I just happened to look at the calendar the other day...I mean really look at it. I felt this strange sensation--a slight increase in my respiration, an unsettled feeling in my core, just a tiny bit of panic, barely held at bay. Thanksgiving is less than two week away. There are only 43 days until Christmas. My kids will be starting the school holiday break in just over four weeks. Family from out of town will be visiting right after Christmas. The Holiday Service schedule for church just came out, and I suddenly have a lot more Nursery slots to fill...
Yes, the holiday season is upon us. I haven't even begun shopping yet. I will be hosting a Thanksgiving evening get-together as well as a Christimas Eve party, and I haven't even thought about the menu yet. I still need to make an appointment for holiday photos and decide how much holiday baking to do. I am working three days a week and subbing when I can since my husband is out of work (that's another post, entirely!), as well as running the church nursery on Sundays.
That barely-controlled panic is slowly growing into something I may not be able to manage if I'm not careful. Who's with me? I know you all know exactly what I'm talking about. So what do we do?
It so easy to get sucked into the hustle and bustle and to get so overwhelmed you want to make like the Kranks and skip Christmas. That's when I know I need to really get a grip. Below are just a few things that help me stay sane during the busy holiday season.
• Learn to say "no." I tend to say "yes" to just about anything I can if it helps someone else. I generally feel like this is a good quality to have, being a servant of God. However, there's only so much of me, and when I get to the point where I feel like I've given so much of myself that there's nothing left for me or my family, then it's time to make a change. It's okay to say no! Especially if doing so means you get to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee or tea, play a board game with your kids, or, umm, I don't know, have a conversation with another adult...
• Exercise. I'm the first to admit that I'm so not good at this one. It's mostly a time thing. If I exercise in the evening, I find I'm too stimulated to sleep. And I'm rarely willing to get up earlier than my 5:30 am start. But, what I've found is that taking 10-15 minutes 2-3 times a day to something active is a great mood-booster, and it helps keep my joints loose and lessens aches and pains. Overall, I feel more energized and capable of handling whatever the day brings. And I sleep better. Total win-win.
• Make time to reflect. Taking even a few minutes each day to think about the highlights of the day can be a great reminder to give thanks. A daily devotion is also a really great way to re-center and ground ourselves. On my work days, I arrive early because my older daughter catches a bus from the campus I work to the Middle School. I have about 15 minutes until I have to clock in, so I use that time to sit quietly in my car and read a short devotion and reflect on the Scripture involved. I can't even describe how much this prepares me for a joy-filled day!
• Pay attention to nutrition. We can all relate to the seemingly constant supply of food that comes along with the holidays. Overly processed meats, cheeses and snack foods, sodium-laden chips and dip, baked confections loaded with processed sugar, not to mention holiday cocktails...it's so easy to over-indulge when these things are just right there at the tips of our fingers. Because I feel like we should aim for a "most of the time" mentality, I allow myself a splurge here and there, but I make a deal with myself: For every cocktail or glass of wine, I drink two glasses of water. For every unhealthy snack, I have a serving of raw veggies. For every sweet treat, I have a piece of fruit. My goal is to make the healthy choice first and only indulge if I still really want it. I often find I don't! Eating healthfully and staying hydrated keeps my blood sugar stable so I don't crash and keeps my mood up. Good nutrition also helps support a strong immune system, so I'm usually able to avoid most of the illnesses that are going around at this time of the year. Considering I work in Early Childhood, that's no small feat! I like to make sure I'm taking extra vitamin C and zinc, too, which also boost the immune system.
• Go to church. I can't even count the number of times I've sat in church and felt like the message was tailor-made for me. Whatever I dealt with through the week or am currently dealing with, my answers are right there, in God's word. We need our spiritual cups refilled often and going to church accomplishes it every time. Faith affects so much in our day to day life and even effects our health. Check out this article to learn more. And the fellowship we share with other members of a congregation is vital to our well-being. Just making those connections each week can really turn things around. When I leave church, I feel equipped, encouraged and empowered to face the week that's coming. And during the holiday season, it helps me focus on the things that are really imporant--the love of Christ, the happiness and health of my family, and the joy of my relationship with my Savior!
It's not always easy to keep perspective when we feel pulled in a dozen different directions, but it's alway worth it to take the time to regroup and look for the beauty in each moment. How do you stay sane during the crazy holiday season?
For some more inspirational reading, headover to The Quiet Homemaker!