With Thanksgiving being over we can now officially enter the rush of Christmas and New Years festivities. (I know that you’ve been listening to Christmas music since early November, it’s okay to admit it.)
The challenge for this time of year is to figure out a way to just fit everything into your schedule. When I used to teach music to school-aged kids, this was the time of year that all of the recitals and programs were scheduled which meant that my December was essentially an entire month of going to new places to hear people sing or play the piano. Since there are only a limited number of weekends in the month, this meant that pretty much every weekend (Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday and Thursday) were dedicated to some sort of performance.
It’s just the way it is.
Add into that chaos the need to buy and mail Christmas gifts, any Christmas parties you might be attending, decorating a Christmas tree, family events (Christmas is apparently prime time for photo taking according to my mother) and whatever other traditions your holiday season entails and it’s just straight up insanity.
So in this post I’m just going to offer a few tips that will help you figure out how to best navigate all of this. I will tell you that 1) I don’t have any children so I can’t really offer any advise on that front and 2) I’m a pretty cold-hearted person and don’t have a hard time telling people ‘no’ if I don’t want to do something. I’m writing this article with the idea that you also have the ability to just say ‘no’ when something doesn’t work for you. If not, that’s okay, but just keep in mind that you can absolutely say ‘no’ to anything you want to.
1. Plan Ahead
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a huge, huge planner. My month is largely planned out completely in advance and I sit down at the beginning of each shift (because I work rotating shifts) and figure out how to fit things into my schedule. Since I still want Yoga to be a part of my life, I have to sit down and make it fit. I can’t just hope for the best, I must deliberately work things out. I need about an hour for this once a week and I am constantly looking ahead at my schedule to see how I can adjust things.
With Christmas coming up, you hopefully have a rough idea of what is going to happen when. If you have kids in school you hopefully know by now when the holiday program is going to be or when their class party is. Put those things on your calendar the moment you get that information. If you are expected to provide anything for any activity, write down on your calendar when you plan on acquiring those items. If, for example, you are supposed to bring two dozen cookies to the party, figure out when you are either going to buy or make them right away so that it doesn’t surprise you later on. And don’t feel obligated to make two dozen homemade cookies if that doesn’t fit into your schedule! Kids are going to love whatever cookies you bring, it doesn’t matter where they come from. If you must, just buy the cookies and arrange them on a platter. No one will care. They’ll be gone in an hour anyways.
2. Consider what is Most Important
What are you hoping to get out of the holiday season? If it is chaos and stress, that’s no problem, just say yes to everything and don’t plan ahead. Done.
But since I’m pretty sure that is not what you want to happen this month, sit down and think to yourself, “What do I really want to happen during December?”
Write down a few things, consider them, ask yourself why those things and not other things.
For me, I’d like for the following:
- To experience the magic of the Christmas season.
- To spend quality time with my fiancé.
- To stay cozy.
- To make some people happy.
Those four things can pretty much encompass a large number of activities while also eliminating those that I just have no interest in attending. For example, I’m not a huge fan of outdoor winter sports. Cold pretty much equals the Devil in my mind so I’m not going to go skiing or sledding or what have you. But I might stay inside a ski lodge with a book and some hot drink, cozied up by a fire while other people ski. I will be very happy in that situation. That fits the ‘stay cozy’ bullet.
The fourth bullet has been worded pretty carefully – make some people happy. I like to be pretty awesome about gift giving but I’m also fairly practical. I’m not going to be able to buy amazing gifts for everyone in my life so I curate a list of close people and just buy gifts for them. It is more important to me to make my close people happy than it is to make everyone happy.
When I was little, my parent’s priority was to give us kids an amazing Christmas. They saved and prepped so that on Christmas morning it was straight up the best. I have so many good memories of waking up on Christmas morning and the traditions we had and the things we did. I don’t remember all of the gifts I received but I remember a lot of them and Christmas morning has an incredibly special place in my heart because of my parents.
With these four bullets, I can analyze potential plans and ideas and either accept them (yes, I will stay inside by the fire and sip egg nog while decorating the tree because that is cozy) or reject them (no, I really do not want to go ice fishing because that would make me cold and miserable).
What do you do about the lingering guilt you might feel for saying no to so many people during the season of giving? If it is really going to bother you a whole lot, perhaps suggest an alternative that you both can enjoy. “I don’t really want to go ice fishing because I’m going to be super freezing but why don’t you go and I’ll come join you for lunch. I’ll bring a hot meal and hang out with you for awhile.” Or something else, “Thanks for the invitation but I am pretty sensitive to the cold. Why don’t you come over for dinner one evening and I’ll cook for you instead?” That way you still get to spend time with the person but you don’t freeze to death (which is something you don’t want to do). Otherwise, just accept that you can say ‘no thank you’ (politely, don’t be a jerk) and go about your merry way.
But what if they stop liking you because you don’t do things with them?!? That’s an entirely separate post. We’ll deal with that later.
And that’s it!
With these two things, you’ll be able to eliminate a lot of stress from the holiday season. Consider what you want to do, plan ahead for it, do those things and only those things.
For example, here are the activities I’ve already planned for this Christmas (and the only ones I really plan on participating in):
- Decorate the Christmas tree with my fiancé. On December 10 I’m going to set up our fake tree, put all of our ornaments out on the table, light a million candles, get some Irish egg nog ready, turn on some Christmas music and BAM – Christmas magic.
- Go shopping one time for the following people – Dad, brothers, nieces, nephews, sister, fiancé. My mom’s present has already been taken care of. I know what I’m buying for everyone and I know where to get it. I’m going to get everything on Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday and call it good.
- Go to Busch Garden’s Christmas Village – On December 8 I’m going with a friend to Williamsburg, Virginia because Busch Gardens decorates the whole park like a winter wonderland. I’m going to drink some cider and enjoy a nice day looking at beautiful decorations.
- Surprise my family by flying to Arizona – I’m looking forward to this so, so much. The only person who knows is my brother who is going to surprise them with me. Right now my family thinks I have no leave but I managed to snag some when somebody left our shift and now I’m going to be able to fly to Phoenix and surprise my family right before Christmas. They have no idea and it is going to be a-maz-ing.
And these are the big events! I’d like to get some caroling in there at some point, I need to figure out a menu for Christmas morning. I’m working Christmas Eve and have some plans with some coworkers for that day that need to be worked out as well. But otherwise, I’m looking forward to a nice Christmas season!
I hope this helped a little bit. I’m going to talk further on the concept of saying ‘no’ more in the future as well as dealing with the societal repercussions that happen when you start standing up for yourself. You just have to learn to not care what other people think about you and your choices. You aren’t selfish, you’re just being practical.
Anyways. What are your Christmas plans? What are you looking forward to this season? Leave a comment below!!!