There is such an allure to the Christmas season. We have been bombarded over the years with a certain image of how Christmas should look. Can you see it?
The family sitting around the fireplace laughing. Or Mom smiling while pulling out freshly baked homemade cookies from the oven. You can almost smell the aroma while dad is in the other room calmly hanging lights on the tree. The well-manned children are carefully skipping around singing Christmas hymns.
Isn’t this exactly what your household looks like?
Five minutes in anyone’s house will bring you back to reality. Yet do we unconsciously hold ourselves, and our family, to a certain standard? Are we discouraged and disappointed when it isn’t reached?
Our media focused society has planted a very high standard to live up to. If we try to create in real life the images we see, by January we will most likely collapse from exhaustion. Or more likely, our family will be exposed to the outpouring of a stressed parent which typically involves, yelling, nagging, corralling, shaming, and blaming.
I know this sounds harsh but is often true. We were not made to do everything.
I am a recovering perfectionist and know the signs all too well. I am learning to let go of perfection and embrace the imperfect moments families create. It’s often the moments you haven’t planned for which bring the greatest joy and last the longest.
Adults become stressed and overwhelmed leading into Christmas. Our typical day is usually pretty full so when you add in the increased responsibility, it makes for a lot of hustle and bustle and fewer moments enjoying your family.
While I have not cracked the code on thriving in December, there some things we can do to be more present and less stressed.
1. Define What Christmas Looks Like for Your Family
How can you know if the Christmas season has been successful if you don’t define what success looks like for your family? This might sound odd because when it comes to defining success it’s usually related to business or financial goals. What if your family had a conversation about what is important to you?
Each family and family member are unique. Thanks to our amazing and creative God, we are all wonderfully and fearfully made (Psalm 139:14). This means my Christmas is going to look different from yours. In my opinion, we succeed as a family when we allow ourselves to live into the people God created us to be.
My own personal (unwritten) goal is to maintain internal peace and joy throughout the Christmas season. If my peace and joy barometer go haywire, I know something needs to be adjusted.
That is my goal. I want to be in a healthy place so I can share and create joy in my house. This requires me to manage my time and wellness in a balanced way that helps me to be the mom I want to be, instead of the mom my kids hide from.
Your family has activities you enjoy doing around Christmas. You have family members with unique gifts and talents. Don’t try to look like the family on TV. Be you!
It’s way better. Be your own eccentric family. Use your gifts and talents God gave you to bless your family and others (1 Peter 4:10).
You are a one-of-a-kind family so decide what your Christmas looks like and how to define success this season.
2. Embrace the Moments
Sometimes it’s hard to be present in the current activity when your brain is constantly thinking of what needs to be done next. Are you running through your endless to-do-list?
I know I am a huge culprit of this. Staying present in the moment is a challenge this time of year.
I once attended a class on anxiety and learned a few tips on how to be present and less worried. One way to do this is by engaging your five senses. Take note of what you are currently touching and how it feels.
Engage your sense of smell and identify the fragrances in the air. Look around and observe what everyone around you is doing. Listen to any sounds or noises. Try not to judge these observations, just take notice.
Activating your senses can bring you back to the current moment. Instead of being worried about where you will be tomorrow, try and relish today. We are not promised tomorrow (Proverbs 27).
We like to plan and do our best to orchestrate perfect family memories. If they don’t work out we tend to be disappointed. Most of my favorite times happen organically when I least expect it. Carve out time for your family to be together, and the memories will come.
Everyone will have stressful times, give yourself grace, and try not to be so hard on yourself. We have a Father in heaven who pours out unlimited grace. While our forgiveness, love, and grace are limited, His is not.
Tap into your Heavenly Father who wants to help you out. He is there waiting for you to call our His name.
3. Maintain Your Healthy Habits
Increased responsibility leads to the temptation to set aside your healthy routines. You probably worked hard to put them in place, so don’t let them slip away in December. You need them more now than ever. I’m referring to sleep, reading the Bible, prayer, exercise, and doing things that restore energy to your soul.
There might be some excepts to this rule, like the occasional night you need to stay up late to wrap presents. Or the day your family goes on an outing and you skip your exercise routine. Make these days the exception, not the rule.
A regular exercise routine will bring down your stress level down, give you energy, and improve your overall mental health. I know for me if I don’t get my exercise in the morning, it doesn’t happen.
I reluctantly push aside my task list and go work out. Once my workout is complete, I can begin tackling my day.
What are the things you do that life-giving? We all have them. You might conclude you don’t have time for them in December, but it is these activities that will help you get through this unusually stressful time.
For me reading a book, getting into nature, walking, time in solitude, or watching a silly movie with my husband are ways I can take a break from the grind. At night, I give myself permission to get in bed at a good time and curl up with a book. Getting enough sleep is not a luxury, it’s essential.
What are the habits and routines you need to keep in place to keep yourself mentally and physically healthy this December?
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/SeventyFour
4. Learn How to Say No
Saying no takes practice and is REALLY hard! The sooner you accept the fact that there limits to your time and body, the better off you will be. When you think you can be superman in December, you (and your family) will pay the price; physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
There are always consequences to our actions, regardless if we want to admit it.
We see our friends on Instagram visiting the local light show, so we add it to our list. The room mom sends out a sign-up genius for the class party and we add shopping for snacks to our overflowing list for the week.
We add and add until it’s not humanly possible to accomplish all the items on the list. How can we combat this?
We have to learn to say no. It’s ok to not sign up for every sign-up genius that comes through your email. Let me repeat that for all you performance-oriented friends like myself. It is ok to say no! Your friends will not de-friend you, and if they do, maybe you need to re-evaluate that friendship?
There is much freedom in saying no and gaining back control over our time and energy.
How do you decide what to say yes and no to?
Ask your family. Have a conversation about what is important to them and choose to do those things.
Make decisions that take the pressure off yourself. Don’t compare yourself to every Instagram post showing homemade pie, or the perfect made wreath. Remember you are seeing the highlights reel. You are watching the best of each one of these people.
What we are not seeing is the burnt cookies, failed homemade decorations, and other blunders.
Say an emphatic yes to the things you enjoy doing and have time for. Say no to the activities that are draining and unnecessary. Your family will enjoy a healthier you.
5. Be a Tribe
My husband and I like the term tribe when we refer to working together as a family to accomplish something. Most people have heard Michael Jordan’s quote, “there is no I in team.” Same idea. We like the term tribes because it seems more permanent whereas teams are always changing
Try not to assume sole responsibility for all aspects of Christmas. There are activities that only you can do, but there are also a lot of tasks you can do as a family or enlist help from someone else. This is a critical time of year to share in the workload.
As your kid’s age, they are very capable and can help with lots of household responsibilities. You are not ruining their childhood by asking them to pitch in, but rather equipping them for independence.
In our house, things like decorating the house is a family activity. I love watching the joy on my kid’s faces as they root through the Christmas bins finding their favorite decorations and ornaments.
My house will never win any decorating awards, but that’s ok. Decorating together allows us all to get into the spirit and feel a sense of accomplishment and ownership. I could decorate alone, but I’d much rather do it as a family.
Have your kids help you bake cookies, wrap presents, take the trash out, and wash dishes. The sooner they learn these skills, the better.
Don’t let yourself get completely weary. Explain to your family how December can be very exhausting and ask them to pitch in.
Don’t be too proud to ask for help. This is a great time for families to work together.
6. Get Connected to Your Creator
While preparing for Christmas we often let our Bible time and prayer habits slip away. Let’s do our best to remain connected to the One who provides all peace.
It’s ironic that during the timeframe we are celebrating our Savior, we so easily are lured away from Him.
In our best intentions to celebrate His birthday, we find everything else more important than spending time with Him. It’s similar to how we get wrapped up in throwing a birthday party for our children. When we look back, we wonder if we even spent any time with them.
I can easily justify everything I am doing, but am I even asking God where He wants me to spend my time? I can spin my wheels doing, doing, doing, yet am I honoring and Glorifying Him in the process? Are we asking the why behind each decision?
Let’s lean into God for help. It’s amazing what we can accomplish in His power and with His help. There have been so many times when I have hit a stumbling block and sat defeated not sure where to go next. With a nudge of the Holy Spirit, I am reminded He is there to help with even the smallest of details.
I am learning to take my responsibilities to the Lord and let Him sort them out. He helps me figure out what is important, and what I can let go of. When we admit our weakness, He can strengthen us.
Let’s surrender our life to him every day of this month and let Him provide the peace that comes from no-where else.
Some of these tips might help you have a smoother and less stressed Christmas, although none of them are magic tricks. Remember we are on a journey. Give yourself grace when you mess up.
Just like God loves us no matter what, our families for the most part feel the same way. They don’t love you because of your actions, they love you because you are you. Your presence is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/evgenyatamanenko
Katie T. Kennedy lives in Richmond, VA. She is married to a wonderful husband Jonathan and they have three girls. She is a writer, blogger, and employee of the family business. After a mid-life spiritual transformation, she discovered her love of writing. She loves to travel, read, be in nature, cook, and dream. She would love to connect with you online at www.katietkennedy.com, Instagram or Facebook.