I’ve often joked with my friends that I need a wife. Of course, what I really mean is that I want someone to cook the meals, handle the shopping, and generally keep my life in order. Not my most progressive thought, but true nonetheless. And it’s never more true than in December, when our expectations for peace and joy collide headlong with our jam-packed calendars and unwieldy to-do lists. Sadly, I don’t think anyone is going to appear this year and take over the running of my life. What, then, is a girl to do to stay sane in this craziest of months?

Get Enough Sleep

We all know sleep is good for us, and that there is a minimum amount of sleep that we need to function at our best. But, during the holidays, it’s even more tempting to cheat on your sleep. I know it seems like it won’t hurt to stay up just a little longer to address those holiday cards or wrap your presents without little hands helping, but have you ever noticed what happens when you start to miss out on the sleep you need? Everything you do starts to take longer. You lose focus. You get grouchy and short-tempered. Even the smallest bump in the road seems insurmountable. Not a great start to a meaningful, joyous holiday season.

This year, commit to avoiding the all-nighters. You may not get as much rest as you would like, or even as much as you usually do, but resolve to consistently get the minimum amount you need to function at your best. The holiday stress will still be there, your calendar will still be busier than you might want, but at least you will be better equipped to address it.

If You Don’t Love It, Drop It

You probably won’t get the sleep you need if you jam your holidays full of every tradition available. You simply can’t attend every event, bake every goodie, watch every movie, and stay sane. Instead, find the holiday traditions you and your family really enjoy, and focus on really savoring them. Maybe that means making one kind of cookie instead of three. Maybe it means staying home from the lighting of the local Christmas tree. I’m willing to bet there’s at least one or two holiday “must dos” that don’t resonate with you or your loved ones. Ones that cause more stress and conflict that peace and joy. This year, try changing your holidays by removing one of these activities instead of adding more to the mix. You might be surprised by the difference it makes.

Take the Pressure Out of Memory Making

I was recently talking with a client about the pressure she puts on herself to make holidays a big spectacle. Why couldn’t she just relax and let things flow more freely? She said she wanted her kids to have positive, special memories of their holidays together. Curious, I asked her to tell me about a few of her own special memories from growing up. She recounted watching a certain Christmas movie together as a family. Then, I asked her to put herself in her mother’s shoes in that particular scenario. What did she imagine her mother was thinking or feeling? I could feel her perspective shift. She began to realize that what she treasured as a memory was not “perfect” from an adult’s perspective. The room was a mess. The kids were eating too many sweets. The presents weren’t wrapped (or even bought). And yet, it was memory that left a warm, happy imprint in her mind.

Our kids (and the rest of our families, for that matter) are going to create the memories they create without much of a vote from us. Just like the really special gift you spent hours choosing may get ignored while your child plays with the paper and box it came in, the elaborate scenes you create may be forgotten in favor of simpler, smaller moments. What’s a girl to do? Know that you can’t control it. Remember that one of the best things you can ever give your loved ones is the gift of yourself. Be there. Listen. Smile. Even if you forgot the camera and your son has a hole in his shirt. Because memories are about people and feelings, not all the distractions. They happen own their own time, and we don’t have to “create” them. Remembering that can relieve much of the pressure of this season.

 

December can sometimes feel like running the gauntlet, but there are simple things you can do to help you feel more sane and balanced. Try one or more of these tips and see if you can find a core of peace in the midst of this year’s hustle and bustle.