While you can't eliminate all the stress of the season, you can control and manage much of it. Here are six strategies for creating a calmer Christmas season for you and your family this year:
1. Assess your schedule, plans and expectations
What things are causing you the most stress? Are those things truly important, or could you let them go? For example, attending your children's school music program and planning Christmas dinner for your family are truly important, but finding perfect matching outfits for the Christmas Eve service and attending all of your neighbors' holiday parties probably are not. Take some time to identify the truly important things and to reconsider expectations that may be unrealistic. (You know, like my dream of serving a Christmas dinner that looks like it came from the pages of Southern Living!) If your goal is to enjoy a joyous, peaceful Christmas with your family, taking this step is essential.
2. Organize and prioritize your Christmas "to do" list
Once you've established your priorities, make a list of the things you'll need to do to accomplish them. Put the most important items higher on the list. Then use the list to plan your schedule for each day and week. Plan to accomplish most of your high-priority items before you devote much time to low-priority tasks. And try to group similar tasks, or those that can be done in the same location, together – you don't want to be running to the same mall or store 3 or 4 times if you can possibly avoid it.
3. Tackle one thing that's annoying you that can be done in 30 minutes or less
This might be a Christmas thing, or it could be a regular thing (maybe something on your Little Annoying Tasks List). Either way, pick something that's bugging you, something you can accomplish in 30 minutes or less, and just do it. Try to do this once or twice a week, and enjoy the satisfaction of being done with something that's been weighing on your mind.
4. Make time for your marriage
When things get crazy, it's easy to let your husband and marriage drop to the bottom of your "to do" list. But taking time to connect with him and spending time together can actually reduce your stress, rather than adding to it. And don't forget that sex is a great stress reducer! In addition, be sure to involve your husband in the Christmas plans and responsibilities, rather than becoming the "Christmas Commander" and trying to do everything on your own. Sharing the burdens (and fun) of the season with him can reduce your stress level too.
If you're too busy to take a walk every day, you're too busy. Really. A 30-minute walk is ideal, but a 15-minute walk is a good place to start.
6. Take care of yourself
Take a warm bath, read a book for pleasure, listen to beautiful music, watch a relaxing TV show or movie - anything you enjoy that relaxes you. Again, if you're too busy to do this at least every other day, you're too busy. Cross some things off your to-do list or assign them to someone else.
Gaye Groover Christmus, MPH is a wife and mom to two almost-grown sons. In her “day job” she works as a writer and editor in a health field. Her passion, though, is encouraging married women to slow down, live with vitality and energy, and create joy and intimacy in their marriages. She believes that small steps can lead to big changes, and that women armed with knowledge and a plan can transform their hurried, hectic lives. Gaye blogs at CalmHealthySexy. She’d love to send you her ebook, 17 Ways to Live Calmer, Healthier and Sexier – Starting Today – as a gift when you subscribe to the blog.