Mindfulness Based Holiday Planning

I’ve no idea if anyone else experiences this, but I get a bit peeved when I walk into a store looking for Halloween decorations and am greeted with rows of Christmas decorations.  I am sure I am not the only person who wants to scream “WE HAVEN’T EVEN MADE IT THROUGH HALLOWEEN YET!!!!”  So this year, I decided 2 things, 1) I don’t need any more Halloween decorations and; 2) I’m determined not to  fill my schedule with things (shopping, events, trips, etc.) that stress me out.  To help me mitigate the Holiday stress plunge, I have taken some time to consider the things that are most important to me in the forthcoming Season and made a plan to ensure I am putting my energy in the places that mean the most to me and fill me with joy.

I have a tree.  A, not so small, silver glitter tree given to me by a fabulous friend who understands my penchant for decorating for every occasion, minor or major, which inhabits my entryway from mid-September, Halloween through Easter.  It’s decorated with stuff emblematic of the given celebration, bats and skeletons for Halloween, tiny glass ornaments for Christmas, little red hearts for Valentine’s Day, you get the picture. It has been a staple of my decorating for more than 5 years. Last year, life was so busy that I struggled to keep up with decorating rituals I had established long ago.  In fact, it became a chore rather than a joyous activity.  In past years, I took my time decorating very purposefully over several weeks.  The routine would begin in mid-September. I would schlep the bins out of the garage, bringing in The Dead Lady with the red beaming eyes from her sheet covered respite and place everything in the living room which was converted from a lovely, almost clutter-free sitting area to a jam packed staging area and begin the creative process of decorating virtually every surface with skulls, potions bottles, ghouls, bats, cobwebs, bloody body parts and the like.  Kicking the process off with my traditional viewing of The Exorcist on Friday evening and decorating through the following weekend.  Last year, free time was hard to come by, so decorating didn’t start until mid-October.  I was late, late, late and feeling the pressure to get it done. What was usually a fun and creative process had become another obligation I felt I had to meet. This predicament became a theme of my entire Holiday season last year.  So much so, that when Christmas rolled around, The Dead Lady was still in our living room, so we just wrapped her in Christmas lights and crowned her with a Santa hat. Incidentally, she stayed there, lights and all, sitting in the living room until almost Memorial Day.

In an effort not to feel the stress of having no time for any fun, I have made a few decisions about how I will approach the coming months to make the most of all the moments with those I love.  Years ago, I made a deal with myself that when it came to large family gatherings I would always have a Plan B in case anything went awry (think Uncle Festus gets drunk and starts berating the children).  Granted you can’t plan for everything, but knowing that there is a Plan B helps me go into things with a sense of confidence that I can handle anything that is thrown my way.  So with the Plan B set as a constant default, I can turn my attention to some of the other ways I can add mindful choices to mitigate stress.   For Halloween, I will still have an open house for anyone who wants to join us for trick-or treating, but I turned over the creative reigns to my 11-year old to decorate the house with limited, but relaxed and present, help from me.  I will cook my usual big pot of pasta, but I have made it a “pot-luck” event and will prepare my pasta sauce in advance.  For Thanksgiving, I found a local market to purchase a complete turkey meal and I will make few desserts and sides.  For Christmas and the many traditions that we celebrate in our home, I have made the same plan for dinner and discussed with our family how we all want to spend our time experiencing things together rather than buying loads of stuff and explored how we might give back to our community.  I want to savor the precious moments with our child and have a house full of friends,  love and laughter, rather than list of things I must accomplish with too much to do and too little time and a sleigh full of tension.    I have loads of vacation time that has gone unused, so I plan to take some time off during the Holidays for some pampering.  I will also make sure we choose what events we will attend, intentionally.  If it means scaling back the decorating and foregoing the mad rush at the shops and malls, so be it. I mean the silver glitter tree is pretty darn fantastic all on its own and after a while The Dead Lady just seemed part of the regular décor.  Even the dog stopped barking at her.

What will you do to make your Holiday Season as stress-free and joyous as possible?  We would love to hear your ideas and suggestions and we hope you find some of the links we have shared to be helpful. Wishing you a safe, happy and stress-free Season!  Be Well!

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