December has arrived and in the back of all our minds lurks the fearsome “to do” list. From baking seasonal treats to making sure everyone’s presents are bought and wrapped and under the tree, to putting up holiday decorations and sending out cards, Christmas is a joyous time, but can very easily make us feel a tad, um, overwhelmed. We are so busy worrying that we might forget to do something that we don’t really enjoy the season nearly as much as we could if we were a little less stressed and had a lot more fun.
Many people deal with stress in different ways. I deal with it by not dealing with it, which means shutting down emotionally and physically, because I feel like there is so much to do that I don’t have any idea where to start. If you are lucky, you don’t deal with it like I do. Maybe you are even one of those Awesome Folks who has a master list and is always on top of Christmas every year, from what to serve at dinner to what presents to buy everyone and what items go on sale which days. But just in case you are not that particular brand of Wonder Individual, there is a really simple way to get the holidays and your feeling of being overwhelmed under control.
Make Lists: scoff if you must but it is a fact that if you do not make a list, it is inevitable you will forget something, a task will not get done, and you will never feel as if you are making any progress! There is a certain satisfaction and peace of mind that comes from crossing out an item on a list, is there not? We use lists at the grocery store so why wouldn’t we use them at home?
Spread Out Your Tasks: let’s say the major things on your list are putting up decorations, sending out Christmas cards, planning a menu, inviting friends over, and doing a local cookie swap. Some things are going to go on your schedule without your help (like the cookie swap deadline), but the rest of the stuff can be split up. Set aside an afternoon to put up decorations; you’ve done it before, you know how much time it will take. Then make an evening to do Christmas cards. Which brings me to…
Cut Down Your Card List: I’m sorry to say sending out Christmas cards isn’t as popular as it once was and maybe it’s because people feel too overwhelmed at the magnitude of their list. So instead of not sending out cards to anyone, choose the people who mean the most to you or you are still special friends with, and send them a card. It will not be hard to find something personal to write inside, it will not feel superficial, and it will remind them that you love, think about, and care for them.
Make Time For Things: We all say we are busy, and most of us are busy but a lot in our lives is indeed negotiable. You do not have to say yes to every invitation or be a part of every fundraiser or event. Make time each day to celebrate the season and spend time with friends and family. Choose the things you most want to do that mean the most to you and the people you love, and focus on them.
Most importantly, Remember What Christmas Is All About: contrary to what secular society would have you believe, it isn’t about Christmas sales. It isn’t about finding the perfect gift. It isn’t about your family, or your church, or your friends. It isn’t about bright paper and glass balls or carols or twinkle lights. It isn’t about your favorite holiday films or Santa Claus. Christmas is a celebration of a Savior that came in a manger so that one day He could die for our sins, forever permitting us entrance to heaven through His blood as a holy and living sacrifice. It is not just about the cute baby in a manger, but what purpose He ultimately fulfilled as an adult.
Christmas is a time for many things. It is a season for miracles and human kindness, a time when even secular members of society reflect some of the goodness of God in their generosity toward one another. We are meant to spend it in joy and remembrance, not in being overwhelmed and in a constant mad rush from one task to another. It is a time of the year that brings me much happiness as I put up my tree and watch my cat try to climb it (breaking some ornaments in the process), as I view familiar Christmas movies and cry and laugh over them all over again, as I decide what sweet delights I will take to Christmas Dinner, and what surprises are going to sit under the tree, waiting for family members to rip them open. There is the usual angst and begging of God to give me inspiration for the “Hard to Buy For Men” on my list, but I get great pleasure from making each gift package unique and beautiful in its own way. (My secret? Complimentary wrapping paper and bows, and double-sided tape!) By the time you read this, I will have put up my tree, checked a couple of movies off my “to watch” list (yes, I have one of those too!) and will have chosen an evening to watch It’s a Wonderful Life and address all my Christmas cards.