This is my tried and proven list of 20 very real things I do to keep sane and as stress-free as possible during this time of year:
1. Refusing to spend money I don’t have.
It can be really difficult to do things a new way in comparison to the way you’ve always operated as an adult; I do understand this, but truly if you can break free of using credit to purchase items, you will never regret it!
2. Celebrating the Christmas holiday season as Jesus’ birthday.
Or as a time to remember His birth rather than as a very extravagant second-birthday for every member of your family – that is just crazy! Feel ill-equipped to do this? Take them to church.
3. Planning ahead to spend time together.
Yes, this can be at home if you cannot afford to go away – so be prepared with games, books, crafts, movies, outings etc.
4. Eat as fresh and local as you can.
From your own veggie garden is obviously ideal. Keep food as inexpensive, fresh and as quick to prepare as possible.
5. Thoroughly clean your house before the week of Christmas arrives.
Do the jobs that are often left like, dusting, vacuuming the whole house, changing the bed linen. Involve the kids if possible and teach them to help keep the house clean too, to help their family.
6. Say no, refuse to compare, and get adequate sleep.
Don’t say yes to everything. Know your limits and don’t feel guilty if you skip an event – make sure you get adequate sleep and re-charge. Also say NO to comparing yourself to others and then feeling false-guilt when in your mind you are not as good! We all know what it’s like to look at other people’s posts, with their shop-like, home-baking efforts, and/or their luxurious family holidays…Simply say no, refuse to compare and hug your kids every day!
7. Be prepared in advance for special events.
It’s stressful when you’re trying to get ready for a special lunch or outing and everyone has a problem. I like to have taken steps toward avoiding this as best as I can. I make sure we all have had our hair done (even if it is a home dye and/or home hair-cut for my kids) and we all have some comfortable, decent clothes and shoes to wear out. This helps me stay calm and not get upset by avoiding pulling out something we planned to wear, only to find it is too small.
8. Have Christmas dinner out.
Is your budget really difficult? Plan ahead and find a community Christmas dinner if you can’t afford to do your own and don’t feel guilty – give thanks to God that these dinners are available for you and your family to enjoy.
9. Having kids’ friends over as a treat.
Explain to your kids the reality of having friends over – it can be simply expensive having another child to feed and you have less time together. Help your child/ren understand having friends over is a treat and not an everyday occurrence.
10. Make gifts or vouchers for friends.
I love to give but some Christmases for me have been challenging financially so I’d draw some art to give or bake some biscuits. Another idea I’ve seen is to give a ‘service’ voucher; for example, one free night of child-minding.
11. Be wise and honest with demanding people.
Many people struggle at this time of year and can become quite demanding, making your life more stressful than usual. Be wise with how you help demanding people and also be honest with them in a loving way; for example if they ask why you haven’t replied to their late night text, honestly say you were tired and it was late!
12. Have some quick gifts on hand.
Buying some small gifts like a bottle of wine or a small box of chocolates when they’re on sale, and having them in the pantry really helps when someone invites you over unexpectedly.
13. Buy yourself a special treat like some nail polish, a lipstick, or fragrance.
It makes us feel good when we’re well groomed for special occasions like the holidays – depending upon your style you could treat yourself to; a bright nail polish, lipstick, or body fragrance to put on for the holidays.
14. Avoid the shopping malls as much as possible.
Be wise with your day-of-the-week and time-of-day you head to the mall (if you need to at all). The parking, amount of people, queues and tension in the air is enough to raise anyone’s stress levels.
15. Do a bulk shop in advance.
Products like toilet paper, dish-washing liquid, washing powder, cleaning products, shampoo etc. can all be purchased in bulk and in advance so that you don’t run out over the holidays…or save your coins in advance for the laundromat, so you’re not inconvenienced by having none at the last minute.
16. Accept less clutter.
If possible say no to flyers, receipts and anything that will just end up in the bin after having sat on your bench for 3 or more months.
17. Intentionally switch-off and relax some nights.
Make yourself a nice beverage, switch off the television and WiFi and call an old friend one night to say Merry Christmas, or perhaps soak in the tub.
18. Ask the kids to be quiet.
Teach your children to be respectful of other people’s needs (this is of course dependent upon ages and developmental stages). For example teach them to be quiet if someone else is having a sleep-in or a nap.
19. Model manners and peace to your family and children. How much nicer would our communities be if this happened more? Let’s be intentional in raising children from families and loving communities, rather than more self-focused consumers.
Last but really first, pray for God’s peace for you and your family, also for patience, love and wisdom to really relax and keep stress-free.