Oh, December

December is so magical and yet so stressful, is it not?!

This year we took a family vacation the week of Thanksgiving.  When we arrived home, I immediately felt “behind”.  Normally, we decorate our tree the day after Thanksgiving and that kind of springboards us right into the Christmas season.  So coming home well after Thanksgiving had me feeling off.  Stressed.  Anxious.  Yuck.

So this year I decided to do something to help those anxious feelings.  I sat down and made a list of the things I felt were truly important to me to accomplish during the month of December.  I really thought about which aspects of this season bring me/my husband/my children joy, which traditions are “musts”, and which I can let go of.  I wish I could adequately express here just how much BETTER this exercise made me feel.  The simple act of writing down those priorities for the month (and posting them on my kitchen cabinet!) lifted all of the stress of the season off my shoulders.  It was serious therapy!

Here was my list of “musts” for our family to do TOGETHER this month:

  • Decorate our tree (more about that in another post coming soon!)
  • Attend our town’s Great Tree Lighting
  • Visit with Santa
  • Annual trip to see a spectacular Christmas light show
  • Decorate gingerbread houses (a great tip about that coming AFTER Christmas!)
  • Bake cookies (in some form)

Now obviously there are other things that need to get done this month aside from normal life (mailing Christmas cards, shopping, wrapping gifts, cooking, etc.) but in terms of FAMILY activities, these were the six most important to me.

Will we do other things?  Maybe.  A big, fat MAYBE.  But because I made this list, I don’t feel forced or pressured to say, “yes” to everything.  Will we go see a performance of the Nutcracker?  Maybe.  But probably not because we did that last year and, for me, it’s not something I feel is a yearly kind of tradition.  Will we attend the preschool fundraiser?  Maybe.  But probably not.  We see those folks enough year-round.  Will we go Christmas caroling?  Maybe.  If it fits into our schedule, great.  If not, I refuse to let it stress me out this year if we “miss” it.  Will we donate to this or that or the other thing?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If it’s in a meaningful way, yes.  If it’s for the bell ringers, no.  Will we help out at church or at the school or here or there?  Maybe.  Or not.  Will we attend that party?  Maybe.  The “no” button is right there next to the “yes” button!  If it works, sure, but I’m not going to force it to work.  Will we…???  Either way, I won’t stress to fit it all in.  Looking at that list of six prioritized things makes me realize it’s ENOUGH.  And I feel SO good now.

So I have two questions for you:

1.  What are your priorities for the Christmas season?

2.  Have you ever made a list like this?  Did it work for you?  If not, how to you keep the stress out of the season?

~Mae

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