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A table with christmas decorations and pine cones.

The holidays. They are a time for coming together and giving thanks for all the blessings we have. They are a time for us to gather with family and friends and share in the many traditions that accompany this magical time of year. But what happens when the point of it all gets lost in the stress and the chaos that often comes before the celebrations? When we lose ourselves and the meaning of the holidays because of this impossible expectation for everything to be perfect? 

As military spouses, the holidays often mean either going back home to spend time with our families, or figuring out a way to start new traditions on our own and/or with our adopted military family. Unfortunately for some of us, it also might mean packing up and readying for yet another move. Whatever your situation is this year, I wanted to share a few tips on how not to lose yourself in the stress and chaos, and instead find a way to really, truly recall the magic that the holidays use to mean to us as kids. We can get back there, I promise.

  1. Stop everything and breathe. Before we get caught up in the frenzy that often accompanies the holidays, it’s a good look to maybe just chill for a second. Take in the season for what it is. When our minds are cluttered with all the must-do’s, we often forget about what’s truly important because we then get overwhelmed. Perhaps, the most helpful thing to do is to stop here and there and just relax because then our minds can think more clearly and we can get more things accomplished.
  2. Take one holiday at a time.  I was just in Target the other day and I’m telling you, as of October 18, there were Christmas towels out. Already!? I even heard a little girl, maybe no older than my 7-year-old comment about how early the Christmas wrapping was out. It’s enough! Now, we can’t, unfortunately, do anything about what stores do regarding putting their holiday stuff out super early, but we can choose how to respond to it. Maybe we just don’t buy anything until after Halloween or Thanksgiving. Maybe, we choose to wait to put up the tree. And if putting things out early is your jam, that’s cool! But for those of us who feel overwhelmed, doing one thing at a time really helps to alleviate that stress.
  3. Focus more on the experiences and less on the stuff.  For most of us parents, we often start thinking about Christmas gifts after school starts back up again. I know for my family, it was to help us budget and buy things over time.  But as my children have gotten older, and their tastes have changed, I found that things aren’t really what they really need anymore. Spending time in the stores during the holidays can be a rush, and maybe even a little exciting. Heck, I love going to Target during Black Friday. But being there just about every day or even several times a week to look for that one specific thing that’s the hot item and that’s always so dang hard to find can be so stressful. We all want to be the hero parent and see that look on our kids’ faces, but why can’t we put that energy into organizing an experience instead? I propose adding in more experiences throughout the holiday season and less stuff on Christmas morning. Christmas Day, unless you have plans, is notoriously boring. And I know my kids well enough to know that they would much rather spend that day doing something fun as a family, than finishing unwrapping gifts by 9 am and then sitting around the house all day.
  4. If you need to shop this year, start early. Okay, so I know this goes against what I just said, but if you do have a long list this year, then it’s best to start early. And when I say early, I mean even after Christmas. Stores are notorious for having killer after-Christmas clearance on toys, clothes, and just about anything else. Look for deals throughout the year and stock up. This is a life-saver for your budget! When the season actually starts, you can spend more time doing those fun things with your family, like visiting the Christmas Tree farm, watching classic holiday films, and baking up a storm in the kitchen.
  5. Get everyone involved in the preparation. As moms, we often take on the brunt of all responsibility ourselves. Maybe it’s because we may not have a traditional 9-5, or maybe it’s because we enjoy it. Either way, there’s no reason why we have to put everything on ourselves all the time. Invite your family to join in on the shopping, baking, cooking, and planning. Create a calendar on which everyone can list something they’d like to do. Make decking the halls, a family affair and encourage everyone to have a say in how they like to decorate this year. When I got married, my husband couldn’t care less about home decor. In fact, he found it to be “a waste of money.†Yeah, brutal, right? However, over time and with age,  he came to appreciate how much effort I put into making our many houses

    In recent years, he finally decided to add to our Christmas decor by creating a Grinch-themed area in our house. It’s something he does on his own still, but it’s a start, y’all! It brings joy to the kids’ faces to see all the fun colors that he includes in his decorations. Most importantly, it shows our kids that we can work together and that this is something that not only Mommy can do, but rather this is something we can all participate in.

  6. Don’t forget to have fun! This always gets lost in all the craziness of the holidays. Don’t you remember why you loved Christmas as a kid? It was because it was just a lot of fun.

    School was out, you had more time with your friends, and you got new stuff! What could be better? That feeling doesn’t have to go away completely! Yea, you are an adult now and have more responsibility. And unless you take time off work, you typically still have to show up around the holidays. But there are still ways to make sure the fun stays a big part of the holiday season.

    One of the things we like to do in our house is to make a calendar of all the events we’d like to attend and make a plan to do what we can. The key here to avoid stress is to do what you can! Don’t try to do everything because that’s impossible. Instead, maybe look at your availability and vote on the top three or five or whatever your calendar is allowing and make a plan to do those. If you can’t get out to events, find ways to celebrate the season at home, whether it’s having a holiday movie marathon, a gift-wrapping party, or a seasonal bake-off. There are so many fun ways to enjoy the season without stepping one foot into a store.

I’m sure I’ve missed some ideas on how to make this holiday season as stress-free as possible, but I wanted to give you an idea of how we can take this time of year back from all the unnecessary frenzy it often produces. The holidays don’t have to be crazy.  They don’t have to be stressful. All it takes is a bit of organization, and a lot more chill, to really wrap up the year in the best way possible.  

Two children and a woman standing in front of christmas trees.

What are some of your tips for preparing for, and enjoying, the holiday season?

Robin Davis
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