Does a wave of exhaustion sweep through you just thinking about the upcoming four weeks of holiday “joy”?
Even if you look forward some of the seasonal delights that await, do you feel a tinge of trepidation when you consider how all the shopping, the parties, the sugary treats will affect your well being and your intentions in your life?
Women get slammed particularly hard during this western tradition we call ‘the holidays.’ Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa – or some combination of all of these – it’s usually the ‘Mom’s’ responsibility to shop for the gifts, send out the cards, bake all those cookies, craft the handmade gifts, plan and cook the meals.
Maybe you get some help with all of this – maybe not. However it shakes out in your family or your world, chances are you’ve got a much huger load of work on your plate during the month of December.
It’s too late now to plan ahead to do things totally differently (such as spend the entire month of December in a country that doesn’t even celebrate Christmas – one of my long-standing fantasies!)
However, with a bit of intentional forethought you can make it through these coming weeks with your own heart and soul intact and with positive energy to dive into the new year.
I Was The Frazzle Poster Child
I used to be the poster child for how to be a frazzled mess during the holiday season. Running a retail shop required me to begin preparations in July or even sooner.
As if deciding on products to order, hiring staff, decorating, organizing the holiday open house, marketing and all the myriad tasks of retail weren’t enough, I piled this gigantic heap of must-dos for the family on top of it all.
We absolutely HAD to gather with the entire extended family for Thanksgiving week; we had to attend the local crafts fair, purchase a tree that same weekend, bake cookies, hold a couple of holiday parties, attend several more, purchase and wrap WAY too many gifts. (I always wanted to spend the evening of Solstice in front of a fire, contemplating the return of the light. But far too often I found myself amid a swirl of wrapping paper and ribbon, staying up way too late, eating too much.)
Christmas Eve and Christmas morning had to unfold in specific ways. For years I held onto these attachments, passed down to me from my own first family and now sadly passed down to my children. (Although I’m working on undoing some of the damage before they have kids of their own.)
Why do we do it?
I think a big part of the angst and obsession we feel around the Christmas holiday is because it is one of the few traditions and rituals we participate in as a culture. Our western (particularly U.S.) culture lacks rich the traditions and rites of passage that are integral to life in so many other regions. So, the few such traditions we do celebrate gather into giants of importance.
Too bad this winter tradition has to be all about buying, spending, consuming.
Yeah, I know, I know. It doesn’t have to be. All those platitudes about the ‘true meaning’ of the season. And it’s possible to experience at least some of this. But the much louder message barraging us everywhere we turn is: CONSUME CONSUME CONSUME.
And if you can’t, or won’t, there’s something wrong with you.
I don’t believe it’s possible to just turn that ocean liner around in your own life by just thinking or saying, ‘this time it’s going to be different.’
I think the first step is to acknowledge we’re on that boat. Take an honest look at your own participation in the madness. And then move from there. Perhaps this year it will be a few small steps to reduce the frazzle factor. The point is to take those tiny steps because they will prime you for a fresh way to walk into the new year.
How To Reduce the Holiday Frazzle Factor
1. Start from where you are.
Sure you may wish you could throw the whole buying thing out the window, bring some of nature’s greenery into the house, and celebrate Solstice instead of Christmas. (Or maybe you’d just like to take off to that tropical country.)
But you are likely looking at a reality of kids, family members and friends that you don’t want to let down with little notice. Plus you may genuinely LIKE some of these holiday traditions. But that’s the key: pare it down to what you like. Drop the rest – or drop at least 50 percent of that stuff you’ve always hated.
Make a list of all the things you normally would do, then cross off all the things you truly hate to do. Just cross ‘em off. Do it. Look at what remains and take 20 percent off of that.
How’s that feel?
2. Pay attention to who gets your money.
Okay, here’s where I get into a bit of a rant. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits (a blog I often enjoy) recently wrote a couple of posts promoting the idea of buying nothing during the month of December.
Well, that’s all well and good – as long as you don’t mind if your favorite local Mom & Pop shop closes its doors come January 1. Or if your favorite little independent web store pulls down their site.
Because, here’s the honest truth from someone who spent 20 years in the retail biz. The way retail works for most small-timers is struggle, struggle, struggle – debt, debt, debt, for about 10 months out of the year. Then for three blessed weeks in December the disaster is once again rescued. The debts get paid, and the cycle begins again.
I wrote about this in more depth last year with Shop Local and Independent This Holiday Season.
It’s not a pretty reality, but there it is: micro retail businesses NEED the holiday season spending frenzy in order to survive. So, if you’re buying gifts anyway, please resist the temptation visit Wal-Mart, or whatever big box you frequent. After all, it just gives you quantity over quality.
You may have to spend a little more for a smaller item at an independent retailer, buy you’ll be doubling the giving when you do it. And likely giving a much higher quality gift.
Think about it – please!
3) Step Away From the Buffet.
Okay, this one is not exactly a unique piece of advice, but I’m talking about taking care of YOU – not just because you want to fit into your jeans come January 1st, but because you want to feel some modicum of calm, some degree of energy and enthusiasm during these coming weeks.
If you succumb every time you confront those ubiquitous tins of cookies, those boxes of candy, those tempting piles of greasy finger foods at the office party – you just ain’t gonna feel any of that good stuff. Dare I say that instead you will slide through the holidays feeling like shit?
And who wants to start off the New Year feeling like crap? Is it really worth the fleeting pleasure of swallowing down that 4th cookie? I’m not saying you have to resist temptation every time (unless of course you are dealing with allergies or other health issues.) Sure go ahead and have that cookie. That ONE cookie.
To my mind, it’s just as detrimental to be too rigid and to forgo pleasures as it is to overindulge. So enjoy those flavors, those once-a-year treats (one of my favorites is a glass of Bailey’s Irish Cream on the rocks). Just don’t drown in the entire bottle!
A little intention goes a long way.
How do you want to feel? During the coming days and weeks – and on the first day of 2013? What is most important to you?
Hold that thought. Hold it loosely yet close to you, and return to it the next time someone passes you the cookie tin, or the big sale flyer arrives from the big-box store, or when you see someone with a bigger, better tree or car or load of gifts.
Does this work for you at all? What’s your holiday survival strategy? Let’s share some ideas in the comment section and over on Facebook.