Tis the season, the season that can bring even the most organized woman to her knees. The pressure to recreate a Norman Rockwell scene can turn happy holidays into hectic home life. Research from the American Psychological Association found almost half of all women in the United States experience heightened stress during the holidays. The cause: added responsibilities create a double shift of work and family tasks making it difficult for women to relax. And research from my book confirms that so-called "invisible tasks," like wrapping gifts and planning your child's holiday attire, take up as much mental focus and energy as the physical tasks.
Why not resist the urge to channel your inner Martha Stewart and aim for a good enough holiday instead? Good enough holidays can actually be better than picture perfect when you focus on what truly matters and let yourself relax and enjoy.
Here are some suggestions for what to give up this season in order to maintain your health and sanity and to remember the true reason for the season.
1. Sending cards.
Sure it's wonderful to reach out to the people in your life you value. But if your intent is truly to connect with friends and family, why not send a note any other month of the year? Skip the photo-shopped family portrait, the foil lined envelope, and the letter blocked signature. Save time and our planet and drop an honest to goodness handwritten note in the mail in a few months. Your recipients will probably appreciate a few sincere words more than a glossy mass mailing.
2. Buying holiday outfits.
When my son was young, I used to buy him a new outfit every Christmas -- dress shoes, wool sweater, wide wale cords. He hated the clothes and it was a battle to get him to wear them. One year I ran out of time and he had to wear what was already in his closet. And you know what? The world didn't come to an end. My budget was grateful, my son was thankful and I had just a little more time to spend with my family instead of at the mall.
3. Going to the mall.
Speaking of the mall, avoid it. There's very little you can't order online -- presents, groceries, wreaths. Besides, nothing says bah humbug like a holiday shopper in search of a parking space.
4. Buying gifts.
You know, you can even skip gifts. Yes, there is joy in giving. But like the holiday cards, you don't have to do every good deed between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. If you find yourself swapping gift cards with family members because you ran out of time and ideas, you may want to rethink your traditions. Bake cookies, volunteer or just sit by the fireplace. A relaxed you is a gift that will keep on giving long after the fruit cake has been tossed in the trash.
5. Wrapping gifts.
If you do buy presents, I have two words for you: gift bags. And here are two more: good enough.
There are approximately 45 days left in the year. If you've carried some extra weight this far into 2013, what difference does it make if you shed it now? For the rest of the year, accept who you are and how you look. Eat the treats and enjoy.
7. The Elf on the Shelf and the Mensch on a Bench.
Avoiding these little creatures is easier said than done, I know from experience. If you can skip this newer tradition, do. But if like me, you can't explain to your child why all of her friends have an Elf who visits every night and she doesn't, at least keep it simple. No notes from the little bugger. No dress up clothes (really!), no midnight shenanigans. Just stick to the basics and hope your child forgets about the elf or mensch by next year.
Not quite ready to give up the full holiday blitz? Let go of just one obligation this year and see how you like it. I'll bet you a homemade gingerbread house that what you lose in decorations and baked goods, you'll gain in peace and joy.