This is a time of year rife with responsibility and saturated with stress. A lot of folks feel like they have to be everywhere and do everything between Thanksgiving and the New Year.
I am not exempt from being stuck and spinning my wheels as December hurtles us forward through holiday get-togethers, work parties, and social obligations of every permutation.
In my personal experience (that sounds a lot more approachable than "in my clinical opinion," right?), taking a step back (however brief and small) is invaluable at this time of year. I'm not saying that this is the time to reorganize priorities, but I do think there are ways to trim the emotional fat so that you and your family can be well positioned to enjoy the holiday season.
Some recommendations that I've found to be useful:
1. Follow traditions that reduce (or don't add) stress. For me, this is cutting down Christmas trees from Wilbert's Tree Farm in Webster, NY. Yep, you caught that extra "s" on the end of the word tree. I loves me some indoor O' Tannenbaum all over the place. In the past, this excursion into my version of the wild has proven a tad stressful because I would try to do it with a manual saw while my Better Half played defense against the creatures we created (a.k.a. our wonderful children). I also tend to brazenly insist on finding the largest tree, which takes a lot of time and foraging. This year we invited our great family friends to go with us, we pre-gamed that business with breakfast at Mama Lor's, and then we got strategic whilst wielding my great friend's chain saw. We expanded our tradition - hello friends and breakfast! - while reducing the stress by having more hands to help corral cherubs and power tools.
2. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good (or spend less time around those who don't). This is your life to live, and I think it's kind of cruddy to force ourselves to spend it around people who get us emotionally jacked up. Whether it's family, friends, or some combination thereof, I think we especially need to spend this time with people that get us. Even if we feel compelled to spend time around folks who do not necessarily lift us up, I still think it's incredibly important to make some time (after work, on the weekend beforehand) to see people we like, miss, and enjoy during the holiday season.
3. Prize experiences you can do with others over stuff. Easier said than done, but it matters. This idea is backed by research from Caprariello and Reis that suggests that, "Spending money to acquire experiences that are shared with others was valued over spending money on experiences enacted alone or on material possessions." The series of studies is nuanced and sophisticated, and I think a take-away could be that there's a lot of value in spending your money on experiences you enjoy doing with others rather than solo trips or just more stuff.
4. Eat well, drink less, sleep more. The holidays have their own gravitational pull, and we will likely enjoy them more when we make a conscious attempt at keeping ourselves healthy. If I had to pick one from this list of three, I would prioritize getting to bed earlier since this has a way of predicting and leading to late night snacking and over drinking. I feel like it's hard to sell people on the idea of eating well and drinking less on the holidays, but sleep is awesome.
One of the things my Better Half and I are trying to do to diminish stress is to go out to dinner before Christmas church services so that our Little People are fed beforehand and so that the Hunger Monster doesn't muck up our parent mojo. Building on a Christmas tradition from my Better Half's childhood, we're going to grab a pizza at Crust Pizza Kitchen before going to Christmas Eve Mass. It will be our second Christmas Eve at Crust, and their pizza is always a winner with the whole family. We're looking forward to it!