Getting Through the Holidays (without having to go over the river and through the woods)
There's a Christmas song that says you have to go "over the river and through the woods" to get to grandma's house. That seems like a lot of work to me and often, so do the holidays. I don't know about you but whenever November arrives, I look towards the holidays with both joy and dread. I'm no Scrooge but I find that it's so easy to be overwhelmed by the effort and the angst of preparing for the holidays at a time when I should be filled with joy, gratitude, and fun-ness. But perhaps it doesn't have to be that way.
As of today, I have a to-do list that would rival Santa's. OK, it's not really that
bad but I'm stressed because I only have 12 days to complete it. And yes, the irony of 12 days until Christmas is not lost on me. But in reality, it's less than 12 days because I can't wait until Christmas Eve to do most of it.
The list includes the regulars. Christmas cards, gifts, decorations, meal planning, grocery shopping, party going, and watching It's a Wonderful Life
at least three times. I don't remember seeing my parents this busy when I was a kid. Of course, I was more concerned about my gifts than what my parents were doing.
So, here's the thing. We have become so focused on the "doing" during holidays that we no longer spend time on the "meaning" of the holidays. This frenetic busy-ness distracts us from the reason we're busy in the first place. But I can't look to my church for help. They're just as busy as I am creating all the activities surrounding the "meaning" of Christmas. In fact, most church staff are so overworked during this season that they go into hiding during January.
I think we have to change our perspective around the holidays so that we don't all end up bitter, stressed out, and cyni-santa-cal (I made that up).
The philosophy of Do it Well, Make it Fun means that we combine excellence and fun. Neither excludes the other but they both work in tandem. And I believe this can apply to everything we do, including the holidays. So, here are my 12 (of course) tips to keep you sane as you face the things that drive us nuts and turn us into fruitcakes during this season.
1. Take a minute to re-focus on the reason for the season
. Make sure you know why you're celebrating in the first place. This sometimes grounds us in what's really important.
2. Align the reason for the season with your activities
. For instance, it's probably not consistent with your faith to go into debt because you overspent on Christmas presents. I'm not sure that's what Jesus had in mind (even though a few folks did bring him gifts).
3. Don't do it all
. Just because you get invited to 14 parties doesn't mean you have to go to 14 parties. Pick the ones that are the most fun, the most fulfilling, or require the least preparation. Or simply avoid the parties that will include people who irritate you.
4. Don't do it all at once
. The old adage of taking one day at a time is good throughout the year (even though that's not thinking one day at a time). If you do a little each day, it adds up. But if you try to do everything all at once, it can stress you out.
5. Consider changing traditions
. Sometimes we overload ourselves with certain activities because "we've always done it that way." Some traditions are good and can give us a sense of purpose, stability, and comfort. But some cause us stress and can be eliminated. If one of your traditions is giving away fruitcakes, let me suggest you eliminate that one. Just saying.
6. Eat and drink in moderation
. The holidays tempt us to consume too much. That's why we have an upsurge in gym memberships right after January 1. It may taste good in the short urn but it can be a health problem in the long run. I love what Jack Lalanne said, "If it taste good, spit it out." Remember, if you don't have your health, you're dead.
7. Keep up your exercise routine
. When things get busy, we tend to neglect our bodies. We were made to move so we need regular exercise to stay healthy. As a friend of mine said, when I told her I didn't have time to exercise, "Do you have time for cancer? Do you have time for a heart attack?" Good point.
8. Focus on building relationships
. Sometimes the holidays thrust us into the midst of friends and family with whom we may have strained relationships. While this is not easy, we are better served by focusing on building
these relationships than what's not right with these relationships.
9. Find time for yourself
. It's important to have me
time during the holidays. This can be a nap, a bubble bath, or an hour with a good book. You can't be "on" all the time and you will replenish quicker if you include some down time.
10. Do something fun every day
. Watch a movie together, go on a walk, play charades, throw snowballs at neighborhood teenagers. Remember, a day without funshine is like a day without orange juice (or something like that).
11. Be thankful.
We just finished Thanksgiving and yet, within a few weeks, we have forgotten what it was all about. When we're grateful for what we have rather than regretful for what we don't have, the world seems a bit brighter. Remember that gratitude affects your attitude. Plus, it rhymes which is always a nice bonus.
12. Take responsibility
. Unfortunately, nobody is going to make you're holidays meaningful, bright, or joyous. That's up to you. But once you realize that, you can control more of the experience.
Unless you're a kid, chances are, the holidays are going to include some stress - especially if you're dealing with illness, grief, or other serious life challenge. However, if you go into them by taking responsibility for what you can control, there's a good chance they will be more joy filled.
For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Shameless Self Promotion
I would be remiss if we didn't suggest that any (or all) of my three books would make great holiday gifts. And here's why...
Is Your Glass Laugh Full: Some Thoughts on Seeing the Humor in Life
Ron's first book which is full of funny stories showing the humor that's all around us.
My Kneecap Seems Too Loose: 365 Random Thoughts to Inspire Deeply Shallow Thinking
Ron's second book which offers a funny, wacky, and sometimes (but not often) profound look at the world.
Do it Well. Make it Fun. The Key to Success in Life, Death, and Almost Everything in Between
Ron's flagship book on how to achieve greater success in life and work.
The following are some of Ron's recent presentations:
Roanoke, VA - Keynote for the Carillion Clinic.
Paris, France - Keynote for the Professional Speakers Association of France.
Oklahoma City, OK - Keynote and breakout session for the Oklahoma Hospital Association
Winnipeg, Canada - Keynote for the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers
Since a lot of people focus on health as their New Year's resolution, I'd like to recommend an outstanding book that will convince you of the importance of exercise. By the way, there's a version for especially for women too.
Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy - Until You're 80 and Beyond
by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, MD
Just Plain Funny
My dear friend David Glickman is Jewish and one year, his family was going on a cruise. When I asked him when he was getting home, he said, "We get back on Christmas Day or as we call it, Thursday."
That may be one of the funniest things I've ever heard.
I wish you much joy, peace, and laughter during this holiday season.