What's not to love about the holiday season? People are a little more generous, your favorite coffee shop has its seasonal drink ready, and there are more than enough gatherings to fill a social calendar.
Festive TV specials are running, and stores have their holiday floor sets up to pique the interests of passersby. Our inboxes are filling up with holiday gift guides, reviews for the latest gadgets, and links to Amazon wish lists.
Joyous? Sure. But stressful, no doubt. Before the holiday rush takes your blood pressure up, check out a few ways to make this season a little less frenetic and a little more meaningful.
1. Card writing for the family. If sending cards is a big deal in your household, make it a family affair. Get everyone involved in the process, from addressing and stamping the envelopes to drawing pictures and writing the message.
2. Be realistic. There's something about this time of year that makes us think we have to do it all and be everywhere. Be realistic about what can and can't be accomplished. Give yourself permission to say "No, thank you. Not this time." Say yes to only the most important things, and then savor every moment.
3. Be mindful. Whether you call it quiet time, meditation, or prayer, try starting and ending your day with 15 minutes of focused time just for you. Do the same with your family, maybe over an Advent wreath. Togetherness – the best part of holidays.
4. Sleep. Get enough. Sleep too much and you feel lethargic. Sleep too little and you get cranky. Establish routines before bed that allow your body to wind down and turn your brain off. No eating, exercising or watching television right before bed.
5. Practice presence. That means be present. Literally. Having a meal with someone? Put the phone away. Taking a walk? Stop thinking about the next thing on your to-do list and appreciate the sights around you. Allow yourself to be fully immersed.
6. Your clutter is another's treasure. If you've been storing outgrown clothes and gently used housewares for a garage sale, consider taking them to Salvation Army,Goodwill or another non-profit organization. It's also a great opportunity to model generosity and resource sharing for any little ones in your household.
7. Eat! Sure, this is the time of year when folks are worried about gaining a few extra pounds and when exercise routines become more infrequent. But gathering over a cup of cocoa or a shared meal are ways to reconnect with friends and family, or get to know someone new—like the person selling the paper you pass by every day? Perhaps invite her to breakfast one morning. It may just be the blessing you've been waiting for.
8. Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. Why does a TV show get its own number on this list? Because Linus has been setting us straight about the true meaning of Christmas for almost 50 years. Watch the Peanuts gang Rethink Christmas and all the gift giving, card sending, and tree decorating central to the Christmas celebration—it just might make you rethink how you're celebrating, too.
9. Gifts—make 'em count. You've made your lists. You've made sure there's something for everyone because, well, you don't want your uncle's second cousin to feel left out at the family gathering. Pause. Right. There. Why do you feel the need to give everyone you know a gift? Maybe there's another way to celebrate and honor that relationship? Put the fruitcake back.
10. YOU time. Don't forget to take it. Replenishing your inner well helps reduce stress and allows you to be a better friend, spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, partner, neighbor...you get the idea.
What are some practices that help you remember the reason for the season?
Photo: Flickr user: clotee_allochuku/Creative Commons