Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holidays don't have to equal stress

Some tips I've accumulated over the years to cut down the holiday stress. Some are wholesome, some not so much ...

Beating SADD
The Lights at Virginia Beach, where the fiance and I
went for Thanksgiving.
I felt my seasonal grumpies start in October, of all things. There's been a lot of stress at work and at home while we slowly moved into our house. I lost about 40 minutes a day in the car because my commute is longer. I was pretty busy when November hit and I kind of took it one day at a time to try to make myself happy anyway I could (Read: Goodbye, diet. Hello comfort food.)

Once the end of November hit, while most people complained about how early people were pushing Christmas, I was happy to see decorations up. I had remembered my trick last year to staying positive.


Smile every time you see Christmas lights. I don't remember what prompted me to do this, but as I drove home from work, I would see houses with their Christmas lights on and I would make myself smile. (Thank you for people who leave the timer up until midnight so us late commuters can appreciate them!) Whatever chemicals are released with smiling seemed to do just the trick to push my grumpy mood to the wayside for at least a little while. And by the end of December, I was excited for Christmas and of all the lights people had up.

Last year, it was difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel of divorce. But seeing those tiny Christmas lights would remind me there was an end, even if it wasn't in sight.

Cutting down the clutter
I stress when there's clutter around me. I went into a full-on pout a few weeks ago when we set up our new kitchen table and there was too much clutter around the kitchen for me to enjoy it fully. The fiance let me sit and sulk while I watched it quickly remove the flotsam and jetsam strewn over the kitchen and my mood brightened and I was able to appreciate the table.

This is going for Christmas gifts as well. L. gets to have two Christmases so I know she'll have plenty of things to open. Especially since, with me, she now has three different grandparents' houses to visit. On top of that, she has her father's house and his parents'. That's five Christmases. FIVE.

So I wanted simple. Of course, I turned to Simple Mom (now The Art of Simple) of course, and found an article keeping the gift-giving priorities to something you want, something you need, something you wear, something you read. I fell in love. It was great! It cut down on crap (yes, a lot of it is crap) L. will play with for a few minutes, then forget about it.

When I think about it, I don't make a lot of money. I feel like most of it is spent on gas, in all honesty. If I got L. a toy that cost $60, over the course of a year, she would have to play with it for something like five hours for it to equal the amount of time I put into earning that $60. I can't think of a single toy she would accumulate five hours on that could cost $60. Maybe a Little People set, but we have plenty of those.

I'm not saying that's my philosophy for buying her toys in general, but it is something to think about.

I've been telling others about it when they ask what she wants for Christmas and I've been emphasizing the something to read part, since I would love to build her library up more. Books don't equal clutter in my mind.

And that's it! Simple.

Stay home
What was I saying about avoiding craziness?
I'm pretty sure craziness is unavoidable with us.
As I write this, I'm down on vacation in Virginia Beach visiting the fiance's family for Thanksgiving. But, in general, I'm planning on doing my shopping from the comfort of my computer (mostly done, thankfully), and avoiding the craziness of stores and shopping. I've learned if I need to go to a store for shopping, during the work day is great, as well as late at night because of the later hours stores keep around the holidays.

Adding L. to the mix, I hope I don't need to take her to a crowded store during this time because if there's one thing I think (know) I passed down to her, it's my negative reaction to crowds. I get even worse when it involves her because I notice it's not the general tendency to look down and see her.

Give back
Despite wanting to stay in the house, going out shopping will be inevitable for basics for the house. With all the Salvation Army bell ringers and stores sponsoring donations, it's easy enough to donate a dollar here and there to help someone in need. Now, I'm stretching every dollar it seems, but there's always spare change in pockets of my coat I can throw in a bucket or have L. throw in to help someone not as fortunate.

Stay organized
It's probably time again for me to print out more of The Art of Simple's Daily Dockets. They've fallen by the wayside once I was able to get my new work schedule memorized. But, I think with all the stuff I want to get done around the house and holiday-themed things with L. (visit Santa, take photographs, send out cards, etc.), I'll need to stay organized to fit it all in.

And, by fit it all in, I mean prioritize which traditional Christmas things are optional enough to put off until next year and which ones I really do want to keep doing annually. Some things we'll be putting on the If There's Time List:

  • Make a snowman (we'll have all of January and February and probably some of March for that.)
  • Bake cookies (we just got rid of the last of the Halloween cookies I make every year.)
  • Get in the car and look at lights (we'll end up doing that anyway. No need to carve out time for it. Especially for someone who can't really look out the window all the way.)
Some things I'll be putting on my Absolute Must list:
  • Annual viewings of holiday favorites: National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation," "Elf," and, of course, 24 hours of "A Christmas Story." Even though we don't have cable, I'm having the fiance download "A Christmas Story" so he can play it on loop.
  • Elf on the Shelf. Despite many blogs offering the idea to keep the elf stationary on the shelf, our elf, Banjo, came early before Mommy left for vacation. Banjo's pretty excited about getting into mischief so who am I to deny her the pleasures?*
* I learned the hard way to keep the #elfontheshelf hashtag to a minimum on pictures. When we got Banjo, L. loved her so much, we went through two time outs before I realized I had impossible expectations she wouldn't touch the elf. When I posted pictures of her dancing with and kissing Banjo, I got comments from strangers yelling at me for letting L. touch Banjo. Here's the thing, and this is coming from a long texting session with Santa. If the child is 2, her little hands won't be enough to take all of Banjo's magic away.