Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Getting Through the “Christmastime Crazies”

Have you noticed how life seems to get more and more crazy the closer you get to Christmas? Here are some suggestions for getting through this crazy season and keeping your sanity and family together!

1. Pick two to three traditions that will be special to your family. Traditions are wonderful things that help establish the identity and uniqueness of each family. Unfortunately retailers, amusements, attractions, friends, Sunday Schools, churches, and other outsiders want your family to feel obligated by tradition to go to their events every year. Picking two to three traditions for your family will help you to keep your focus, decrease your stress, and drastically reduce your busy-ness. You will still have special times that are unique to your family, but you will not become overwhelmed with obligations simply because tradition says you must continue.

2. Discuss your plans with extended family before the holidays arrive. Many stressful situations occur when families have different ideas of what to expect during the holidays. When will everyone get together? Who is responsible for bringing food? How much are we spending on each other this year? Are we buying gifts for everyone, or are we drawing names? Answering these questions beforehand can make life more bearable for everyone!

3. Learn to say “NO”. Many people do not believe that it is okay to tell someone that they cannot do something or will not do something, even when what they have been asked to do negatively affects those most precious to them. For example, a mom who is already stressed out is asked to take four hours out of her day to collect, sort, and label coats for the food closet. This was sprung on the mom at the last minute, and the mom reluctantly agrees, knowing that doing this will make her late picking up the kids from school, which will stress her out. Because she’s late picking up the kids, she gets behind schedule getting them ready for their traditional night out at Dollywood enjoying the lights and shows. They arrive at Dollywood just in time to stand in line for Babes in Toyland. After standing in line for an hour and a half, they get close to the door and realize that there are too many people and they are not going to make it inside for this show, which is the last show of the night. The mom, dad, and kids are all disappointed and cold (it’s cold at night in December, and the line at Dollywood for this show wraps around several outdoor attractions). The planning that the mom put into this trip was wasted, and the tradition was somewhat spoiled. Saying no to extraneous or last-minute “obligations” can let your family know that they are your priority, and it can let those “obligations” know that if they want your time, they need to ask you for it in a timely, courteous, non-threatening, and hassle-free manner.*

4. Refine your gift list. Especially this year, with the economy being so out of whack, it’s a good idea to refine your gift list. Do you really need to give the trash collector a $30 gift? The mailperson? The UPS or FEDEX delivery people? What about Uncle Larry in Arkansas? Would he appreciate a funny letter rather than an expensive gift? Making a budget and prioritizing who gets the best and who gets the leftovers is a great way to reduce your stress. Just because you feel obligated to give a gift doesn’t mean you are obligated to. Many times people would rather have a nice card with a personal note written on it than a brand new Christmas sweater that they’ll feel obligated to wear next year anyway.

5. Shop with cash. Set up a budget, get some envelopes, write your recipients’ name on one envelope each, stash the appropriate amount of cash (according to the budget and the priority of the recipient) in each envelope, and shop away. When you’re shopping, pay for each recipient out of their envelope. It’s okay to make several payment transactions at the same store for different recipients. Make sure to put the change back in that recipient’s envelope. When you run out of cash in each envelope, you are finished shopping for that individual. Do not allow yourself to make loans from one envelope to the other. This will help you stay on budget, remain fair, and keep you from feeling guilty because you spent more on one person than you did another.

6. Worship. Spend some time reflecting on what Christmas really is. Christmas is celebrated because God left His throne where He was being worshipped at ALL times, wrapped Himself in flesh, and allowed Himself to be born as a human in a barn. He left glory for humiliation for the sake of saving His children from an eternity without Him. When you think about gifts, think of this one, and remember to thank Him for His glorious sacrifice and for saving your life!

These are six easy strategies to keep yourself and your family sane, safe, and on budget this Christmas. Remember to enjoy these holy days and focus on the One who made them holy.

*This is not to say that helping in a food closet is a waste of time or energy. If one of your traditions that you choose is to help others, it is perfectly fine to do so. If the decision to work the food closet was made because you feel obligated to, then you might want to reconsider your decision. Cheerful givers are often more pleasant than resentful or stressed-out givers.