by Caren Crane
Now that the holidays are over, I have a confession to make. I have a tendency to...well...over-extend myself at the holidays. I commit to too many social gatherings. Offer to bake one batch of cookies too many or buy just one more gift for those in need. At my house, I am in charge of buying and wrapping all the gifts for my husband, children, family and friends. Also getting the kids' Christmas pictures taken, doing the holiday baking, sending the Christmas cards and decorating the house. My husband helps, but only with things I specifically direct him to do (like, put up the Christmas tree or buy a gift for me).
For this past year, by time Christmas rolled around, I had no paid time off from work left. Not even one hour! So all the things I did were wedged in around a full-time job. The result of all this busy-ness has traditionally been complete burnout by Christmas day.
In 2008, I took it easier. My "take it easy" holiday philosophy developed slowly over the years and mostly due to desperation. I gave up stressing out about the house being decorated a few years back. It gets done, but no big deal if the outside lights don't get put up or there aren't electric candles in all the windows. I have let my daughters bake Christmas cookies in the past couple of years (for the record, we made none for 2008). Heck, three years ago, the girls sent all the Christmas cards! So, I've learned to let go a little. But in the past year and a half, I have been sick for long periods of time. Sinus infections and plenty of them, despite the best drugs on the market. Most of the illnesses were exacerbated by exhaustion.
This past year, I learned to take time for me. I often napped in my car at lunchtime, instead of running errands every day. I walked away from my desk and took a coffee or tea break. At home, the laundry often piled high and the cupboard got bare. I found that if things got desperate enough and there were literally no clean socks in the house...someone would be spurred to action. My children learned, at a core level, that if they did not write things on the grocery list, my husband never thought to buy them. This applied to everything from bread and milk to toilet paper. I didn't abdicate my worrying and errand-running throne, but somehow I let go of the feeling of Impending Doom I used to get if we ran out of Special K bars or forgot to buy bagels for choir extended practice.
There is nothing like being laid low to teach you what is important in life. Your life. The only one you get. I learned to take time for me. When I did, guess what happened? Nothing. At least, nothing I didn't want to happen. In the just-passed holiday season, I took time for me. This Christmas, I got to enjoy all the wonders of the holiday season without undue stress or bone-deep exhaustion. I'm looking forward to next Christmas already--even if our halls don’t get decked a bit!
So, why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to make things perfect during the holidays? Are we afraid of letting others down or simply not meeting our own expectations? And when it comes to holiday brouhaha, why are we so reluctant to relax? Please share any tips and tricks you've learned to ease the pressure. We could all use more ME time!