Five little tips for surviving the Christmas holidays

The greatest gift you can give yourself is to accept your limitations and honour those activities that make you feel good when you do them

Faith WoodCanadians are expected to spend significantly less this Christmas season – or so the story goes – but that doesn’t mean the holiday stress will melt away.

The other night, my husband and I headed to the local mall to see what we could check off our Santa list. In spite of the mall being nearly vacant (the recent deep freeze has certainly thinned the crowd of shoppers), my husband and I hate shopping and so found ourselves wandering aimlessly.

We finally gave up and got some dinner at the pub. It didn’t help complete the list, but it certainly helped us retain our sense of humour.

If you’re struggling with the holiday season, know that you are not alone. As the big day approaches, many of us scramble with all the responsibility and the desire to get things done.

The perfect gift, the perfect wrapping, the cookies, sending out cards, attending school plays, paying the bills … the list goes on and on.

With all this perceived responsibility, it’s easy to fall victim to the pressures and start feeling negatively towards Christmas.

Stop it!

It’s time to recognize and appreciate that there are no perfect holidays. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to accept your limitations and honour those activities that make you feel good when you do them.

It’s OK to create your own holiday memories with your family – and they don’t need to involve a nervous breakdown.

These few reality checks will help you get through the season with a little less angst:

Make the decision right now that you can’t accomplish everything!

Look back on holidays when you were a child. The things you remember most were probably not the gifts under the tree but the memories created with loved ones (and I doubt they involved everyone screaming at each other like lunatics).

Gift giving should not be tied to obligation.

Be strong: you simply don’t have to give so many presents!

When searching for gifts, give yourself time and a budget to work with and stick to a smaller list.

Holiday tasks can and should be shared.

Delegate things like chores, cooking, childcare and caring for guests. If you give your children small responsibilities, they’re sure to surprise you with a job well done.

If the Christmas meal falls to you this year, cook the holiday turkey but let everyone else bring the rest. A group effort is much more rewarding than one person slaving in the kitchen for two days.

Families fight.

If family members fight with each other throughout the year, stop expecting them to put their bickering aside during the holidays. Simply consider inviting friends who can sit between feuding family members and act as a buffer during the meal.

Self-care is essential to maintaining your tempo during the holidays.

This may sound obvious but try to relax. Walk the dog, go skating, watch a movie. Be alone for a few minutes or hours to reduce stress. Take downtime to snooze, read or relax – or, as we did, head to the pub and enjoy each other.

For those days when you can’t bear the thought of walking through the front door or tackling the mountain of tasks that await you, listen to music that energizes you.

There’s no excuse now. Go have fun, make memories and enjoy making sure your friends and relatives don’t over-consume the holiday eggnog.

Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. 

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