Saturday, November 27, 2010

In Search of a Merry Christmas

Part of the Chronic Babe Blog Carnival. Click here to read the other submissions!

Every year around this time, I resolve to make this holiday season better than the last one. For me, ‘better’ is defined as simpler, more restful, more peaceful, less stressful, and just plain HAPPIER.

It’s an ongoing battle - one that’s intensified by my Type A personality, my extreme love of Christmas, and my chronic illnesses. Three years ago, I married a nurse with a completely ridiculous (and utterly unpredictable) holiday work schedule. Two years ago, we threw a baby into the mix.


It sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? But the good news is that I’m getting better every year. And the even better news is that I’m going to share some of my ‘little keys to success’ with you right now.

Plan ahead.
I can’t stress this one enough. The farther ahead you plan, the more options you have - and the better you can pace yourself. I’m doing more and more of my holiday shopping online and it’s awesome. I wrap it all a few gifts at a time during evenings when I’m feeling good - and by Christmas, it’s all done. Without some planning, I end up stressing myself out, which ends up making my chronic illnesses worse, which means that I don’t get anything done at all (or even if I do, I’m not enjoying it). It’s a lesson that was learned the hard way. More than once. But like I said, I’m getting better :)

Keep it simple.
A friend recently sent me a link to this article about the gifts we can give our children. It’s SO TRUE that my best holiday memories have nothing to do with gifts and everything to do with the people I love. Every year, we find new ways to streamline our holidays. This year, Geoff + I are taking a trip together and skipping a gift exchange. And I have a few friends who I plan special evenings out (or in) with in lieu of presents. The best part is that these ‘presence’ presents don’t have to happen right at Christmas. Schedule them for January and February, when you have the energy to really enjoy them.

Choose realistic priorities (and then say NO).
I’m never going to make it to every Christmas party and event. And not everyone will always understand why. You know what? I think I can finally say that it’s okay. My priority during this time is myself and my little family - my husband and my daughter. Everything and everyone else is a bonus.

Focus on people.
Look for ways to turn chores you are dreading into quality time with people you love. This year, I did a bunch of my grocery shopping with a friend. We hit up Starbucks first and had a blast. I do all of my holiday baking with others too - one day with my mom and my sister and one day with a friend. When the things on your ‘to do’ list become less about things and more about people, I promise they will start to feel less stressful.

Don’t get hung up on the details.
My family’s most memorable Christmas was actually the year we had to throw all our traditions out the window and were unexpectedly snowed in at a friend’s house. I think about that a lot when I’m stressing about everything that needs to get done - because there are actually very few things that NEED to get done.

Keep doing what’s working.
The holidays won’t be any fun for anyone if I end up flat in bed - or in the hospital. Now is the most important time to keep going with the diet, exercise, medication, sleep, and other plans that have been working for you.

Make healthy traditions.
Every year, I host a big American Thanksgiving dinner at our house (we’re Canadian but many people in our lives - including my husband - have strong American roots). Instead of stressing out about it, I make the turkey and everyone else brings different dishes for our potluck style feast. I love it. It has become my favourite holiday, no question. I stay away from traditions like tromping into the woods to cut down a Christmas tree - I won’t always be able to do things like that. But traditions that work even in the midst of a flare up? Yes, please.

Schedule time outs.
My calendar between Thanksgiving and Christmas is already full of a few date nights, a massage, a hair appointment, a coffee date with friends, a couple of lazy family nights at home, and other things that make me happy - breaks in what could become a seriously overwhelming schedule. If I don’t plan ahead, these things don’t happen. And if these things don’t happen, I get sick.

I have a little reality check: NO ONE is going to think of these things for you. The holidays are stressful for everyone, and it’s up to YOU to make the changes you need to enjoy this season - and communicate them to the people around you.

I know that it sometimes makes you feel like the Grinch. Oh honey, I KNOW. But trust me that it’s all worth it to be able to celebrate a truly Merry Christmas.

HUGS. No go and be awesome :)

What kinds of things do you do to help make the holiday season happier?

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At November 27, 2010 4:58 PM, Anonymous Marilyn said...

A great blog whether or not we have chronic issues:) Enjoy the holiday time.

At November 27, 2010 7:42 PM, Anonymous Momma said...

I was thinking the same thing as Marilyn. It's what we should all try to do to make the season doable and enjoyable and not stressing out about the details. It's the busyness and worrying that take the joy out of it. And spending money that you can't really afford to spend on gifts that no one really needs.

At November 29, 2010 11:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post!

At December 06, 2010 4:44 PM, Anonymous Felicia Fibro said...

Great post! It is so true about how we are the ones who have to think of and implement ideas to keep us feeling well during busy, stressful times - like holidays.


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