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5 Strategies for Sufferers of COD (Christmas Obsessive Disorder)

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From my head down to my Coca-Cola red toes, I love Christmas. For me, it truly is the most wonderful time of year--until I go and ruin it with self-inflicted to-do lists, saying "yes" to one (or five) too many parties, and, in general, cramming too much into one measly month.

For a lot of us, Christmas has become paradoxical: we're supposed to be happy, but we're stressed. Some of us let the busyness get the better of us.

Others throw the baby out with the bathwater and bah-humbug their way through the holidays. Yeah, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to do Christmas, but the last thing I want is to cross over from jolly bustle into huffing about. So over the years, I've been studying this thing called keeping Christmas, seeking to reconcile a serious case of COD with the quest for a meaningful holiday. (See more about this at goldenhours.net.) I've come up with a list of rules, if you will, to not only keep the season sane--but to savor it. Be warned: These are not ordinary rules, the kind you have to follow. They're anti-rules, really, developed to give yourself a big, fat break.

1. Procrastination is good for perfectionists.
You feel pressure to have all the gifts bought and wrapped and your house decked out by December 1. But just because your neighbor's had his inflatable Rudolph up since the day after Halloween doesn't mean you're behind. Ask your parents or grandparents--folks used to take their time about these things--and take pleasure in them. Go easy. I'm enjoying adding touches of Christmas in stages, appreciating every step. And I find that if I go s-l-o-w-l-y, I resist the temptation to pile on, doing more and more because I "have time."

2. Get yourself a Christmas accountability partner. (I'm dead serious.)
Pick someone who, like you, has at least a touch of COD. My partner in Christmas crime (and now in goldenhours.net) and I have been in cahoots for 12 years--we kick off the start of December with an Advent coffee to provide each other with reality checks. Throughout the month, we shoot texts or emails back and forth, offering encouragement or confessions. "I did get a little overwhelmed Monday night--can't even remember why now," my friend wrote. "But it was a very near Christmas-spirit-fail and took a great long talk with Philip, including a bunch of strategizing for the following day, in what he's now calling The Battle for Christmas. 'Keep your powder dry!' he told me as he was leaving the next morning. 'And hold the line!'

3. Don't do anything--anything--that can wait until January.
No pet immunizations, dermatologist visits, house repairs, flossing. I jot down these hateful details and stuff them in a drawer, where they belong, until after Twelfth Night. Workaday will come soon enough.

4. Make a list and check it twice. No, I'm not talking about a to-do list--more of a to-don't list. After the glittery haze clears and every last pine needle is vacuumed, I write down what worked and what didn't during Christmas. Falling under the category of 2015's don't bothers: roasting chestnuts (no one ever eats them). You'll want to pull your list out in late November--before your plans spiral out of control. Sometimes I go as far as to write a letter to next year's self. Dear Crazy Lady, Remember the night you squashed the kids' cut-out cookie project by yelling at them for getting sugar all over the kitchen floor? You'd been to the mall that afternoon. Do. Not. Go. To. The. Mall. Online ordering or small, local shops or nothing, okay? You hate the mall, especially at Christmastime. So just don't.

5. Prioritize (Duh).
As much as I'd like to, I can't go to every party. Two nights in a row of extreme socializing (for this introvert) is not a recipe for success. (My liver needs a rest, too.) Some gatherings are glaringly optional--the friend of a friend's tacky sweater party--while others I wouldn't miss for the world. But I think hard before I tear myself away from hearth and home. It can be a war zone out there.