4 Steps to More Enjoyable, Less Stressful Holidays

4 Steps to More Enjoyable, Less Stressful Holidays

This is PART 1 of a 4-PART article written with you in mind and designed to help minimize the stresses associated with over packed, overdone holidays so you have time for self-care, enjoy your time with family and friends and create the holiday season that best fits you and yours.

Be Flexible

My husband and I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner for 20-30 people over a span of almost 20 years.

We operate from a plan we develop in early November and are in mutual agreement about who’s doing what, when. (More about how to develop a plan in Part 2) You know the saying, “the best laid plans”?  Here are a few of our plans with unforeseen elements and how we’ve learned to laugh and enjoy the holidays even with the unplanned.

Flaming Pies?

Ever catch your pies on fire? We did when someone left the oven setting on broil and we didn’t catch it until, well, the pies caught!

Laugh and Celebrate

My favorite Thanksgiving challenge was the year the oven gave up the ghost with absolutely no warning.

We got up early, had our coffee and chatted about the upcoming gathering.  We were looking forward to preparing the meal and sharing it with kids, grandkids, great grandparents and siblings.  We are a great team at preparing the turkey for roasting.  While the oven preheats…only it didn’t…ever…We had 24 people coming at noon, we had a 23 lb turkey ready to go in the oven and…no oven!  Tried various methods to get it to work to no avail.  After 30 minutes I called my brother-in-law who quite fortunately lives only 1 mile from us.  This is our conversation the minute he answered the phone, “turn on the oven to 350!” “what?” “Just do it please!  Michael’s on the way with the turkey!”

With that, my husband drove the turkey to my sister’s.  We continued the rest of our preparations. As family arrived we explained the turkey would be making a grand entrance, hopefully without too much delay.  When the time arrived, my husband and brother-in-law left our home to pick up the turkey.

Our home has a staircase in the entry way so all gathered in the upstairs room overlooking the entry to await the arrival of the turkey.  As it was grandly carried up the stairs, much cheering and applause accompanied it.  No one present will ever forget that Thanksgiving!

Have you ever had a vision of the holidays in your mind, only to have the reality turn out not quite like you imagined?  Remember the old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”?  Do you have a plan? A plan helps us focus on what is truly important to us.

Now is the time to think about this holiday season, and develop a plan of action.

Step 1.  Get Clear on What You Want – and DON’T WANT

Identify the things most important to YOU and to your family, the things you have absolutely no control over and the steps you can take to create a more enjoyable, less stressful holiday season.

Commit to taking time in the next day or two to make a list of things you like and don’t like about the holiday season.  ( if you are single or will be alone this holiday season, read this post.) (If you suffered a loss this year, read this)  Putting things in writing makes them real.  One way to do this is to use a notebook or journal.  On the right hand page(s) list things you love about the holidays.  Include your senses; identify your favorite smells, touches, sounds, sights and feelings.  On the left hand pages, list the things you don’t like, those you dread, those that leave you exhausted, grumpy or stressed, those you do because you should — rather than because you want to and enjoy them.  Again, include your senses as a guide.  If you live with others, this might be a good time to engage them in a similar process.

Have a family meeting to learn what your spouse would put on each list.  Do the same with your children.  If you are open to this process you might learn some valuable information – such as even though they are older they still want traditional foods for Thanksgiving and stockings on the mantel!  Modify your lists to incorporate those you’ve agreed on for the “Look Forward To” and the “Dread” lists.

Let go of unrealistic expectations of yourself and others.  After a day or two, review your lists.  Move all those things over which you have no control to a separate list – THINGS I CANNOT CONTROL.  On this list include unrealistic expectations of yourself and others. Holding onto unrealistic expectations is a sure way to create dissatisfaction and resentments.  Letting them go will greatly reduce your stress so you can focus on the things you can do and enjoy.  Be sure to include weather, illness, other’s cooperation, unforeseen happenings, even being tired sooner than you’d like.

Set your lists aside for a dayThis is important!  Letting go of your lists allows your brain to percolate on them rather than trying to perfect them.  Perfection is the enemy of progress!

In Part 2, I’ll show you how to turn the vision you’ve created for your holidays into a plan that will ensure you get more of what you WANT and less of what you DON’T WANT.

Read Part 2