Thursday, November 29, 2007

Holiday Harmony?

Holiday Harmony: Just a Dream of Sugar Plums, Dancing in My Head?

Crackling fires. Mouth-watering smells. Warm hugs. Beautiful decorations. Sounds like the holidays, doesn't it?

It may be less warm and fuzzy, but many of us also experience another reality around the holidays. Pressure. Expenses. Time-crunches. Over-eating.

Effective stress management is a gift we can all give ourselves at this busy time of year. Sure, it doesn't come free, but it is one gift that will not disappoint. Where to begin...?

Take a deep breathe and find a few quiet minutes to invest in a little planning. What are your most basic goals for the holiday season? These should be realistic- this means that the "picture-perfect holiday," like we see in magazines, is a myth that adds to the pressure and stress we experience. Take a minute to figure out what would make the holiday season meaningful for you. Then prioritize those things, getting to others if time and energy allow. Here are a few of my goals and my plan for prioritizing them.

I want to spend some extra quality time with those I love. We plan to have one evening during the week and all day Sunday for "family time." This is the plan throughout the year, but we find ourselves slipping away from it, especially when there are so many demands this time of year. We have made a short list of things we want to do (send cards, bake cookies, sing carols, watch our favorite seasonal movie) and will focus on one each Sunday during the six or so weeks surrounding the winter holidays. We will not allow ourselves to cram in 5-6 activities each day, but will stick to our plan as closely as possible.

I want to volunteer some time helping those in need with my young daughter. We will donate a couple of hours one Saturday afternoon in December to sorting clothing and donated items at a local shelter. Of course, it is only a small offering, but in a season of taking, it will help my daughter focus on this example of giving to others that we will repeat occasionally throughout the coming year.

I want to de-emphasize the materialism of the holidays and focus on the true spirit of the season. We have agreed, including our children, to ban "gift wish lists" this season. We still plan to give each other gifts, but these will stem from the caring and thoughtfulness of the giver and not the unfettered greed of the receiver. This sounds harsh, I know. Each of us must figure out a strategy for reaching our own goals, but we want to experiment with a different model than the one that has left us rather empty in the past.

Your list likely will be different and your strategies may be quite different, too. But this two-part process can set the stage for holiday harmony.

  • Plan a few realistic goals that fit your needs and situation
  • Strategize about specific steps to prioritize and reach those goals.

Enjoy the holidays and above all else, may you and yours be well.