I noticed earlier this week that countdown calendars are popping up everywhere:
- 15 days until Black Friday;
- 42 days before Christmas;
- 49 days until 2016…
As the days, hours, minutes and seconds wind down, the pressure of holiday busy-ness spins up. Add school concerts, recitals, parties, shopping, baking, juggling finances, and other extras to an already hectic “normal” routine, and you’ve got a recipe for stress. I know I tend to feel it…do you?
At the same time, I really don’t want that! As my list of things to do over the next several weeks grows longer, I’d like to avoid get all worked up about stuff that really doesn’t matter in the long run.
The million dollar question is how?
Unless we cancel Hanukkah, Ramadan, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Santa Lucia Day, Three Kings Day and (Chinese) New Year, there’s no easy, one-size-fits-all quick fix!
I’ve been working out my own answer to this question for a few years now, with some success. I hope that by sharing the things that are working for our family, you’ll reciprocate by sharing what works for yours and together we’ll get the busy-ness and stress down to manageable levels.
In our home, the single change with the biggest impact was when my parents, adult siblings, their spouses, Mr. GeoK and I agreed we’d stop exchanging gifts. We made an exception for grandchildren, nieces and nephews. It’s past time I thanked my sister for suggesting this, so NJ, if you’re reading this, thank you! By agreeing that it’s all about enjoying our time together, we reduced financial pressures, no longer have to figure out the “perfect gift” for each on a long list of relatives, and spend less time jockeying for a parking space at the mall.
That one big change led to other small changes. For example, it’s become tradition for the grandkids and Grandma to spend time together while doing some of the Christmas baking. All of us spend less time opening gifts and more time playing cards and board games.
One other change came about kind of by accident when I ran out of time and didn’t get our Christmas cards in the mail before Christmas. (I know, almost no one sends Christmas cards these days…but it’s important to me to stay in touch with far-flung relatives that I rarely see.) I ended up writing out those cards between Christmas and the New Year. I found it helped sustain that “special time of year” feeling, I ended up writing longer letters because I didn’t feel rushed, and I hoped those on the receiving end appreciated receiving a nice long letter after the holidays. So I decided to send my cards late every year.
Something else we’ve been doing for a few years now is putting up our artificial tree in late November. Not only do I enjoy the coloured lights for many more evenings, but it takes a bit more time pressure off in the week before Christmas.
Taken together, those few changes have really helped. Building on those successes, this year I’m going to add a daily dose of Nature to the mix. For quite a while now, I’ve been following the growing body of research into the benefits of spending time outside and I’ve learned that for me, taking time to #playoutside makes a big difference to my state of mind. While a short walk to the nearest grocery store to pick up a carton of milk, a bike ride, or a hike in the mountains helps me stay fit, something as simple as watching the sunrise while I drink a cup of coffee (or watching the sunset while I drink a glass of something else) helps me keep things in perspective…
As I pulled together this gallery of sunrise and sunset photos, the melody of a song I sang in school choir sprang to mind…
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears
– Sunrise, Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof
As I hummed the tune and thought about the lyrics, I was reminded that it’s worth striving to keep the level of busy-ness to a minimum all year round.
So now it’s your turn…please share your tips, tricks and other techniques to help the rest of us navigate these swiftly flowing days.