Holiday Survival 101
With the arrival of Thanksgiving comes a month-long burst of activity. Here’s how to keep your sanity and even find happiness in the holidays.
Each year, as the holiday season rolls around, I am always amazed at the level of stress that enters our lives. With each decoration that goes up, the anxiety escalates.
Instead of finding joy in time spent with family and friends, we agonize over deadlines, travel, money and, of course, uncovering the perfect gifts. Why do we allow ourselves to stray so far from the true spirit of the season?
When I was a child, the holidays were never rushed and we really did come together as a family. The gifts were thoughtful, never fancy. The fun was in the preparation — shopping together, wrapping gifts and then hiding them until everyone came together the climactic exchange.
Today, though, much of the shopping is done online, in seclusion. And there’s an omnipresent pressure to purchase high-priced, high-tech toys. But, looking back, is it the presents that we remember? For me, it’s the smell of the food my mother spent days preparing and the sound of the voices and clanging as everyone passed plates and stories across the table to one another.
I remember, too, the perfect pie and the leaf-shaped cookies my aunts, Edith and Hilda, made and how every year, without fail, after finishing a very generous portion of food, Aunt Ruth would exclaim, “What little I ate, I enjoyed!” It got a laugh every time.
My mom, Edith, Ruth and Hilda have since passed and for the life of me, I could not tell you one gift they ever gave me in a box. What I could tell you is how much I loved just being with them, and what the love and caring has meant to me throughout my life.
When we connect to the true and greater meaning of things, we allow a divine experience to enter our hearts and lives. Everything else becomes unimportant. In that vein, here are some ideas to help you remain grounded and connected to the deeper meaning of the holidays this season:
Slow down. Who says a gift needs to be purchased a week before the giving date? Appreciate the full experience of giving. Take notice all year long of the things your friends and family would love. Buy them early, wrap them up and hide them away. Also, know what your natural pace is and set a schedule to accomplish your holiday goals long before the crunch hits.
Share the responsibilities. You do not have to do everything. If you host a gathering, delegate. Let everyone invited contribute something to the meal. Get the whole family involved in preparing the house and setting the tables. And be sure you have the chore list ready for cleaning afterward.
Be organized. Make lists. They will help keep you on top of what you need, who you are shopping for and everything else that needs to be done in between. Plan menus and recipes so you will know what you’re going to make and what others can bring.
If you’re traveling, make arrangements early. (Some of the best deals are found when planning ahead). If you’re traveling with children, make a packing list so preparation is quick and easy.
Stick to a budget. Know beforehand what you can afford to spend this year on the holidays. It will help you pinpoint where costs can be cut and how creative you’ll need to be. We tend to spend more when we act purely in the moment. If you want to think really far ahead: buy holiday-specific items like decorations right after the holidays. Above all, remember that it truly is the thought that matters most.
Receive with gratitude. Do not go into the holidays with expectations. Whatever is being given is an offering of love. See it as such. Whenever my son opens a gift, he yells, “It’s just what I wanted.” Now, that’s the spirit. All gifts are intended as a loving exchange regardless of what’s in the box.
Breathe easy. When it all becomes a bit much to bear, find a quiet place and breathe — even if it’s just for a few moments. And, remember, the holidays will be over before you know it and calm will eventually be restored.