If the holidays often feel stressful to you, consider giving yourself and your family six special gifts this year. I can almost guarantee that these gifts will bring you more joy over the next few weeks than anything you will buy in a store.
1. Give yourself and your husband the gift of deciding
Instead of just letting things happen this year, work with your husband to decide what the holidays should look like for your family.
2. Give your children the gift of a mother who can relax and enjoy the season
Your children don't care if everything is perfect; they want the time and attention of a mother who is relaxed and happy. So let go of some things and enjoy your children's Christmas. When our children were young, I stepped back from the Christmas dinner preparations (even though they were taking place in my kitchen!) and let my mom and sisters who didn't have children do the bulk of the work. I felt guilty, but I thought that enjoying our children on Christmas day was more important than spending the day in the kitchen. And my friend Christina at Jugglig Real Food and Real Life has established an Advent book and reading tradition in her family that allows her to spend time relaxing with her children every evening of Advent. It's fantastic - I wish I had known about it when our boys were young enough to enjoy it!
3. Give your husband the gift of your time and presence
Christmas preparations will grab all of your time and energy if you let them, and husbands often get pushed to the side. So make plans several times a week to enjoy spending time together. Do some of the Christmas errands together and turn them into a date, like doing some shopping for the kids and then going out for coffee or dessert. Or do something fun or relaxing that has nothing to do with the season (sometime you just need a break from it!). If you can't get out of the house, put the kids to bed and watch a Christmas movie or another favorite movie. And be sure to make time for sex regularly, remembering that sex is about you too, not just your husband, and that it can be exactly the stress reducer you need!
At some point in the season (long before December 24!) decide that you have done enough, bought enough, planned enough, and prepared enough. Yes, some things will still need to be done, but at some point you need to start "gearing down" on preparations and "gearing up" on enjoyment. Because, as we all know (but somehow struggle to remember), everything doesn't have to be perfect. As a matter of fact, everyone in the family will enjoy the season more if things aren't perfect.
5. Give your family the gift of outdoor activity
Everyone needs exercise, so why not make it fun? Go outside almost every day as a family and walk, bike, hike, skate, sled, play soccer - whatever makes sense in your part of the country. The kids will burn off energy, you'll burn calories and reduce stress, and everyone will feel more relaxed.
Don't work yourself into a state of exhaustion every day, then collapse into bed every night! Take time at least every other day to do something that really relaxes you. Take a long bath, read a book, take a walk, drink a glass of wine, watch a Christmas movie, or have a cup of coffee with a friend. And be sure to do at least one simple thing to take care of your health every day.
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.