I used to look forward to the holiday season for months before they got here.
As a new mom, however, the first couple of years have been so crazy that I actually started to dread them. I thought I needed to do everything and then some. I clearly remember buying every single thing on my kid’s Christmas list (and it was quite long!) because I felt like I had to in order to make the holidays special.
By the time the season was over, I was so thankful for the New Year simply because it meant I had made it through alive. However, after a few years of feeling completely stressed out the holidays, I decided some things had to change.
Here are a few changes we’ve made as a family to help move from feeling stressed to feeling blessed:
With everyone sharing what they are up to on social media these days, it is easy to feel like you have to do everything to get the most out of the holidays. Traditions are a beautiful thing, but we don’t need to do every single one to make the holidays special. In fact, if you just pick one or two that are really important to your family over the years, you’ll probably be more likely to stick with them and they will ultimately have a greater impact.
We just have a couple now—like baking gingerbread on the first day it snows and picking out a tree the day after Thanksgiving—and already I can see that my kids remember and look forward to them more than when I was trying to squeeze everything in. The added bonus is that now that I don’t have as much on my plate, I look forward to them more, too!
2. Eat Mindfully .
During the winter months, it’s natural to be more prone to eating sweets, indulging in rich foods, drinking more caffeine—there are cookies and candies being handed out everywhere! While some of this is essential to what makes the season festive, where we get into trouble is the collective impact it has on our bodies. Regular doses of sugar and caffeine give a quick boost of energy, but then leave us feeling drained and even more overwhelmed. Plum pudding on Christmas Eve is not something I would give up for the world, but our family has also been trying to appreciate what other slightly healthier treats the winter offers—clementines, pomegranates, persimmons, cranberries, for example.
3. Rethink Gift Giving.
Giving to others is part of what makes this season so great, but not when it comes at the expense of our own happiness. Once, I found myself standing in the middle of the mall about to keel over from being so overwhelmed, and I actually considered dropping a ridiculous amount of money on an “As Seen On TV” item for my uncle who I only see a couple of times a year. It was in this moment that I had the epiphany that this was totally crazy. We’ve done our best to make the switch to homemade gifts that are also fun for us to make. The kids love gathering branches for wreaths, or helping make homemade granola to give to the neighbors.
4. Keep Moving.
When the days get darker and colder, it is so tempting to curl up inside on the couch instead of heading outside or to the gym. Yet research shows what a huge impact regular exercise has on helping to keep stress levels low. I know personally that if I go more than a few days without exercise, I’m less patient with the little ones and way less happy. This winter, I joined a running group to help keep me accountable. As a family we make a point of getting outside every day even if it’s just for a little while.
5. Practice Daily Gratitude.
Practicing gratitude is probably the single most important thing you can do to move from stressed to blessed. I consider it my grown-up, real-life version of an advent calendar. I try to be on the lookout each day for something different about the season that I’m grateful for—spotting gorgeous Christmas lights on the drive home, the beautiful frost designs on my car windows, that lovely happy feeling I get when listening to holiday music. There are so many things about this time of year to be grateful for, and keeping them in the forefront of our minds can work wonders for our well-being.
I’m trying to do more of these things in my life because when it comes down to it, I want to feel that giddy excitement that I know my kids do. I want to look forward to these times and not just be grateful they are over. I want to feel more blessed and less stressed.
Author: Brooke Larrabee
Image: Unsplash/Caleb Woods
Editor: Callie Rushton