Friday, November 25, 2016

10 Changes I've Made To Eliminate My Holiday Stress

Lisa had to work today. I caught up on some blog stuff, tackled my to-do list, and made some progress with catching up on this and that. Our dearest friends, Char and Bob, who live across the street, had us over for a turkey dinner. They spend Thanksgiving elsewhere. Char likes to make a turkey dinner a day or two afterward so they can enjoy the leftovers.

Dinner was scrumptious. There was plenty of wine. Great conversation. Lots of laughs.

At some point, early afternoon, I poured a glass of wine and sat on the sofa. Coco and Sophie were nappy on our bed, curled up in their favorite blankets. Lobo was stretched out on the sofa armrest. He couldn't decide if he wanted to nap or watch Olivia eat her cucumbers and lettuce.

As I sipped my wine, I thought about a lot of things. My to-do list. The amount of work I have to do over the weekend and through next week. Things will be non-stop through the week before Christmas. I haven't ordered Christmas cards yet. Next weekend we're participating in an event and we have TWO tables. My brain was spinning like a hamster wheel.

I'm trying not to stress. I've spent too many years being consumed by the stress that surfaces the day or two after Thanksgiving. It's like the snowball effect.

Each year, my ability to avoid the stress of the Christmas season strengthens. I'd like to think I'm at the point of keeping the stress of the Christmas season at bay, but I'm not quite there. Will I ever be? Probably not.

It's been a process. 

For the record, my methods aren't for everyone.

1. Go through your Christmas gift list with a fine toothed comb. Ask yourself a few questions. Who am I buying gifts for? Why am I buying a gift for them? Do I like them? Am I buying a gift because it's obligatory? My process of elimination began the year I stopped buying extra gifts to have on hand "just in case an acquaintance stopped by unexpectedly." Over the years, our Christmas list has gotten smaller. Our close friends and Lisa's parents get gifts. That's it.

2. Don't let commercialization and the digital age deter you from making handcrafted gifts. Have you been on Pinterest lately? Pinterest is your go to place for inspiration. I've had an account for about 5 years. You can visit that here. Handmade gifts are IN. They'll never go out of style. In fact, I make gourmet gift baskets for those we give gifts to. They're a hit and are always appreciated.

3. Perfection doesn't exist. If you're striving for the perfect holiday season, forget it. There is no such thing. I've learned to embrace all of the imperfect moments. When I look back on Christmases gone by, it's not the gifts or food or who got what that I remember. It's the imperfect moments like the time I burned the Asian chicken skewer appetizers. Or, the year one of our guests was so drunk upon arrival, she thought the onion dip was a facial moisturizer.

4. Stop comparing. There's no need to keep up with the Joneses. Our 4 foot fake tree, that sits on top of an antique sewing machine table, is just as gorgeous as your 6 foot, fresh cut spruce that you paid almost $100 for. The same goes for what's under the tree.

5. The thought process behind a gift. One of my biggest stresses of the Christmas season used to be shopping for gifts. Walking into any store and roaming the aisles for that "perfect gift" seemed shallow and meaningless. I don't do that anymore. Instead, I made gourmet gift baskets for those we give gifts to. I spend a day baking gourmet treats. I also include other sweet treats that I only make this time of year. In each basket, I also include a few other items like their favorite coffee or hot chocolate, a gift card, a new mug, tea, and other trinkets I know they'll use. Everyone loves the baskets and the treats and treasures inside are always enjoyed.

6. Christmas cards. There was a time when I would send out dozens of Christmas cards. If you were in my address book, you got a card. I'd write a personal note inside of each card and decorate the envelopes. The whole Christmas card shebang took at least a day. Once it felt more like a chore, I knew I needed to make some changes. As with my Christmas gift list, I went through my Christmas card list with a fine toothed comb. I eliminated people I no longer heard from or kept in touch with. I also crossed off people who I hadn't received a card from in over 2 years. The list got smaller and smaller and smaller. Now, we send out about a dozen and a half cards.

7. My Christmas cookie recipient list got smaller too. The Christmas of 2011, we spent several hundred dollars on Christmas cookie ingredients and containers. I spent about 12 hours baking. We gave cookie platters and buckets to almost everyone we knew. The following year, same thing. The year after that, nope. Something inside of me snapped. Why was I giving cookie platters and buckets to people who couldn't even take the time to reach out and say, "Thank you." I was done. Since then, the only baking I do is for the gourmet gift baskets we give as gifts, a few people we know, and people who have fallen on hard times.

8. Wine. I bet you were wondering when I was going to slip that in my post.

9. The road travels both ways. One of the biggest affairs about the Christmas season is it's a time to visit with family and friends. There's lots of traveling to be done. We've done our fair share of traveling and than some. Throughout the year, we travel to see friends and family. We used to visit a ton of people during the Christmas season. We ran ourselves ragged. Be here at this time. Be there at that time. Always watching the clock. It was miserable and exhausting. Finally, we said, "Screw it." We stay home. Our doors are opened. The road travels both ways. If you're not able to stop by, we'll catch ya after the New Year.

10. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go. The month of December won't go as planned. Christmas dinner won't be perfect. The human kids will probably be disappointed with one or two items that Santa left, or didn't leave, for them. Aunt Gertie will drink too much spiked eggnog and drop the F-Bomb at the table. You'll have to put on your best poker face when you unwrap a gift that's uglier than sin. You'll forget at least one item on your myriad of lists. Nothing will be perfect.  Once you relinquish yourself from the expectations, beautiful things happen.

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