Put to the test by holiday stress

Put to the test by holiday stress


by Mary Cornforth Cawood

reducestressThe calendar is filling and it is only December 1.  I already feel behind. According to my kids, we are the only ones who do not have any decorations up.  Did I mention it is only December 1? My mom used to have a rule that no decorations went up before December 15 because it was too long for children to wait for Christmas if they went up any sooner.  I applaud her efforts.  Now it seems like if your decorations aren’t up by the day after Thanksgiving, and your cards and shopping finished by the end of the weekend, you are late to the game. Ugh, the pressure.

We spent Thanksgiving weekend in Denver, enjoying the holiday lights and decorations and best of all, attending the Nutcracker. I LOVE the Nutcracker. To me, it signifies the official start of the holidays.  Christmas isn’t the same without it.  The ballet was wonderful, and I enjoyed spending time with my mom and daughters.  We ate at our favorite restaurants, shopped and enjoyed the first major snowfall of the season.  It was a conscious choice to focus on experiences rather than to-do lists, and it was a great weekend!

Then we came home.  First words out of my daughter’s mouth as we turn into our neighborhood, “Everybody has their lights up but us!” “When are we putting up our tree?” And so it begins…

From now until Christmas, there is something on the calendar every weekend and quite a few weeknights as well.  School programs, piano recitals, plays, office parties, and on and on and on…  These activities are supposed to be fun and make the holidays more enjoyable, but every year they turn into chores.

I spent the last day of November scrambling to find and fill the advent calendar, ordering Christmas cards, taking advantage of Cyber Monday deals, and mapping out the activities for the rest of the month.  All done after a full day of work, chores, and homework.  I broke the first cardinal rule of staying well during the holidays – sleep was sacrificed.  Did I mention it is only December 1? 24 more days, really?!christmascalendar

Life was so much more enjoyable before social media – peaceful oblivion. In addition to the barrage of advertisers urging you to spend, spend, spend, you now scroll through the posts of friends’ and loved ones’ beautiful decorations, perfectly dressed children, and baking spreads fit for a magazine.  And you thought the Christmas letter was bad! Let’s face it; we are all guilty of posting aforementioned content. It is a momentous occasion to have a post-worthy holiday moment.

When daily life is already busy, the holidays seem overwhelming, particularly for us overachievers.  To not live up to the expectations we have set, is well, unfathomable. By the time Christmas Day has arrived, I’m beat.  Done, over it, and vowing that it will not happen again next year.

Each year, I begin the season repeating this mantra over and over:  Being present is the best present.  Give the gift of your time. Make memories. Yet, it is so easy to get sucked back into the hustle and bustle I know so well – the pressure to do it all.

So here I am again, asking myself, “What do you want your kids to remember about the holidays? Are you fun when you are stressed out? Is this the example you want them to follow?” And the answer is, “Absolutely not.”  I don’t need a New Year’s resolution, what I need is a holiday revelation: My best (whatever that is on any given day) is good enough. No more, no less.

December 7 update:

We have lights! Outdoor decorations are done, and kids are happy. I fully intended to get the tree decorated as well, but it didn’t happen and that’s okay. I can live with that.  My daughter did set her purple (yes purple) tree up in her bedroom which seemed to satisfy the indoor expectations for now.  The rest can wait until next weekend when it will feel more like fun and less like a chore.  Decorating was not the top priority because we spent the weekend shopping for presents for foster kids, looking at lights, and relaxing together which is really what the focus should be during the holidays, not perfection.


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