Holiday season is officially upon us. The turkey has been consumed, the adventures of Black Friday are complete, and the holiday music radio station has officially been added to the radio button memory in my minivan. I love this time of year. There’s so much to do and there are many memories to be made. However, I’m finding this year to be a little overwhelming. There’s this list in my head that never gets any shorter. Every time I cross something off, something new gets added. There’s a fine line between where list-making goes from being helpful to harmful. I know that I need to figure out a way to feel less overwhelmed. If not, I risk losing the ability to stay excited about the holidays. It’s time to take a break.
Many people don’t allow themselves to take breaks. They don’t feel like they need them, they don’t feel like they deserve them, they feel like they won’t be complete until all of their tasks are complete. I know better though. The continuing growth of my list of holiday to-do’s, coupled with my working-mom to-do’s, is a huge sign to me that I need to take a break. My problem isn’t feeling guilty in needing or wanting a break. My problem is more of figuring out how to relieve holiday stress and what action to take.
First, I need to decide what things are on my list that I can do without (knowing also I will likely experience feelings of grief in giving things up). In anticipation of the holiday load, I already made a decision to not host a family Christmas meal. I love hosting, cooking, and getting a new menu ready. But it’s a lot of work, and I feel much less overwhelmed in general because I know I don’t have to do this. Even if it ends up being just my husband and kids, I know they will be happy with some Kraft mac n’ cheese, burgers, and pumpkin pie. This does not sound like an appetizing combination, I know. And it causes me distress to think about how great the Christmas menu could be, but there’s no point in me putting together some elaborate meal that my kids will not eat and then will sit in the fridge as leftovers no one wants to eat. And so, that elaborate Christmas meal is eliminated of my list.
There are also many things we can go see and we can go do in the month of December. If I didn’t have a job and had the money, I would go do all of them with my kids. With so many things to choose from, I’m going to reduce it down to one activity/week. I will run myself too thin if I try to do more. So this week, I’m choosing a tree lighting that involves Elsa, Anna, and Rapunzel. I’m sure there are going to many other fun things we will miss out on, but I have to be fine with that.
In addition to cutting my have-to-do-list down, I need to be sure to do self-care activities. It’s so easy for me to tell myself I need to get chores done on my off days and then not take care of my emotional health. In my house there is always laundry needing to be washed, folded, and put away. Always. I detest laundry. There are also always dishes that need to be washed. As soon as the kitchen is clean, it is dirty again at the next meal. In my experience, I am more productive with house chores when I take care of my body’s physical needs. So, for the rest of this month, I am making it mandatory to get to the gym 3 days/week. I feel much better after getting an endorphin rush from exercise, and without it, my stress increases.
Another self-care activity that is important to me is socializing. I don’t get to see friends enough, and although my work involves talking with people all day, I don’t make time to connect with people who I value. So my next self-care goal is to make time. Taking an hour to meet with someone for coffee, setting up a play date with fellow moms, and having mini get-togethers is a way I can bring some balance into my life.
We all need breaks. Without a break, I don’t do my best work, I don’t accomplish my goals, I get resentful and negative, and I don’t get to enjoy life in the way I would like. Taking a break looks different depending on what my goals are, so I must be mindful and put thought into what kind of a break I need in each situation. Life moves so fast, and I feel like there is not enough time. I have to be active in slowing life down so it doesn’t become a list of things I’m checking off. That’s a depressing way to live. I don’t want any lists controlling my life and dictating my happiness and enjoyment. I am hopeful that I am on the path to a non-stressful, enjoyable holiday season.