It’s That Time of Year Again…..
As many of you know, I am now living in Florida. I miss the seasons in Indiana—the beautiful flowers and soft air of the spring and the gorgeous fall leaves. But I have come to see that there are indeed seasonal changes in Florida. They are just more subtle. The temperatures go from summer heat to fall and winter warm/ cool. The tropical summer rains cease, and the days in the fall and winter are mostly sunny. Of course, the days in the winter are shorter just like up north. But I used to rely on the weather to remind me that it is holiday time—now I must keep my eyes on the calendar!
So in thinking about the holidays, aside from the fun and good food, I would be remiss if I didn’t say a bit about coping with the stress that comes at this time of year. There are lots of expectations that come with the holidays. They are times when traditionally the family gets together to celebrate. And that can be both enjoyable and stressful. There are parties to throw and attend, cards to send, gifts to buy, and decorating to be done. There is the MEAL on Thanksgiving. Many times we find ourselves exhausted and over-obligated instead of being able to enjoy the season. So what can we do to ease the situation?
Rule #1: Change the expectations—not only those of your family members but also your own! Read on…
I remember the first time I offered to host Thanksgiving at our home. My aunt had always had the Thanksgiving meal at her house, but as she was getting older this was just getting to be too much for her. I was excited when I made the offer, but as the big day approached, I found myself feeling more and more stressed-out. My aunt was a superlative cook. How on earth could I come close to having the perfect Thanksgiving that she always had for us?
I made some decisions that year. First of all, I asked my cousin if he would bring the turkey. That may sound like a big request, but my cousin likes to cook and he was more than happy to do that. I assigned a simple dish to each one of our children. I enlisted the one who had limited cooking ability to clean the bathrooms and set the table. I went to bed early the night before and got some good sleep. The meal wasn’t perfect, but it was a family meal and everyone, including my aunt, had a great time. My mother asked me if I wasn’t going to make my great-grandmother’s pecan pie recipe (delicious, but complicated and time-consuming). My answer was, “Not this year. Fresh Market has really good pies!” I decided that I was not going to think about pie anymore. Enough said.
What do you do about that cranky person in your family that always starts drama at the table? I had a family member who was like this. I used to dread the holiday meals because she invariably said or did something inappropriate, making everyone uncomfortable. I decided to enlist the help of a few family members, and we had a group huddle just after everyone arrived for the meal. We decided that we would take turns changing the subject when the difficult family member started arguing or saying something derogatory. This strategy actually did work.
Another thing that has really helped me is sitting down with my family and deciding ahead of time how much we are going to spend on Christmas this year. There is nothing more stressful than overspending and getting the credit card bill in the mail as a Happy New Year’s gift. We see visions of the perfect Christmas on TV and we think that our Christmas will just not be real if we don’t have all the trappings. We see Christmas decorations and hear Christmas music before Halloween. This just adds to the stress we feel. I think that the secret is to SIMPLIFY our holidays. Tell your children that the holidays are NOT about THINGS. They are about being thankful and celebrating the birth of our Saviour.
So take the afternoon off. Don’t go shopping again. String some popcorn and cranberries for the tree and listen to some carols. Make a Thanksgiving table centerpiece with your children. Be MINDFUL of what you are doing when you are doing it, because this is your life.
Take good care of yourself, especially at this time of year. Go to bed early and eat regular, healthy meals. Limit alcohol and caffeine. Take a few minutes for yourself every day—meditate, read, take a bubble bath. Get regular exercise. If you feel well, you will be able to care for others and have the energy you need. Be the calm in the midst of the storm. Thanks be to God.
Blessings to you,