How to Not Lose your Sanity at Christmas
I come from a long line of family members who are true believers. What does that mean? It means no matter how much effort they put into Christmas, no matter how much time they put in doing Christmas things, they love it. They love every minute of decorating, buying presents, and everything else that comes with Christmas.
It really is the most wonderful time of year. Well for some of us. For others, Christmas is stressful and don't worry, I have had my moments, but I understand for some Christmas is l'enfer, hell for those who don't speak French.
Understanding that it is already mid-ish December, I know that some of my tips wont help all, but maybe some of these tips will help.
I know some of you are busy all the time and you have no spare time. To do all my Christmas activities, I start planning in September/October. Christmas doesn't just happen, it needs months of planning, especially financially. I don't have a million dollar Christmas budget, I can't just wait to the last minute to buy everything. Even if it just means starting to buy presents earlier, it can help immensely.
Here is my timeline: September - Who's getting gifts. This is when I decide who is getting knitting, stuff, a cookie bag, or a card. I take into consideration a few things, like "who made a real difference in my life this year", "who has been an amazing friend?", and "who would really appreciate something special". You don't need to get everyone something, a card with a warm fuzzy is enough.
October - If I am buying gifts for people, this is when I normally set a budget. For my parents, my sister and I combined forces to be able to get gifts that are a little nicer. We asked our parents what they would like and planned what to buy. This is when I also plan who is getting knitting, which takes a lot of time to knit.
October/November - I buy things such as presents. My shopping was done before Black Friday because I would be stressed otherwise.
November - I bake cookies. I made six different recipes in one long weekend. Honestly, it as nuts, I am never doing that again. A big help though was that my dough was already ready. You can freeze most doughs and they will taste just as good. In addition, freeze the cookies when they are done. When you are ready to assemble, just put them in bags or tins and hand them out. IF YOU HATE BAKING, don't force yourself to make cookies for people, just write some cards.
Also in November, I decorate the house. I didn't go crazy either this year, all you need to be festive: a smile and a good attitude. Maybe a few tree branches in a vase and a nutcracker, but that's it. Attitude is everything.
December - I wrap presents. I do festive activities. I finish my knitting. I write Christmas cards.
January - I buy cards on sale, I buy decorations on sale, and I put everything away properly for next year so set up is easy.
2) Make a Budget
I cannot tell you how important this is! Start in September. Maybe you set aside $40 a pay for gifts, maybe you decide "My kid doesn't need all this stuff" and they are getting an experience instead, maybe you realize you need a little help, because financially, you won't be able to swing Christmas. There are many many programs to help you through Christmas, the Salvation Army has a wonderful program that I know of.
I think a lot of the stress comes from parents or people wanting to shower people with gifts to show them how much they love them. YOU CAN'T BUY LOVE. Your child will never know the difference from a big showering of gifts to a small one. I know parents don't want their kids to feel left out or feel like Santa loves them less because mom and dad can't afford a big gift, but it's really not worth putting yourself in debt. I am a firm believer that Santa should bring one small gift. I am a firm believer that children should be modest and humble about gifts. Teach your children not to brag. Teach your children about money. Teach your children to love one and other instead of teaching them to divide by status.
I have no idea how you want to buy presents, but debt is not an option and neither is making another kid feel like crap.
3) Love is the Answer
When you feel like murdering a family member at dinner, remember you will go to jail, but also, hate is not the answer, no matter how mad they made you. If you seriously feel anger at someone during the holidays, remove yourself from the situation. Do the dishes, make a meal, go to the store and walk around; leave the space. You need up to 90 minutes to calm down after getting angry, it's scientifically proven. You can't cool down if no one let's you. Maybe you have an aunt who loves to share her opinion and you're like "whoa Carol, STFU" in your head, but maybe Carol just wants someone to talk to. Active listening is key during the holidays, so is attitude.
I could go to family gatherings with all my life problems and share them and just spew hate on the occasions, or I could go to a family gathering ready to spew love. Maybe Carol needs a compliment, maybe uncle Bob wants to share the one story he has again, maybe your mom needs help in the kitchen (for the love of everything, help your mom in the kitchen, even if she says no, do the dishes). You could not listen and have a terrible time, or you could make someone feel good at Christmas. Ask yourself "what would love do", you could be selfish and eat and go home, or you could help out, have a great conversation and a meal, then go home. Manners matter, but your attitude going into anything matters more.
4) Your Self-Care is Important
I like many others forget to take care of myself at Christmas. Well I forget to take care of myself every month, but it has gotten a lot better. Don't forget to take care of yourself before everyone else. If that means presents are bagged and not wrapped because it saves time, or if it means online shopping with a glass of wine instead of going to the mall, do it for yourself. Keep you regular schedule, eat healthy meals, go to the gym, get outside for some fresh air, moisturize your face because the cold really dehydrates it, do your laundry, clean your house, do the groceries, make someone else in the house do chores (kids are so handy for that), go to yoga, take a kickboxing class, make a snowman, DO LITERALLY WHATEVER MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD. Fresh air does wonders btw.
We forget to take care of ourselves and we get into what I like to call Funks. Call it whatever you want, but I call it a funk. Sometimes I am triggered by anything and the funk lasts 24h or it lasts from sunrise to sunset. Looking back, it's always because I wasn't taking care of myself. I wasn't saying no enough, I wasn't eating the best meals, I was allowing the stress to fester inside of me. Don't let the stress fester because it will only get worse.
Stop being a perfectionist. Good enough is perfect. You will exhaust yourself trying to make everything perfect for everyone. I make a yule log every Christmas and last Christmas it cracked like crazy. Know what? It still tasted amazing. Your Christmas will still be amazing even if something doesn't work out.
Thanks for reading,