Until last year I spent a lot of time stressing during the holidays. It started around October 24 when I would realize that Halloween was a week away and I didn’t have a single decoration up yet. I also don’t own a single Halloween decoration so I’m not sure why I continued to be upset every year that I hadn’t put up my imaginary decorations. But there you have it – the beginning of my cycle of stress. Once I survived Halloween and overcame my mortification at once again not having fabric spider webs on my bushes I’d move on to making big plans to create a Thanksgiving cornucopia that would live on my dining room table along with my festive fall table runner and matching placemats. However, somehow by mid-November I hadn’t even managed to clear all the crap off my dining table to even put down a table runner. And, as with my Halloween decorations, I feel I must admit here that I own neither a table runner nor a placemat and I’m not even sure I know what a cornucopia is or why I’d want it on my dining table.
Most years my fall decorating never went beyond a pumpkin on my front steps, but I had to abandon that for the past two years because it ends up staying on our front porch so long that it got moldy and gross. It just wasn’t the look I was going for.
Then I would over commit to Thanksgiving cooking and have to wake up at like 6:00 in the morning on Thanksgiving day to get it all done and it wasn’t uncommon for me to run out of time to shower and to go to my in-laws house with my hair in a bun wearing dirty clothes and smelling like onions.
Once I was able to fumble my way through Thanksgiving I immediately turned my sights to Christmas. I always planned to get my Christmas tree in early December and since I was absolutely positive that I had personally offended all of my neighbors with my lack of festive decorations I also planned to bake dozens of cookies and package them up to personally deliver to each house on the block. Sometimes I even fantasized about singing a little Christmas carol as I dropped each one off but I had to abandon that dream because my poor husband refused to participate and I ain’t no solo artist. Now, I did do a ton of baking in December, but usually I was so overwelmed and exhausted that I stress ate it all, so I can safely say that I’ve never once brought cookies to my neighbors, singing or otherwise. And as far as the Christmas tree goes, I think we usually managed to get it up about a week before the big day.Do you find the holidays stressful or joyful? #HealthyHolidays2015 via @bookwheelblair Click To Tweet
I haven’t even mentioned Christmas shopping. That was always the worst. I so hate buying Christmas presents that I’d put it off until the last second and finally just order a bunch of stuff online, not even bother to get it wrapped, and ship it directly to people’s houses. Sometimes things would show up at my friend’s houses and they wouldn’t even know who it was from. Except that it started happening with enough regularity that they figured out I was the only git friend who couldn’t even pay for a gift tag.
Last year, with the help of The Herd, I was able to put my mad Type A personality skillz to use and I had my very first enjoyable holiday season since I left my parents house (because before that my mother got all the stress and I got all the fun). I started by deciding what really mattered to me and nixing the rest. That meant no cornucopias, no fabric spider webs, and no baking (I loathe baking). I reduced the amount of Thanksgiving cooking that I did and relied on others to bring more of the meal. I also planned my schedule for Thanksgiving and Christmas day in advance so I knew about two weeks out what I was cooking and what I needed to buy. Then I had plenty of time to shop and prep in advance and I didn’t have to wake up before the sun to get it all done on the day of.
The Christmas tree, to be true, didn’t work out as planned. I dropped the ball on that one and my poor husband was left to purchase and decorate the tree by himself. But I think he secretly enjoyed doing it himself because I didn’t yell at him for using the “ugly” ornaments, aka the ornaments he made as a child. Add that to the list of reasons he chose the wrong life partner.
I also made use of my vacation time at work and didn’t feel bad asking for some extra days off so that I had time to myself and could take mental health breaks when I needed. I used my days off to clean, do some prep cooking, make and wrap gifts, and watch an unreasonable number of holiday movies. There was also a good amount of calling members of The Herd to make sure that they were also having a good holiday season because, for me, the number one way to feel better is to stop focusing on my own stress and help someone get out of their stress.
Sure, it took planning, but I thought my holidays were completely manageable and filled with only things that I wanted to do, which was the best part. This year I’ve already got my calendar at the ready and it’s filled with gift making, holiday celebrating, trip taking, and overall happiness and joy.