Christmas season is here!
Some of you will read that and think, YAY I LOVE CHRISTMAS! Others will read it and think, I guess I love this season, but I also dread the chaos and overwhelm. And maybe some of you are just glad I waited to say anything until after Thanksgiving :)
Given what I hear a lot from moms about the pressures to make this season special for kids and create core memories, I wanted to write a list to encourage us to let some things go. Lest it sound too “preachy,” please know that much of this I’m writing for my future self to read and learn from too. It’s a different take on “self care for the holidays.” I hope these ideas feel specific and achievable for you to do. I don’t expect everyone to do ALL of these, but I hope you’ll find something meaningful here that eases your stress and adds to your enjoyment of one of my favorite times of year!
11 Ways to Save Time
If you have the budget, this is a huge time-saver. You can order food that feels homemade and just heat it up when it’s time to eat. Here’s a local Dallas one: Baller Mom Kitchen
Delegate your wrapping
Unless wrapping gives you lots of joy, you can delegate this task. Your kids might find complete happiness in wrapping and taking responsibility for this! (depending on the age). Wrapping does not have to look picture perfect. Or, if you really want it to look pretty, and you have the budget, you can hire someone else to do it for you. Here’s a local business: Wrapped in Lake Highlands
Buy fewer gifts
I know it’s hard because we want so much for the people we love. This doesn’t have to be in the form of physical gifts though, so see what feels manageable to you. The fewer gifts you buy, the less time you spend thinking of gifts, ordering gifts, wrapping gifts, shipping gifts, etc. See where you can buy a group gift if that would make sense in your family, such as a family experience, a game for both mom and dad, etc.
Say no to more events
Oh, saying no to events this time of year is so hard, especially when most are so fun! So start by saying no to the ones that don’t sound like fun to you. Then figure out who you really want to see and be around this time of year, and who you can prioritize into early next year. Of course we love all of our friends and family, so try not to get too caught up in who you’re not seeing in this hypothetical example. Once you have this list, if an event comes up with a different group, and you’re technically free, you can still say no. It gives you extra time to feel more peace and enjoyment doing the other things of the season that you’ve said yes to. Any time we say no to one thing, we are able to say yes to something else (if we choose).
Make a list of the most important traditions, and prioritize the top three
This idea is similar in concept to declining some events, in that you’ll eventually decline certain activities or traditions. If you only have 1-2 traditions, this idea may not be for you, but I know there are tons of activities that can become traditions and eventually it adds up to a lot of time spent. That can be ok, until it feels overwhelming and as if you’re just checking boxes to get it done. So, even if you end up saying yes to all of them, make a list of your favorite traditions and prioritize them so that the top three are the ones you would miss the most if you couldn’t do them. Schedule those, and work in any others around your other commitments, only as much as sounds enjoyable to you and the family.
Ask for help
I think asking for help is hard, especially when it feels like we have technology at our fingertips to do a lot for us. But it’s still important, especially because I really believe people WANT to help their friends and family, and we don’t always give people the opportunity to do so. Ask for help from your kids in wrapping gifts. Ask for help from your spouse or fashion-loving friend in picking out matching Christmas clothes. If you just need a little extra childcare help, ask a friend with kids of the same age to swap time with each other.
Group errands by location
This is going to sound nitty-gritty, but I like to schedule my errands around when I'll be near certain stores for other reasons. For example, if I know that I'll be dropping kids off near a Kroger, I’ll plan a grocery order there instead of the ALDI that I may prefer (but that is a bit more out of the way). Or, if I need to return a library book, I’ll look in my calendar for when I’ll already be driving by a local library. Like I said, it sounds small, but a few minutes here and there can feel a lot better and save you from spending time driving all over the place.
Curbside pickup and online ordering
Probably if you’re in a large city, you’re already doing this a lot, but if you aren’t, GO FOR IT. You get less choice in selection from the grocery store; as in, you aren’t picking your own meat and produce. But in a season where time can be especially precious, the store pickers will do just fine. And, pair it with tip #7 so you save on drive time. Also think about what gifts can be ordered online (or called in if you want to support local).
Set a timer for tasks
Sometimes when we start a task and know that we have 2 hours to complete it, we take 2 hours. But if we only have 1 hour, we’ll only use 1 hour and the quality will be pretty much the same. So, once you decide what to do from your task list, set a reasonable time limit for it, and push yourself to stop when the timer goes off.
There is efficiency to be found when we do activities that are similar, together. For example, if you run your own business and have marketing content to film, film all the content for the month at one time. You save time in setup and mental energy by doing it in a batch (i.e., all at once). At home, maybe you know you have a normal grocery order for this week and another for next week that is for the whole family coming to visit. Sit down and put in your order online (see #8) for both orders at once.
What are you and kids doing that you don’t HAVE to do?
This may be controversial but I think there are daily tasks that we do that don’t have to be done every day. Or at least they can be skipped every now and then to give us time and sanity. For example, does your kid NEED a bath every day? Maybe. Maybe not. My husband tells me that Einstein didn’t wear socks, so as to save time…think about what would happen if you didn’t have your toddler wear (and put on) socks? SO MUCH TIME SAVED. I’m kidding a little. Kids need to learn to put socks on at some point. But you decide, is that now for your kid and your family? (Also I don’t know if this Einstein statement is fact). Maybe you fold your clothes very neatly. That has merit, as it could contribute to a peaceful living space. But if it doesn’t do that for you and you’re still doing it, maybe the socks can be thrown in the drawer instead of organized. I’m using some very specific examples here, and they may not be for you. But I hope they’ll get you thinking. If you can think of something in your daily life that can shift to give you a minute or two, that could feel great!
6 Ways to Be Present
Prep food ahead of time
If you plan to cook, see what you can prepare in advance. A lot of recipes have ways to prepare portions of them in advance and either freeze or refrigerate until you need them again. Doing whatever can be done in advance will give you more of a chance to be present with family when everyone is together.
Cook or bake with kids/family
If you plan to cook or bake, do as much with kids or family as would make for a fun activity. Not only does this give you an activity with kids, AND save you time (doing two things at once!), it gives you a reason to be (and do something) together.
Start each day with a mantra
For those like me who start the season well with intention, but need a little help to be consistent and stick with it, give yourself a mantra and a way to view it daily, such as sticky notes around the house or a note at the top of a journal or book you write in or read daily. Here are a few mantras to give you an idea (but feel free to write your own!):
If I do nothing else today, I will do this one thing: _____
If I do nothing else today, I will take deep breaths when I’m overwhelmed.
Remember to look around and experience the moment.
I’m here in the present, not the past or the future.
What really matters is _______.
Put technology away
Unless you need it for an activity the family is involved with, put phones and screens away. Some people use a basket to drop phones in; others keep them on chargers. Most of us need this nudge to help us stay present!
It’s incredibly difficult to stay in the present when your body is physically tired. Give yourself an extra 15 minutes of sleep at night when you can (more is great too, but start with something, even if small!), so you have the energy to be present where you are during the day. Drinking enough water during the day can help your body too!
Make lists to free your mind
If you’re someone whose mind races at night (or even during the day) with ideas, things to do, worries, exciting plans, etc., be sure you have a way to write/type it out so these thoughts don’t have to stay in your head. I find that I get distracted when I have too many things going on in my mind, so it helps to get them out and allow myself to really be with people and not be thinking of what I need to remember or do next.
7 Ways to Keep Your Cool
Try not to obsess over things that aren’t in your control
Much easier said than done! This is one I really need to work on. I am learning that it helps me to take deep breaths, write things down that are bothering me, and lean on mantras like “I may not be able to control this situation, but I am able to manage how it affects me.” Or, “we’re all doing the best we can.” Use whatever quotes are inspiring to you so that you don’t stew on things.
Make a list of kids activities for their time off
Sometimes sanity is correlated to how much chaos is going on in the house. If the kids are getting along, I’m an even-keeled person. If not, all bets are off. But one thing that could help is making a list of activities to do with the kids. Even better, make it in a chart for them to reference so they get to feel a little in control. This could include bigger activities like Santa visits, museum trips, etc., or it could be board games and crafts at home. If you need simple ideas for around the house, check out Days with Grey. She has a lot of tips and ideas for little kids.
Book yourself some restorative time
Whether “restorative” to you means being alone or surrounded by supportive friends, schedule some time that feels healing to you. This could be a walk outside, a hot bath, a pedicure, a massage…or maybe it could be dinner with friends, seeing a movie together, or trying something new with friends. Whatever it is, get it on the calendar so you prioritize YOU.
Reflect daily on what you’re grateful for
This doesn’t have to be a long list every time you do it. It can be one thing. It can last as long as a deep breath. I like to end my yoga classes (with adults) by asking everyone to pause and reflect on all we can be grateful for. I find it to be restful and somewhat of a reset.
Have rituals that work for you
There is something deeply comforting about rituals. They are the routine, the knowing what’s coming, and the peace in not being surprised (not that surprises are bad, but what is known can bring peace). This could be your cup of coffee in the morning, your bath or bedtime routine at night, your wakeup routine of stretching and listening to music, etc. Whatever your favorite, most comforting ritual is, something that you do every day, make sure that you’re noticing it and letting it happen during a season that’s particularly busy.
Do something for yourself at least weekly
This doesn’t have to be big. And it doesn’t have to mean spending money. It could be painting your own nails. Getting up 5 minutes early to have coffee in peace. Calling a friend. Taking a nap. You get it, just remember to do it :)
Let kids miss some activities
If it won’t be too disruptive (or the total family benefit would be greater), let kids miss some activities. Sometimes I think activities create the chaos we are trying to avoid, much as we have the best of intentions in exposing our kids to new things and friends.
I used to work with someone who said to me something once that has really stuck with me, as a perfectionist. She said, “don't let the great get in the way of the good.” At first I thought, um no thank you. I will do everything to the best of my ability, even if that means I am tired and cranky and don’t want to be doing it anymore. But the more I have thought about it over the years, the more I think that the concept of doing something well, but not obsessing over it to make it perfect, actually allows us to enjoy whatever season we’re in more. It means we get to do more of what we want because we can stop before things are perfect. We can say no to parties and activities that aren’t filling us up energetically. I hope you’re leaving this article with a few ideas to implement this year. No one will implement them all; don’t try to do that. Don’t let the great get in the way of the good!
And lastly, my mom friends, you’re doing so much. Take a deep breath. Pause and reflect on all we can be grateful for.