8 Tips for More Joy, Less Stress
It's Silent Night time again -- and all is not calm. Mom, expected by everyone to embody the joyous holiday spirit, wakes up each morning with that reindeer-caught-in-the-headlights feeling of having too much to do and only a small Advent-calendar window of opportunity to do it in. The kids are in a sugar-induced, jingle bell-fueled state of hyperactive euphoria, hubby "Scrooge" isn't much help, and each day is a blur of furious activity. But while hectic holidays may be as much a given as poinsettias by the front door and stockings on the mantel, it's one tradition you can leave behind this year. Use these sanity-saving suggestions from our experts to learn from your Christmas Past mistakes, so Christmas Present has more cheer.
1. Let Go of the Need for Perfection Christmas Past: Last year, you tried so hard to make the season picture-perfect that you were left snarly and exhausted by December 24. Now you're even more determined to work to make this holiday everything your kids, husband, parents, in-laws, siblings, and cousins could desire.
Christmas Present: Lower your expectations -- before they come crashing down altogether. We all have fantasies of what the holidays should be like, constructed from Miracle on 34th Street, assorted idealized TV specials, and our childhood memories. But when we become focused on reenacting these warm-and-fuzzy visions -- and ignoring reality -- we run the risk of ruining everyone's special time. "Parents go wild wanting to make sure everything is perfect," says Lawrence J. Cohen, PhD, a psychologist in Brookline, Massachusetts, and author of Playful Parenting. "The extreme example is a parent telling her kids, 'No, I don't have time to play with you because I'm too busy wrapping presents or decorating the house.'"
Instead, Dr. Cohen urges families to take advantage of the vacation time that the holidays bring. "You're off from work, your child's off from school, so spend the time doing what you both love to do. If you'd really rather be sledding, then go sledding." What you hope to share in December is not your to-do list, but genuine closeness and intimacy. "The beauty of the holidays is real human connection," says Flo Rosof, PhD, marriage therapist and director of the Life Development Center, in Huntington, New York. "The rest is just icing on the cake."
2. Write and Wrap a Little at a Time Christmas Past: 'Twas the night before you-know-what, and the only creature stirring in the house was you, faced with an Everest of unwrapped gifts and unwritten Christmas cards.
Christmas Present: As you bring presents home from shopping expeditions throughout the season, make it a habit to wrap them later that same day, says Ronni Eisenberg, a professional organizer in Westport, Connecticut, and author of Organize Yourself! and Organize Your Home! "It's the pile-up," she explains, "that makes people feel overwhelmed and angry." For maximum efficiency, she advises designating one table or corner in your home as gift-wrap central with rolls of paper, tissue, bows, ribbons, scissors, tape, and cards all ready to go. Avoid the what-present-is-this guessing game by sticking on a gift tag with the recipient's name right away.
Tackle holiday cards the same way, and fire back a return greeting within a day of receiving one. A brief heartfelt note is all that's required. In addition, pay a teen to input your address book into the computer and print out mailing labels in advance. (And ask her to store the data on a disk to use next year.) If the thought of inscribing those greetings still curdles your holiday eggnog, whittle down your list or rethink the practice altogether. Life coach Cheryl Richardson, author of Stand Up for Your Life, says firmly, "If I'm sending cards out of guilt or obligation, I won't send them -- and I don't."
SAVE EVEN MORE! Say “Yes” to Ladies' Home Journal® Magazine today and get a second year for HALF PRICE - 2 full years (22 issues) for just $15. You also get our new Ladies' Home Journal® Family Favorites Cookbook ABSOLUTELY FREE!