I feel so exhausted during the holidays. My family wants us to be with them, my husband’s family wants us to travel to see them, we have two small kids and a slew of parties to go to, presents to buy, and I just can’t seem to get it all done. Help! What should I do?
We cannot possibly say yes to every invitation. We cannot possibly find the perfect gift for everyone on the list. We cannot be everywhere, do everything and make everyone happy between now and New Year’s Day. The key to not just surviving, but thriving, through the holiday season is setting good boundaries.
The first step is to decide what your family values are around the holidays. What do you want your children to learn about? If it is giving to those less fortunate, let your activities and actions reflect that. If it is time for family-togetherness, make decisions to show your spouse and kids they come first. Identify what your priorities are so you can make choices through the season that support and reflect them.
Next, sit down as a family and decide what events and activities are most important. If you are caught between expectations of friends and extended family, remember you cannot please everyone and you must make choices based on what makes sense for your family, not based on making everyone else happy. Choose social and family activities that will bring you joy and help you celebrate. Prioritize spending time with people who you feel compelled to be with, and let yourself say no to “obligations.” It’s easy to fill your schedule with parties and events you don’t even want to go to, and then realize you have spent very little time with your children or your parents, or your longtime friend who is in town. Practice saying “Thank you, but I have a prior commitment.” Playing CandyLand with your kids is a perfectly valid prior commitment.
Lastly, choose to start some simple, family rituals that allow you to slow down and experience the joy of the season. One family I know takes one evening and puts on their pajamas, climbs in the car with travel-mugs of hot chocolate, and drives around listening to holiday music and looking at the lights and decorations in their neighborhood. Another family I know spends one day preparing shoe boxes filled with gifts for Operation Christmas Child. They shop, pack and wrap the packages for children who otherwise wouldn’t get presents over the holidays. And another couple I know spends an evening watching Bad Santa—no guests allowed (I should know, I’ve tried to crash that date more than once!)
Remember to take time to experience the joy of the season. It’s too easy to rush around and finally stop to catch your breath on January 1. Make a decision to stop and breathe every day from now until then. Take in the lights. Breathe in the smells. Walk in the cold air and talk about why the holidays are important. Share memories. And take some time to purposely create new ones. This year, it would be great to actually mean it when you say “Happy Holidays!”