Over the years, I’ve been gradually figuring out how to not only survive the holidays, but to thrive throughout the season. I’m lucky to have a Mom who loves this season, and so my holiday spirit is strong. Yet preparing for the holidays has certainly become a lot of work over the years, especially after having kids. We celebrate both Winter Solstice and Christmas, so we have multiple gatherings to prepare for and host.
Six or seven years ago, when the kids were small, it got really overwhelming and stressful, and I had to rethink the things I chose to do around the holidays. I want to cook and make cards and gifts and buy presents and decorate the house and all of that, but for the right reasons. I want to have fun, and put positive energy into what I’m doing, not be freaking out because there’s not enough time to “do it all.” As the saying goes, it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.
Ever since then, I’ve been gradually refining how I craft my experience of the winter holidays. First, I acknowledge that December is a busy time, and don’t try to do too much. I recognize that the preparation for the holidays is my creative project for the month, and try not to add others. Second, I make sure that I take time to have fun and relax. Some of my holiday preparations are relaxing, like making collage cards for my immediate family. I enjoy thinking of each individual as I work, creating a card that reflects their interests and personality. I also take time to read, which is my way of recharging. Third, I go easy on myself. I’m learning not to be so quick to judge myself when I don’t do a “good enough” job, or I eat sugar or don’t find time to exercise. Especially at this time of year, I “go with the flow” more and try to be in the moment, no matter what I’m doing.
If I do get overwhelmed or find myself getting stressed out, I have tools to release myself from those states of being. The major one is skillful use of lists. Having a long “to do” list can in itself be stressful, but if you prioritize the list and note when you’re going to work on each item, you can see the big picture and know that everything will get done. Next is asking for help. Especially now that the kids are older, they're a big help with things like cooking and wrapping gifts. Not only that, it’s fun to do together! Putting on some Christmas music also keeps me in a cheerful mood, and reminds me of the fun of the season.
And finally, after preparing busily for events like the annual Winter Solstice ritual and celebration, or our family’s Christmas Day get-together, I consciously relax and enjoy myself. Spending time with friends and family is an essential part of the holiday season, and I look forward to those times, even as I enjoy curling up in a quiet moment to create unique gifts for them.