We have now entered the Bermuda Triangle of stress: the time between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. The cooking, the cleaning, the planning, the baking, the shopping and the driving here and there -- all on top of your usual schedule -- is enough to put anyone over the edge. To help bring your blood pressure into a more normal range, here's a list of nine things you don't need to have or do during the holidays:
3. Children's holiday pageant
8. Family dinners
Lest you think I am completely blasphemous or have just caved from the pressure, let us revisit my statement: Here's a list of nine things you don't need to have or do during the holidays. Emphasis on the word "need." You don't need these things in order for the holidays to happen. You do them because they are traditional, because you've always done them or because you feel you should do them. The holiday will go on without them.
I know of what I speak because I am a reformed Superwoman. I have done them all -- and more. I have gotten so caught up in the details and the shoulds, of the season, that I missed the meaning. Instead of a full heart, I was overflowing with stress, and its ugly stepchild, guilt. I was working full-time, was married and had three children under 10-years-old, two dogs, a hamster, a lizard and a perfectionist streak a mile wide. I had lists upon lists, a schedule that left no room for error, and if everyone would just do as they were told when they were told, we would have a perfect holiday. One year we were decorating our tree and the kids wanted to help. I gave them the sturdiest ornaments and they went at it. In the end, one section of the tree, near the bottom, held most of them. They were very proud. And after they went to bed, I rearranged them into something more, well, perfect. That year I had crossed everything off the list, but felt none of the spirit of the season.
The next year I decided to work from the inside out. I focused on what was important to me, not on what I felt I should do. I wrote cards, but only to those with whom I really had a connection. We did the decorating together as a family, and I resisted the urge to "correct" anything. I baked cookies -- but only the kinds where the kids could participate. I went to the pageants (and shed a tear, like I always do). I may have even attended a party or two, but only if it was one for connection and not show. That year our Christmas was warm and wonderful.
And here's what I've learned on my journey: you don't have to do it all and you certainly don't have to do it all by yourself. What you do need to understand is what aligns with your values. Those are the things you want to do because it makes you feel good. They are the right thing to do because they are right for you -- not because they are a tradition or something you should do. So if spending time with family is one of your values, then you'll want to go to the children's holiday program, and host that family dinner, and maybe even bake cookies together. Things done with this new attitude are done from a place of gratitude -- and stress and guilt do not live there.
So make your holiday to-do lists. And then decide why you are doing them. Those done with gratitude will flow... those done with stress must go. A grateful and willing attitude will bring the spirit back into the holiday every time.