, or put on hold
- Decorating scheme/purchases to be made
- Calls to make; cards to send
And so on.
Focus where you need to and begin to “calendar” your prep tasks. For example, you might visit the attic or the garage and begin pulling the decorations you will use this year, then consign, donate, or store those you won’t. I do this every year, right after Halloween.
Part Two: Nurturing
- Create a holiday calm space – Maybe it’s just a corner in your sunroom, or your she-shed; a place where you can catch your breath and take in the beauty of the season privately and quietly. Fill this space, however tiny or large with the holiday decorations you most enjoy. In a small reading room, my sister displays our late mom’s 1960’s ceramic tree and ornaments handmade by her children and grandchildren.
- Take care of yourself – Timeless counsel, I know. And now, as well as during the holidays, it’s important to continue those healthy body, mind, and spirit practices, so that you can be present to the joys of the season. If you need a tiny nudge, do your workout, then reward yourself with something you truly enjoy.
Part Three: Living It
Make friends with imperfection – unlike that picture-perfect postcard, few things in real life are in fact perfect. Perfect doesn’t matter. Remember that you cannot control everything and that it is the intention, the love, and the joy you infuse in your holiday experience that matters.
Practice “In the scheme of things” thinking – when you do start to fret, catch yourself and tap into perspective. Ask: “In the scheme of things, how much will this really matter?” Be willing to graciously go with the flow when the unexpected happens.
Lean into kindness – people may have a short fuse and frazzled nerves as they navigate the season. Tap into the fact that you can relate and cut them some slack!
Practice respect and tolerance – sure, it’s a whole lot easier when the people you love and care about hold the same beliefs, views, and approach to the holidays. But that’s generally not the case. I’m having a flashback from the year my stepson brought home, his then-girlfriend who insisted on bringing her own food. After a moment of thinking “What? Is she just trying to be contrary?” I suspended judgment, took a deep breath and remembered how grateful I was that they chose to join us. Easy does it!