Preparations for Christmas can feel overwhelming, using up our time, energy, and money. With lengthy shopping lists and a marathon of cooking and cleaning to get done before family arrives, it’s no wonder we feel stressed at times. It’s challenging not to get swept up in all these demands and forget the true meaning of the season, isn’t it? These seven helpful hints can help you stay grounded and centered during this busy and beautiful time of year.
1. Keep your church schedule.
With numerous holiday gatherings on our plates and all the extra parish activities, it is tempting to get out of your regular church-going routine this time of year. But church can be a respite when things get chaotic. Think that church is too crowded and you won’t be missed? Think again! You absolutely need that quiet time to sit and soak up God’s presence. You need more time with God, not less. Besides, you know you will walk out feeling grateful and refreshed.
2. Slow down and savor family meals.
This is a great way to show our appreciation for one another and connect on a level that doesn’t include giving or receiving gifts. Make a game of it and challenge your family to come up with a new Christmas tradition during dinner. Bonus if you can get the new tradition to include some of those activities that are on your lengthy list of things to do. Say, baking while singing along to some favorite Christmas carols or even watching a Christmas movie in the kitchen while everyone pitches in with cleanup.
3. Don’t skip workouts.
Since you’re busy, you might rationalize that skipping a workout can be replaced by a shopping trip or some baking or cleaning. Don’t do it! Exercise is physically and mentally good for you. It will help you be as productive and balanced as possible. Maybe you can negotiate some of your precious time — 20 minutes of cardio and then a quick cool down for some mall walking later. The key here: Don’t be so rigid with yourself. Give yourself some room to make choices that you can live with.
4. Unplug from technology.
Give Facebook and your other social media accounts a break. Declare the day of Christmas to be a day where everyone throws their phones in a hat and you all agree to only a limited or set amount of time on the internet. If Christmas Day isn’t such a good idea because you might be testing out new toys or sharing amongst friends, make it the day after Christmas then. Ultimately, the real reason to unplug is to have more time to enjoy the family and friends you’re with during the holidays.
5. Give back.
Volunteer through your parish or do something for someone else with no expectation of getting anything back. This time of year can be difficult for so many. Share your love and blessings! Choose an organization that you believe in and do something to help. They are just a phone call or email away. Maybe it’s helping to serve a hot meal or collecting toys. There are so many opportunities. You just need to plan ahead. Truly, the greatest gift you can give to anyone is your time and attention.
You can’t stay up all night on Christmas Eve wrapping presents and expect to have a wonderful Christmas Day. Prioritize things like wrapping presents versus using gift bags or spending an entire day in the kitchen versus picking up cookies at your local bakery. People won’t mind that when they come over those delicious cookies were not handcrafted by you. They want to enjoy your company.
7. Take time for yourself.
Encourage your entire family to get in on the act. What is everyone’s hobby? Maybe your son likes to build model airplanes and your daughter likes to draw while you are caught up in the adult coloring craze and your husband enjoys a good read. Just do it! This is fuel for all your creative juices and will help keep everyone content and allow time to recharge.
Remember, this season is not about gifts or serving a gourmet meal or having the perfect decorations. It is about connection and love. There is no better way to honor and celebrate the life of Jesus Christ than giving fully of yourself in peace.
Originally published December 5, 2016.