Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How I approach the holidays, so as not to lose my mind

As many of you know, I work with responsibility.org and this month they asked me to write about how I keep my stress level down around the holidays. This is an important topic for me because after loving Christmas my whole life, I realized a few years ago I had totally lost my holiday spirit.

In fact, I found the process of managing Christmas as a mom and an adult to be frankly horrible. For years, by mid-December I was giant ball of stress and feeling like this:


That is not an attitude conducive to creating precious holiday memories. It is, however, very much conducive to drinking every day and staying up too late to deal with the stress, which would only make me less able to handle the stress the following day. 

In 2010, the holidays changed for me. That was the year that Kate and I organized a gift card exchange among readers of this blog. Moms who needed help were matched up with moms who could spare a $20 gift card or two. We killed ourselves, working 8-10 hours a day for two weeks to matching up over 2,000 people. It was amazing. It truly changed my life.


From that time on, I adjusted my focus during the holidays. I did less for my own family and more for those in my community who needed some help. Nobody in my family missed the stuff I stopped doing. The bottom line is that we have everything we really need. Christmas had become about getting what we want.

What I wanted was a PERFECT FAMILY CHRISTMAS. But 2010 was my wake up call and I don't want that anymore. It's a crazy-maker and it's why I ended up hating the whole the month of December.

Now, our favorite family holiday tradition is that we do at least one service project per week between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This week, a local church is hosting a hypothermia prevention shelter for the homeless and we're cooking a hot breakfast for 36 of their guests. Last week, we volunteered at a Santa's workshop event that benefited families in need. We grab paper angels off the angel tree. Toys for Tots? You betcha. If we don't have an ice storm this weekend, then we'll lay wreaths at Arlington National Ceremony with our kids' scout troops. We do lots of different stuff and it's all great.

Though I'm a lot better than I was, I still sometimes fall into what I call "Griswold Syndrome," where I frenetically try to make everything perfect and the harder I try, the more of a goat rodeo everything becomes. But having things on my calendar every week brings me back to reality and reminds what's important. So now, my attitude and stress levels are a lot better - not perfect - but better.


Even though it still gets crazy, I like to remind myself that this time of year is really about connection. Doing purposeful work for others alongside my kids is the best gift I could give them and it's the best thing I do for my own mental health all year. We connect with each other, we're mindful of others and how we can serve them, and we're made more grateful and appreciative for the lives and relationships we are lucky enough to have. And that has decreased my stress and helped me find the joy in the holidays again.
  
This post is sponsored by Responsibility.org as part of their #StartsWithMe campaign, encouraging families to talk early, talk often, and be healthy. All the opinions are my own because no one is the boss of me. I'm very proud to be part of the #TalkEarly blogger team this year. 

(c) Mommyland Blogs 2013-2016

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