Stress Less this Holiday Season

by Jessica Pigza

It is December! When did that happen? Didn’t we just finish with Halloween and now Thanksgiving is over too? The countdown to Christmas is in full swing and if you’re anything like me, the anticipation and panic of the holidays have well set in.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the holiday season and Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love the music, the food, the decorations and the snow. But over the past few years, as much as I love the holidays, I find myself mentally and physically preparing for the pressure that comes with my desire to make everything perfect.

The countdown is on! They love moving the snowflake every morning and counting how many days until Christmas. And yes, there isn’t a 17, but the kids think it’s hilarious and their giggles make me smile.

To prepare my body for this time of year I usually start taking Airborne every night beginning around Thanksgiving. I do this because I know the coming weeks are going to be busy, chaotic and involve a lot of late nights. I spend so much time thinking about what I’ve done and what needs to be done that I miss out on the fun. There’s the school productions, work parties, kids’ parties, sending cards, baking cookies and decorating. Then there are also the gifts for the neighbors, the kids’ teachers, family and friends. I make it such a drain on my mind, body, and spirit that sometimes I find myself not enjoying my favorite time of year.

I also suffer from something that I call procrastinating perfectionism. It’s a horrible combination that usually leads to stress and chaos. I want everything to be perfect but sometimes inspiration strikes at the last minute so I’m in a tizzy trying to get it all done.

Then finally, it’s Christmas day which will mark the end of my race. With all my adrenaline gone and the long nights, bad eating and stress from the past month catching up with me and I will most likely be sick come New Year. Last year I didn’t even make it to Christmas Day. I was so sick I couldn’t move off the couch starting Christmas Eve. I missed it, putting out cookies for Santa, writing the note, reading Twas the Night Before Christmas. And for what? For this idea of perfection that no one else puts on me but myself. I don’t want my kids to remember Christmas time as just the time of year that mom always goes nuts – right?

Starbucks and I met when we lived near Seattle, WA and my son decided he didn’t need to sleep at night…ever. Then I started collecting their ornaments every year and eventually had enough to create our little Starbucks tree. And since all my kids were born in WA I even found the ornaments that were made in the years they were born. Every year my kids love decorating this tree and finding their cups!

But sadly I feel that I have let my kids down in years past, making the holidays a stressful time of year instead of enjoying these moments while they are still young. They are the perfect age where they still want to be with me and they still have the wonder and excitement of the holidays in their eyes. They still believe in the magic! I NEED to remember that when my kids look back, they will not remember every single gift that was under the tree, or if the house was decorated with precision, but they will remember what we did as a family. And whether or not mom was smiling or screaming.

So this holiday season I’m trying desperately to chill out and keep things fun. I’m going to not let things overwhelm me and remember the true meaning and spirit of this time of year. To accomplish this I’m working on a few things that I hope will help with the holiday stress. Wish me luck!

1. Prioritize

What are the most important things I want to do this holiday season? Are they things that really matter to me or am I just checking a box of what I’m supposed to do this holiday season? Baking cookies perhaps? Or maybe Christmas cards are super important. Prioritizing is a step that will help me to relax more this time of year. For me, we decorated the inside of the house but we didn’t get to the outside this year and I’m okay with that. Also, formal pictures are a no-go this year too. I’m not going to have time to put together coordinating outfits and have professional pictures done. I will save that for the springtime when life is a little more chill. Don’t get me wrong, I do want some family pictures, but I’m going try to get some when we’re already dressed up for one of the events I still plan on enjoying with my family.

2. Simplify

This is the biggest one! Every year I spend countless hours shopping and trying to find the best deals. With Black Friday now starting the week before Thanksgiving, it seems that prices are always changing and I’m always chasing the best deal. So I’ve decided that I’m cutting back on the number of gifts the kids are getting. (My husband is pretty happy about this one) The reality is they don’t need much and a few really thoughtful gifts are much better than a bunch of filler gifts that in the end, just take up time, space and money. Plus I don’t need anything else to trip over when I kiss my kids goodnight. I would just get so focused on making sure they had a bunch of things to open that I lost sight of what was really important and what this season is really about.

Also, I really enjoy baking cookies but instead of making dozens and dozens of different kinds of cookies, I could pick out just a few favorites and make those. I can also let go a little and let my munchkins help out more with tasks that I know they can handle. Since I’m always in a rush trying to get the next thing accomplished they don’t always help me in the kitchen. This is something I know I will look back on and regret. Some cookies may not be picture perfect, but they will still taste delicious. The kitchen will be a bigger mess, but my hope is that if everyone is still smiling at the end. Plus practice is the only way my little bakers will get better.

3. Now Make a List

Make a list, a realistic one and stick to it. Now that I’ve figured out how I’m going to prioritize and simplify, I need to write it down and stick to it. It’s so easy to get swept up in the events and sales of the season. That is why I’m putting pen to paper and using my list as my guide. Not only will it help keep me on track but it will also help keep me on budget. (Another thing my husband is happy about) Normally I just wing it when it comes to buying gifts and end up with stuff I don’t need or they don’t want. Plus I’m never finished. I also get sucked into sales because I don’t have a guide to follow and end up spending way more then I had anticipated. The best thing about a list is that it gets things out of my head. I can just look at my list and enjoy the satisfaction of crossing things off of it which means there is an end, I’ll know when everything is done and I can enjoy Christmas even more.

So what are some of your ideas to make the holidays a little less stressful?
About Jessica

Jessica is a military wife, married to her husband Nate of 14 years, and stay at home mother to three energetic and fearless children, Sophia, Brandon and Rachel. Originally from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, the military life has given her a chance to live all over the United States and meet many amazing people along the way.