As the holidays arrive, stoves simmer, and families reunite, the Most Wonderful Time of the Year resonates in our hearts. Our desire is to welcome guests to our home with beautifully adorned decorations, deliciously homemade delights and ambiance that rivals “It’s a Wonderful Life’s” final scene. Yet that goal, if not kept into balance, leads to…holiday stress.
“During the holiday season, most people feel a lot of pressure to pull off the perfect holiday,” says Judy Illingworth, LCSW, St. Luke’s Hospital and Health Network.
“We have an unrealistic, preconceived notion that’s impossible to bring to life because of all the extra work involved. There are so many additional demands on our time, and most families today are already very busy. Between all the extra parties, shopping, baking, cleaning, and entertaining, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and lose the real meaning of the holidays.”
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, nearly 50% of all women in the United States experience a heightened sense of stress during the holidays. About 60 percent report feeling sad or nervous, and over half feel fatigued.
When I read those statistics, I feel the Lord whisper (well, it might be more of a yell) that I do not have to be Super “Martha S.” My home, my hospitality, my love for gathering family and friends together is a “Good Thing,” even if it doesn’t grace December’s issue of House Beautiful.
So how do we avoid being part of that statistic during this holiday season, and still embrace the best of what this season has to offer?
1. Say “No” to unrealistic expectations, engagements and entertaining that cause unnecessary stress.
I am not saying avoid hospitality, or extending generosity. We love to open our home during the holidays, but I have found a balance between unrealistic expectations that I put on myself, and realizing people just want to spend quality time together in a loving, authentic environment. Three years ago, our family strategically starting clearing out unnecessary things from our schedule during the month of December. We were missing out on just “being” because we were so busy going, doing, going, doing. Doing “good things”, I might add, but things that distracted us from the beauty, simplicity and wonder that surrounded the holidays.
I realized it was impossible for me to please everyone, but I was responsible for how I helped engage my family in pointing them to our Savior. Now, we spend a lot of cozy times during December with special traditions and heritage building choices that are solidifying a strong generational legacy. Extend authentic hospitality? Yes. Stressful Entertaining? No.
2. Say “Yes” to a Budget.
Shockingly enough, 90% of people buy things they can NOT afford. Simply put, nine out of ten of you reading this post will make purchases over the next six weeks that you should not buy. How does that Green Eyed Monster creep in just when I feel I’ve squashed him. This is where that comparison trap gets us every time. When I am frenzied those last few shopping days and feel the need to put more and more under the tree, I stop and ask myself, “From where is this feeling coming? When have I ever felt “stuff” mattered more than relationships?” When the New Year’s Ball drops, and 2011 rings through with your finances in tact, and consumer debt avoided, you will be so thankful that you remembered what really matters. By January 10, most people, especially children, can’t reiterate 1/2 of the presents they received, but they will remember those special traditions that occurred with family and friends.
3. Engage the Senses
Within our loving, fun, chaotic home, I am passionate about engaging the senses. Stimulated senses enable us to experience life. Our senses soothe us, comfort us, welcome us, alert us, nourish us, encourage us…and so much more. When we stimulate the senses of those around us, it communicates love. Last year, I wrote a post about “Creating ambiance during meal time” I shared how every day, I light candles. Yes, you read that right. Don’t save them just for company. Your family is your most prized guest. Turning on the music, simmering hot cider, and lighting some candle are all simple and inexpensive ways to set a calming tone after a busy day just by engaging the senses.
I’m just getting warmed up sharing the ways I make my holidays less stressful, but suddenly, I’m stressed just thinking how long this post will be if I continue. 🙂 I’ll check in during December and see how we are doing when we’re full fledged deep in the middle of the season.
For now remember, as we prepare, plan and ponder the beauty of these next few weeks, let us not lose sight of the reason we gather: to celebrate, reflect, and pour out gratitude for the blessings found through our Savior.
P.S. One of the things I am grateful for is DaySpring. Make sure you check back here as DaySpring and (in)courage will have lots of goodies on sale for their “Pink (you heard me right) Friday” event this week!
By Jen Schmidt, Balancing Beauty and BedlamLeave a Comment
Emily C says
Love this post. Thank you for the reminder!
Holley Gerth says
Jen, thank you for this post! The holidays totally stress me out ever single year. You gave me just what I need–permission, grace, and a little more creativity. Grateful for you, girl!!
I just posted an identical post on my blog last night titled “The Quest for the Perfect Holiday”.
We women do put so much pressure on ourselves to make it perfect. We do it out of love for our families but I think they expect a lot less than we do. It’s the moments, memories and traditions our children will remember. And it seems that the memories where everything went wrong are the ones we remember and laugh about now. They are all precious!!!
Happy Thanksgiving Jen! I am thankful for my new on-line friends!!!
Thanks for the post … it’s a great reminder at the beginning of the season to slow down and enjoy the time.
Lisa-Jo @thegypsymama says
This is one of those posts I feel like we all need framed in our kitchens! 🙂
And passed around to share with all those we love!
Living the Balanced Life says
Some great tips to help get the holiday stress under control! It is so important for us to remember what the important things are in this season!
For me scaling down is by far the most important thing that I need to remember to do! Like Proverbs 17 says “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.”
Jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam says
Amen, Alejandra – Thank you for sharing that most appropriate Proverbs with us. 🙂
Debbie Simler-Goff says
I’m on my lunch break at work and was cruising the web trying to figure out how to decorate my Thanksgiving table for the 20+ people I have coming over.
I could feel my stress levels rising as I started to get anxious about all I have to do in the next three days when the Lord reminded me of the (in) courage website. (I heard Holly Gerth speak recently and she explained (in) courage’s premise.)
So I quieted my spirit and just read your post.
I just wanted to say thanks for ministering to me. My peace is restored and I’m going to lower my expectations of what this holiday will be and just focus on enjoying my family and ministering to them.
Jennifer, your post made my day!
Joy McMillan says
Such a good reminder! Thank you. My 3 year old has reminded me to light candles…every day for the past few weeks! I’m finally getting into some of the candles we got as wedding presents…7 years ago (gulp), that I was “saving”. She’s teaching me to live and celebrate life in the moment!
Galen Pearl says
Oh, man, do I love this! I have always decorated every available space inside and out during the holidays. And had a huge holiday open house (read huge numbers of people in a very small house). Last year I realized that the kids were getting older and not really into all the decorations anymore. The party was stressful to prepare for in the middle of all the other things going on (although it’s always lovely to see friends). So this year I made some changes.
First, I told the kids that whatever got decorated was up to them. I would help, but I wasn’t going to do it by myself , and I wasn’t going to nag them to help me.
Second, I switched my winter open house to a summer garden party. Last July we had a fun BBQ in the garden with all the folks who usually show up in December. No special decorating required — the garden took care of that. It was great fun.
As I approach this holiday season, I am a little sad that the house probably won’t be the most lit up, festive place in the neighborhood, but I know I will be less stressed, less cranky, and more focused on the joy of the season.
Thank you for reminding us to give ourselves permission to have a truly happy holiday!
Thank you for the sweet and calming inspiration! I needed to hear this today!!! Blessings to you! :0)
Thank for this encouragement and these practical tips! Even if some don’t feel a huge weight of stress during the holidays, I imagine most of us can relate to many parts of this post!
Amen on this: “…the reason we gather: to celebrate, reflect, and pour out gratitude for the blessings found through our Savior.”