12 Steps to More Peaceful Holidays

Life’s crazy. I get it. But remember that time-management illustration about putting the big rocks in the container before you put in the sand? Time to plan the the big stuff now and fill in the rest instead of letting the holidays get the better of you. This year you can get it right. Here are my twelve suggestions for insuring a calmer holiday season:

  1. Think about the reason for the season. If the holidays are rooted in religious meaning for you, make those the focus. Hanukkah starts December 24 this year, so you have some time. This site has some great suggestions. If Advent holds meaning for you, subscribe to a reading plan for spiritual reflection. I like Shannon Gianotti’s Advent devotionals because they incorporate the arts and senses.
  1. Plan your charitable giving. Collect coins and stick them in a pocket or purse, ready for the bell ringers. Decide now what charitable organizations should receive your giving dollars, and write the checks. When you get bombarded with requests, you’ll have the satisfaction of intentionality and can honestly say you’ve already made your year-end contributions.
  1. Think about your correspondence. If you sponsor a child, you can’t wait till December 22 to mail a card if you want it to arrive anywhere near December 25. Pick up a bookmark or some stickers and get them in the mail now. If you send out an annual letter, schedule a time to get it written.
  1. Decide about cards. If you haven’t already sat for a family photo, select a casual shot from the past year. And get those cards designed and/or ordered ASAP.
  1. Buy Christmas stamps, if you plan to use snail mail. You can purchase stamps online now and avoid the insanity at the post office.
  1. Prepare the car. Keep canvas bags handy for quick grocery runs—avoiding plastic. Carry some Granola bars and bottles of water for the homeless. Choose your favorite music and make the most of drive time. Consider ordering an audio production of classic Christmas radio plays, like the one narrated by Orson Welles, Lionel Barrymore, Maureen O’Hara and other great voices. When you’re stuck in the Panera drive-thru four weeks from now, the stories will take the edge off your aggravation.
  1. Make scheduling choices. Write out the list of activities you need/want to do and get them on the schedule so the rest of your life won’t crowd out what matters. Reserve the date for the kids’ musical. And for caroling. Or the holiday show you want to attend. (I’m eager to see Martin Scorsese’s production of Shūsaku Endō’s “Silence,” which premieres December 23. I just finished reading the novel and am devouring Mako Fujimura’s Silence and Beauty as prep.) If you have a Pinterest account, create a board where you can pin your favorite ideas—you can make it private so you won’t spoil surprises. Schedule that tour of lights or the arboretum event you’ve been wanting to attend. Need a day off work for shopping, baking, and/or spa time? Need your nails done for that party? Schedule them all now. If your health insurance has a December 31 cutoff, call to arrange any necessary doctor visits before everyone else remembers. That refugee family that needs friends: invite them to join you for a community production of the Nutcracker, the local church’s children’s musical, or a New Year’s party. And one more thing—schedule a “me” day in the middle of it al for lounging in pajamas and playing video games.
  1. Buy tickets today. Reserve your seats for holiday shows. Consider giving your family group experiences rather than stuff. Research says they’ll love it more.
  2. Stock up for stockings or Hanukkah gifts. Rolls of quarters. Batteries. Lip balm. Movie passes. CDs. Hair bands. A hand-knitted scarf. Gift certificates. Crisp bills. Hot chocolate mix. The accumulation can be lots more fun when collected over time vs. the last-minute dash to Wal-Mart on December 23 at 7:45 PM.
  3. Start freezing. Dough, not yourself. Get the big mess out of the way so you can enjoy great sweets and smells later without the time drain and sloppy kitchen. Double up making healthful appetizers like Chex mix and freezing some dinners like lasagna, too.
  4. Make a list and check it twice. To whom will you give gifts? After you’ve included the essential family members, add the teachers and neighbors, delivery people, hairdressers, and salon servers. And start ordering. Buy gift cards. Order food trays. And keep an extra Starbucks card handy for the person you forgot. And consider justice as part of your purchasing choices—buying from companies with fair labor practices, supporting microbusinesses that provide jobs for underserved populations, and giving gifts like a goat in someone’s honor.
  5. Collect others’ wish lists. If your family exchanges gifts, ask your siblings/spouse and/or kids to tell you what they want. And carry their lists with you. Making homemade gifts? Get started.

Make a Schedule

Schedule a date now with your calendar—perhaps while having a tasty kale salad (insurance against the seasonal sweets ahead). Take the insanity out of the season by planning ahead. Why? So you can replace rushing, pushing, and stressing with sounds, smells, and relationships. Happy Holidays!

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