How to Slow Down the Holiday Rush
Nine years ago my son was born in October and prior to going to the hospital I sent out handmade Thanksgiving invitations to 23 of my closest relatives. Packed in my overnight back was my coveted collection of Bon Appetite magazines. I had already tested most of my recipes, created 23 individual menus and decided on the pumpkin bread I was going to bake to be given out as "favors" (one loaf per family). Nobody was allowed to bring anything. I took great pride in doing it all myself.
This had been my routine for the three prior years. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and nothing made me happier than to spend six months planning for my big day.
Thanksgiving 2005 went off without a hitch but I was tired. I had little time to recover before I started to plan for Christmas Eve, my second favorite holiday. I love the sparkle and enchantment and the magic.
I remember running around Christmas Eve day like a LUNATIC. The expectations I had put on myself were too much and I was cracking quickly. My sister looked at me and said (with great irritation) "you have GOT to CALM DOWN."
And you know what? She was absolutely right. If I couldn't manage the expectations I was putting on myself, I needed to lower the bar. I needed to create traditions that brought me joy in the simple things allowing me to savor these precious moments with my kids.
So I said farewell to Thanksgiving for 23 with handmade invitations and favors. Instead, I said hello to things like our annual tradition of "Christmas Tree Hunting." We take the kids to go hiking at Mohonk Mountain Preserve and cut down our own tree the day after Thanksgiving. Something I wouldn't have had the energy for if I was catering a large Thanksgiving.
We now go to my sister-in-laws for Christmas Eve so I can focus on decorating gingerbread houses, making reindeer food, hiding elves, and watching Christmas specials.
In the nine years since my son was born, life has changed a lot. Our family's interests and hobbies have changed. Each year brings a new exciting stage in our kids lives.
I want to flexible and present so I can make a lifetime of memories. The only way for me to do that is to stress less.
I have reflected upon 15 ways to unrush the holidays. They are written here as a reminder for myself. Maybe they will help you too.
How to slow down the Holiday Rush:
- Create a vision for your holiday season. What do you want your experience to be? Calm, joyful, peaceful?
- Let your family and friends know what your holiday vision is and how they can help make it happen.
- Take a moment to reflect on your feelings of gratitude and abundance.
- Make it a habit of thanking and acknowledging people for their contributions to your life.
- Let go of your expectations.
- Prioritize rest.
- Clear your calendar of unimportant tasks. If you are having a hard time discerning between important and unimportant, an important task is anything that aligns with your vision.
- Focus on experiences and people not things.
- Be honest with yourself regarding your resources - time, money, desire, energy.
- Don't multitask to get more done. Focus on the critical few.
- Don't chase the "best" sales to save a few pennies. I am all for a good deal but not at the expense of my sanity.
- Losing sleep over taking the perfect holiday card picture? Skip it. Pick a card with no picture.
- Stick with your regular routines. Most likely you have developed structures to help reduce stress in your everyday life- exercise, journaling, keeping things organized, date nights, coffee with friends, and cooking healthy meals. Now is the time to be diligent.
- Acknowledge that you are human and not a holiday making, gift buying, magic making machine.
- There is nothing like the holiday rush to make you feel, well, rushed! Slowing down is a choice. Choose your own speed.
Thanksgiving, 16 years ago, John and I had enough of the family drama (we weren’t even married yet!). We chose to let go of other people’s expectations and went out for Thanksgiving dinner just the two of us. We didn’t see either of our families that year. It was an unpopular decision but one we felt we needed to make for our own peace. Everyone survived the experience (even the naysayers) and it gave us the courage to start making the best decisions for us even when faced with adversity. It was a valuable lesson in the control we have over our own choices.
It is easy to get distracted by the collective rush. Often we are bombarded by retailers, commercials, social media, and other people’s visions of holiday grandeur that we start to feel less confident about our own choices. I encourage all of us, me included, to set our priorities this holiday season with mindful awareness, with intention, and with our hearts.
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