Tips for a Stress-Free Christmas Season

Tips for a Stress-Free Christmas Season

When you are the mom and it’s Christmas…it’s not the same as when you are the child at Christmas, now is it?

My daughter was excited about the upcoming holidays and we dreamt of the future holidays with grandchildren and it occurred to me that she will one day be the mom and the one responsible for “making Christmas happen”. It was then that I realized how much I worked to make the holidays magical for my family and that some of the magic gets lost in all the work to prepare.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still obsessed about the holidays and I look forward to Christmas for many months in advance-it is still a magical time of year for me and I really love it, but it now is up to me to make it happen, for the most part. Ask anyone and they will say that I go all out for this holiday-I admit it. Minimalism at Christmas just doesn’t happen at the Jungling house. I have made by hand and collected Christmas decorations since I can remember and they all come out after Remembrance Day and remain up until school starts in January. It’s a tradition. It’s my insanity…but it is a lot of work. And that’s just the decorations, add to the list gift giving, baking, and preparing meals…yikes!

Christmas can be overwhelming! And I know I am not alone.

In fact, a survey done by the American Psychological Association has found that:

“Holiday stress has a particular impact on women, who take charge of many of the holiday celebrations, particularly the tasks related to preparing meals and decorating the home. Women are more likely than men to report an increase of stress during the holiday season.

In addition, they have a harder time relaxing during the holidays and are more likely to fall into bad habits to manage their stress, like comfort eating.

Wow-that really hits close to home, especially that comfort eating part! I am so much more aware of that this year than years before and so I am pondering what is important and how to make sure that those things get done while less important things are let go or altered to make life a bit more relaxed this Christmas. Hmmmm, relaxed at Christmas…is it possible? For me, the season has so much to offer, but it really boils down to time spent intentionally with those I love. So, in light of the above, I am on a mission to make my Christmas better by doing only those things that add to a relaxed and meaningful holiday. Here are some of the ways that I have found to make my Christmas relaxed without removing what I love about the holidays. In doing so, there are moments to sit by the fire, read a book and enjoy a cup of tea with Christmas music playing…I cherish this time. There are also more moments to turn off the electronics and pull out a board game to rediscover how much fun we can have together. Just remember that there is no right or wrong way to enjoy the holidays and from what I hear, most of us are looking for more meaningful and quiet times.

This is my list of how to reduce the crazy of the holidays and find some peace and joy in the season:

  1. Do your Christmas shopping ahead of time or at least find a way to enjoy shopping by visiting farmers markets and craft fairs and supporting local businesses — that is something very close to my heart as we also have a locally-owned business! Make a day of it with a friend and grab a coffee before you head to the market. I have my list in my phone of who I need to purchase a gift for and some ideas about what they would like. This way I always have my list with me in case I find something in my travels. I know my list of recipients and try to take mental notes about what they like-hobbies, sizes, gift ideas they might have mentioned, and keep my eyes open throughout the year so the holidays aren’t so hard on my credit card either.
  2. Think outside the box (literally, something that doesn’t come in a box!) and look for experiences. Instead of a mug for the teacher, how about a gift certificate to the movies or a spa (if you go in on it with a few parents). For a struggling student: gift certificates for gas or a Starbucks card or a card to Booster Juice so you know they had something to eat that day!  For a neighbour, how about home baking? Consider getting a floral arrangement from a local florist, a gift certificate from a local restaurant, painting classes or cooking classes or a photography session…no gift wrapping needed and they are all amazing gifts.
  3. There is also a lovely trend that is taking off where parents are buying four gifts for their children: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. This reduces the amount of gifts to buy. As the gift-buyer of the family, this keeps the focus on the holidays and not the items under the tree! I read about this lovely tradition from Iceland where everyone on Christmas Eve is given a book and they go and read it that evening. What a relaxing way to spend the eve before Christmas! Reading and listening to Christmas music with the warm glow of the fire…much more of what I would like! We always set a budget for spending for our kids. Doing that ahead of time made it a lot easier. It also saves my sanity when it is only four items per child!
  4. What about instead of buying a toy for a young child, helping to fund an RESP. The gifts will be outgrown, broken or forgotten soon enough, but the joy of finding out you don’t need to fund your own post-secondary education will be something that keeps on giving for many years to come!
  5. I haven’t even touched on DIY gifts!!! These are probably my favourite! There are so many options!!! If you have a talent-my niece is a gifted painter so she creates paintings for her gifts! But you don’t have to be an artist to make your own gifts, my sister-in-law decided to make everyone arm-knit scarves one year-she just YouTubed how to do it and made a bunch. She didn’t even know how to knit, but with a little help from YouTube, she did a great job! Why not plant a windowsill herb garden for someone who loves to cook? Or make an online photo album? This might spoil the surprise for some people on my list, but I fell in love with these rustic trays and am making a few of them to surprise some people on my list (I would appreciate it if you would keep this quiet and, if you are a recipient, please act surprised!).
    stress-free-christmas-tray
  6. Consider doing something charitable. There are so many in need and Christmas is a great time to help others out. How about sponsoring a family in your neighborhood? Create a Christmas for someone you know who is struggling. Another great thing to do is volunteer at a shelter or “soup kitchen”. You could get friends and family together and team up with an organization to see what you can do to serve those less fortunate. I promise you will come out feeling uplifted and filled up as well as grateful for your warm bed. It is amazing to see how similar we are to those who live on the street-everyone just wants to feel loved and respected. Isn’t that the message of Christmas? What a great Christmas tradition to start!

When you are the mom at Christmas, you are also in charge (usually) of the food. This is the most daunting for me as I am not a natural cook. I love baking, so I bake ahead of time and freeze the cookies so that they make it to Christmas. But the cooking, well, that can’t be made too far in advance.

However, I have found some ways to help reduce the workload on Christmas day:

  1. You can prepare mashed potatoes two weeks in advance and freeze them! Yes you can! I did it my very first Christmas dinner and it worked wonderfully!!!
  2. You can also prepare the stuffing by dicing and chopping everything for your stuffing ahead of time and keeping it in the fridge in sealed containers a few days in advance. I am going to do that this year so I sure hope it works out! This will reduce the stress on the “day of”.
  3. I prepare a simple salad that feels so festive and the dressing can be made the day ahead, so it only takes a moment to put together yet it is so good that it has become an annual part of our Christmas dinner. I’ve added the recipe so you can enjoy it too!
  4. And the best advice I can give, is accept help when it is offered! If someone offers to bring something-say “YES PLEASE!” and scratch an item off your menu. This year, I am not doing vegetables-there is enough to do with the rest of the meal and it frees up my oven for the turkey! Yay!!!

Here are a few quick tips I found from Dr. Mercola to stay relaxed during the holidays:

  1. Exercise regularly. A walk after dinner is beautiful and with all the Christmas lights decorating the neighbourhood-why not make it a habit!
  2. Spend time in nature-even 5 minutes outside can reduce stress and boost your mood.
  3. Participate in activities you love-decorating the tree, writing cards, having coffee with friends…they are all important to enjoy.
  4. Stay positive-being negative never helped anyone relax!
  5. Take a break-even a 10 minute break from the chaos around you can help to calm you. Consider closing the door and breathing deeply without any outside noise and how that will make you feel more relaxed.
  6. Stay in the moment-focus on what you are currently doing-don’t let your mind wander too far in advance and cause stress and anxiety. If you find your mind wandering, write down what you need to do and then refocus on the current task.
  7. Nurture yourself-take the time for a bath, a massage, a walk and make sure you are eating right and getting enough sleep.
  8. Be grateful-focus on what you have this holiday season, not what you don’t have. There is always something to be grateful for and focusing on that is helpful to put everything into perspective.

So, in conclusion, Christmas is still magical even if I am now more like the magician who makes it all work out. I hope this helps you find some ideas for making your Christmas a bit more relaxed and a bit more meaningful this year. And from everyone here at Elite Kitchens & Bathrooms, we wish you a wonderful, meaningful and peaceful Christmas season and look forward to serving you as your custom cabinet specialist in 2018!

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