The holidays are here, and this season is always full of so much magic! From planning trips to see the Christmas lights at the zoo, to turning your kitchen into a Hallmark movie bakery that specializes in gingerbread houses and sugar cookies - you are filling up the month of December with as much Christmas-themed family fun as you can. When you aren't building snowmen or making homemade ornaments, you're squeezing in all of the family gatherings, work celebrations, and Ugly Christmas Sweater parties that your friends are throwing. It's easy, in the midst of all of this holiday chaos, to find yourself becoming stressed and anxious about these events, rather than enjoying them.
A usual trigger for stress, during any time of the year, is when things don't go as planned. You spend days preparing for a magical weekend, packed with so many Christmas activities that are sure to create picturesque memories for your family to treasure forever! You didn't, however, plan on leaving your wallet at home, one of the kids throwing up on the car ride out of town, the line for Santa's lap being over an hour long, and then letting your kids skip nap time; which inevitably led to everyone crying while walking through the Christmas Tree Museum (Which, by they way, costed more than they had advertised on their website, all because you didn't read the fine print).
None of us are fortune tellers - we have no way of knowing what's going to happen when we head out for our holiday adventures. What we can do, is leave some wiggle room in case things pop up that weren't listed on the itinerary. Also, remind yourself that if you don't get to the mall in time to see the entire performance by the local Christmas Carolers - it's okay. Odds are, the person taking it the hardest, is you. More often than not, our kids are finding joy in our chaos. We're just so busy being upset and feeling let down, that we are missing out on the joy they are inventing in the moment. I know you didn't plan on the kids spilling their hot chocolate all over their laps during the train ride, but did you see how much fun they had during their marshmallow fight? And even though you burnt the first two batches of gingerbread men, the giggling about the fire alarm and having to open the windows to let out the smoke is a memory you all will be talking about for years. It's okay if things don't end up exactly the way you've planned - there will still be joy.
Speaking of plans - let's talk about your December calendar. It doesn't take long for your month to be packed full of family Christmas celebrations and holiday parties. With all of this, along with the family memories and traditions you're trying your best to create with your own family, it's no wonder that the constant traveling here and there can start to take a toll on your family. The short solution here is simple: don't be afraid to say no. It's taken me a long time to realize that sometimes skipping out on certain events isn't rude if it's what's needed.
I hate turning down plans, but sometimes it's what's best for my family. As much as I would love to head over to a friend's house to make those DIY snow-globes that she found on Pinterest, I know that my kids have already had a long day. I know that as much as they have had fun playing with cousins and friends, they are ready to get home to their own house, with their own toys. Sometimes we, as adults, need to reload, too! Our homes are the perfect place to unwind and recharge when we're stressed. Even if you're not able to bring yourself to say no, at least cut yourself enough slack to head out a little earlier than planned. I promise, though, if you do say no, your family and friends will understand.
Unfortunately, we can't talk about holiday stress without mentioning the dreaded word - budget. It can be so hard to map out exactly what your Christmas budget is going to look like before the season arrives. This is why I highly recommend starting a Christmas savings account either at your bank, or in safe spot in your home. Putting aside a certain amount of money each week, every two weeks, or even monthly, will really help you when the time comes to start your shopping. Having a little money saved up on the side will come in handy when that Black Friday deal comes out on the newest gadget your kids (or hubby)(or you) have been dying to get their hands on!
If you weren't able to start a Christmas fund this year, and still want to provide your family with a special Christmas, there are other ways to conserve your cash-flow. Explaining to family members that you just want to focus on the kids this year is a great place to start. But, if you're like me, and you love gift-giving, there are ways to do so without breaking your bank. Homemade and sentimental gifts are usually the most touching and cherished types of gifts - and they're usually the cheapest! Baking up some yummy treats, and wrapping them up in a special box with a cute bow is also a simple and affordable way to spread holiday cheer to those you love. Even something as simple as taking the time to sit down and write them a personal note on a Christmas card would be so special. Your love for your family and friends won't be measured by the amount of money you spend on them, but by the thought you put into what they receive from you.
So, this holiday season, make sure you're giving yourself time to breathe, and cut yourself some slack. Pick a day to say no to your plans and stay home in your pajamas. Eat too many cookies, and play in the snow. Make a blanket fort in the living room, and just accept the fact that the kids are going to make a huge mess. And when the power goes out right before you decide to start your favorite family Christmas movie, don't fret; just breathe.
Finally, remember the reason for the season - it's Jesus. Spend some time in prayer with Him when you start to feel stressed or anxious. Let your kids hear your prayers, and encourage them to join in. Make sure that in the hustle and bustle of the holiday scenes, you're taking plenty of time to explain where the true magic of the season comes from - Jesus! It's that easy, folks. My number one tip for managing your holiday stress; cast all of your worries upon Him. Nothing is too big, or too small, for Jesus. Take comfort in His grace, Mama. You're doing great! Now sit back, relax, and stir your hot cocoa with a candy cane. You got this!