A few years ago, I was privileged to be part of a conversation of wise women about how to manage the holidays so that you can actually enjoy them. It turned out that there were common themes -- that we'd all gradually discovered the same things. Here they are:
1) Know what’s important to you about the holidays -- For one friend, it's the spiritual aspect of this season, so that she can constantly remind herself of it and put the rest into perspective. For another, it's simply time with the family, to enjoy each other, so that they have happy memories. Be clear about what’s important to you and build traditions around what you value.
2) Find opportunities to serve other families and help other people -- Research shows this will increase your happiness, as well as others. I know one family who adopts a family to help each year. Their children are a part of this too, and they say it adds meaning to their celebration of the holidays.
3) Keep it simple -- One acquaintance says, "When our children were growing up, Our tradition was to give each of our children 1 new outfit of clothes, 1 book and 1 toy for Christmas. Now that our children have their own families they tell us that they now understand and appreciate their own childhood traditions even more."
4) Make a list and stick to it -- Do what you say you’ll do and don’t be tempted to do more than you’ve agreed to.
5) Keep a binder of resources in one spot -- The binder could include a gift list, recipes, task list, projects, mailing list for holiday cards, directions for making decorations, locations of stored items. It also helps to keep special things you use for the holidays in one place (e.g. linens, pans, decorations).
6) Plan ahead – Do as much as you can during the days before your celebration. Only do what absolutely has to be done at the last minute on the day of the celebration. Having a written plan is essential.
7) Do what works -- There’s no need to reinvent what you do every year for the holidays. If something you’ve done before has worked (e.g. a recipe, a seating arrangement, decorations) keep doing it. Include what works in your written plan. Having components of your celebration that you repeat becomes a part of the tradition and people look forward to traditions and annual “rituals”.
8) Delegate wherever possible -- As the old saying goes, “many hands make light work.” Everyone wants to help and be a part of the celebration, even small children. Other people have talents and skills that you don’t. You really can't do it all -- at least not if you want to be healthy, sane and have some fun yourself! If you need babysitting so you can shop, ask for that. If you need help moving furniture, ask for that. One particular case of this is:
9) Have others bring food -- Even if you’re not hosting a potluck, others enjoy contributing food to a holiday celebration. They feel more a part of the celebration if they've contributed -- and food is a particularly primal way to contribute.
10) No One Cares What Your House Looks Like -– Who is looking at whether the floor has been vacuumed? No one -- they're too busy with each other and the food and presents. Would you even want to hang around anyone to whom a clean floor is more important than the celebration? Again, an old saying works here: “The people that matter don’t mind and the people that mind don’t matter.”
11) Get support -- take care of yourself. Do something to feel supported, whether that's a massage or just time alone.
12) Set Good Boundaries -- What anyone thinks of you is none of your business. Stay away from people and places that stress you.
13) Breathe -- Remember to breathe. Breathing brings you back into alignment.