The holidays are immensely fun, there's no doubt about it. It's nice to have people over, lots of fun to entertain, seeing relatives and friends that you've missed and, let's face it - the food and drink don't hurt matters any. One thing that trips most of us up, though, is the additional stress that many of us find ourselves under. Having people visit your house, even for a fun event, often leads to scrutiny and no one likes feeling as if they are being judged. It can be a lot of work to purchase just the right gift, get it wrapped up, buy the foods, prepare the foods and before you know it, you are pumped full of stress and screaming at everyone. Don't despair - here are some tried and true ways to help you enjoy your holidays with a maximum of fun and a minimum of stress:
- Toss With a Purpose - This is the perfect time to begin your efforts for a less stressed holiday season. Clutter = stress. Take 10 minutes each day to address one area of your house. You might devote that 10 minutes to your downstairs bathroom one day, or your pantry. Maybe you can clean out two cabinets or one closet. It doesn't have to be perfect, but by reducing the amount of "stuff" that's taking up space in your house, you can increase your peace - after all, the less time you have to spend straightening your house, the more time you can devote to making your home a welcoming and inviting space.
- Don't Try to "Martha" Your Holidays - I have an acquaintance who works so, so hard to do exactly *everything* to emulate Martha Stewart. She makes her won cards, wrapping paper, over the top decorated foods and even sews all of the clothing that her family wears for the holidays. Doing all of this, though, does not make her happy. As the holidays progress, she's more short tempered and irritable than ever. Martha Stewart does all that she does with a full staff and, let's face it, for a large salary. Do not set your expectations so high that you forget that, ultimately, the holidays are about spending time with loved ones and creating memories. What memories are you giving your family? A stressed out, unhappy woman who can't enjoy the good times due to unrealistic expectations?
- Take Shortcuts - Shortcuts exist for a reason - because they work. Now, no one is suggesting that you buy 6 dozen fast food burgers for your party - although, that could be fun in itself. Your local market sells prepared foods that can ease some of the burden. Maybe your favorite restaurant will sell a fully cooked turkey or ham, or several servings of their signature side dish. You don't have to make everything from scratch. Let go of that expectation and watch the stress seep from your body.
- Ask for Help - Guests don't mind helping out. Allow someone else to make their famous rolls or award winning cookies. Let your friends pour the beverages and put out the plates. Put your kids to work setting the table. Let your mom be in charge of decorating, or your dad make the turkey if it's his speciality (my father in lawa makes ours every year!)
- Get Your Family Involved - Teenagers are notoriously lazy. They see nothing wrong with lazing on the couch while you run around like a headless chicken. Assign them jobs and remind them that no one eats for free. When you need things done, assign them to others rather than trying to do them yourself. The expression "Many hands make light work" has been around for a long time - because it's true!
- Paper (Within Reason) - I'm probably one of the most environmentally conscious people around, but on the holidays, all bets are off. Paper plates, plastic cups and silverware use can go a long way towards making your work load lighter. If you still are hesitant, there are brands of recycled disposable dishes that are more environmentally friendly.
- Take a Breather - Above all, don't stress out. There's absolutely nothing to be earned by running yourself ragged - no one appreciates it, and people won't remember what you worked on - they'll just remember how stressed you were. Make some time every day to do the things that refresh you, the things that help you feel balanced and relaxed. Exercise, take a bubble bath, call your best friend. Mail a card with absolutely no expectations, read a book or just meditate for 15 minutes.
- Don't Fear the Upcoming Holiday Season. It's a short time in your year, and you owe it yourself to enjoy it to the max!
What are some of your tried and true ways to relax and enjoy the holidays?