Do you have OCD (Obsessive Christmas Disorder)? Do you pine (pun intended!) over making the holidays a "perfect" experience for everyone in your life?
I think a lot of people do this and then stress-out looking for the perfect gifts (wrapped to perfection), decorating the house impeccably (inside and outside), attending every party (wearing the perfect dress and toting the perfect hostess gift), sending a hundred Christmas cards (BEFORE Christmas), preparing immaculate meals (worthy of a Food Channel feature), gaining a few extra pounds (maybe more than a few), etc., etc., etc.
To help out, I had a chat with a few friends of mine. Michelle Segismundo is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) who's helped a few stressed people in her days. She and my other friends share some advice to help you survive and thrive this holiday season....
1) First, pray!
Michelle says "if you believe in God, my first piece of advice is to pray!" And what an appropriate time of year for it...the holy-days! He cares for us SO much...do you think He wants you stressed out during "His season"! Whether it's needing help to overcome your perfectionism & OCD, to keep your hands off the baked goods, to let go of family issues, to help with the budget sitch', or whatever....throw up a prayer for help!
Turns out, she's right and science backs her up! In her book, The SuperStress Solution, Dr. Roberta Lee devotes a section to the topic of spirituality and prayer. “Research shows that people who are more religious or spiritual use their spirituality to cope with life,” notes Dr. Lee. “They’re better able to cope with stress, they heal faster from illness, and they experience increased benefits to their health and well-being...." Read more here!
2) Budget buster
Michelle says this is the #1 stressor at the holidays and unfortunately, the economy is NOT helping. It's really important to set a realistic budget NOW for all things holiday (cards, gifts, food, etc.) and then STICK TO IT!
If you're feeling overwhelmed about buying gifts for everyone, don't! Have an honest conversation with friends and family about your situation. There have been many times I've said “Can we just agree we’re not doing gifts for each other this year?” You can't believe what a time-saver and stress-reducer that is!
There are MANY ways to let people know they're loved without a trip to Walmart. Meaningful time together making memories is a huge treasure! So, find creative ways to make a memory without running up your credit card bill. Here's one idea: plan a "Games & Grub" day in January - drag out the Monopoly, Cranium or Pictionary and make a simple meal - you can even make a certificate to wrap and put under the tree.
My favorite financial counselor, Kathy Bickhaus has some great tips, too! She’s qualified because she's a Wealth Management & Senior Financial Advisor at Merrill Lynch in Dallas, TX: "Start in January! I buy my gifts throughout the year and have a big container I put them in. I hit the January After-Christmas sales for next year. What I don't get in January, I purchase a gift or two every month throughout the year and it evens out the expense. Keep a list of what you've purchased so you don’t overdo it or forget about gifts and buy too much. Doing this throughout the year allows you time to search online for coupons."
Michelle says, "The final step is not allowing yourself to feel guilt about not having a gift under the tree for every friend, family member or acquaintance! Your friendship is about more than Christmas gifts."
3) You really CAN'T have it all
The holidays present us quite a quandry....that fine balance between doing for others (after all, it’s about giving and thankfulness) and making sure YOU have a fun and restful holiday season, too! You can stress yourself doing everything everyone wants you to do and have a horrible month.
My friend Diane Paddison, who is a Chief Strategy Office, founder of www.4wordwomen.org and all-around busy woman, wrote a GREAT blog post this week about staying sane during the holidays. I loved her sage advice:
"Trying to satisfy everyone is a recipe for disaster, not for Christmas cheer.....My challenge to you this week is to sit down, before you get caught up in the swirl of Christmas activities, and honestly evaluate your free time and your holiday commitments. If you can’t bake cookies for every child’s class Christmas party, that’s okay. If you can’t squeeze in time to take a family photo for Christmas cards, that’s okay too....The key is to take care of yourself first so that you stay healthy and have the energy to enjoy the Christmas season with your loved ones.”
Michelle agrees and says "It's SO important to calendarize your time, prioritize and set boundaries. Don't agree to do things you really don't want or have time to do." While it takes a little time to plan it out and it's hard to say "no", it's so worth it in the end!
And don't forget the basics for keeping your body up to the holiday challenge: keep your workout routine, watch the alcohol intake, get your sleep and eat healthy (in between the occasional cookie binge)!
As for some practical tips on organizing to get it all done, see our blog post on 18 Tips for Organizing Your Holiday Season.
Finally, remember to give yourself the gift of "a break" and have fun! It’s supposed to be the holidays, for cryin’ out loud!
4) The Whole Fam Damily
The strain of tough family relationships is never more obvious than during the holidays. You're like a caged animal - you don't want to be at the big family Christmas party, but alas, you must!
Michelle advises us to remember this is a time of giving! There may be a few relatives you don't jive with, but you're there for other people, too. There are many relatives who look forward to seeing you, so remember that if you're dreading the event or considering a "NO!" RSVP. You can think of "being nice to the rellies" as your gift to them.
On the day of the event, repeat this mantra: "I'm strong...I can do anything for a couple hours!" Only you can control your actions and feelings - keep the conversation light and stay positive. While you have angst in your heart for your mother-in-law, she DID produce your husband, so suck it up!
So, STOP the OCD, follow this advice and give yourself a dang break this holiday season!