Monday, December 5, 2011

How to Stay Joyful (and Sane) This Christmas Season

Welcome to post #2 in my new series, A Season of Serenity (Now) at Home.  This month is all about creative tips and tricks to bring some Serenity to your home this Christmas! Today my friend, Richella, from Imparting Grace is going to share some simple sanity-saving tips to help you make it through this busy holiday season. And not just make it through...but make it through with style and grace...and with a joyful spirit as well.

Take it away, Richella!
"It's the most wonderful time of the year!
With the kids jingle-belling
And everyone telling you
Be of good cheer--
It's the most wonderful time of the year. . . "

So goes the song playing now, and I listen eagerly. I feel my heart swell with every chorus. I'm as excited as my kids!

A few days into December, though, I often get that oh-no-I'm-running-late-I'll-never-finish-in-time-there's-too-much-to-do sense that threatens to destroy my Christmas cheer. As much as I love Christmas, I find that it's easy to feel more overwhelmed than overjoyed.

But being overwhelmed doesn't have to be part of your yuletide experience.

 Here are a few things I've learned to reduce holiday stress.

1. Realize that there are no Christmas rules.
Do you hear that? NO RULES. Santa is not making a list of good and bad moms. There are no holiday police who will come after you. You can choose the way to celebrate Christmas in your home, and it doesn't have to be the same way that anyone else celebrates; it just needs to work for you and your family.

Here's an example:
My children were all born in the springtime, so they were each just a few months old for their first Christmases. Want to know what I gave them for their first Christmases? A Lenox Christmas tree plate. Yes, you read that right. Lenox started their "Trees Around the World" series of plates the year my oldest son was born, so I bought that 1991 plate for Will. I also bought him a "Baby's First Christmas" ornament. Those were traditions I wanted to start for my family, so I did. And that was it. I didn't buy him anything else.
Some of my friends were shocked: "You're not getting him any toys for Christmas?!" they gasped. But Will had lots of toys, and I knew his grandparents would lavish him with new ones. Besides, he was only a few months old--Christmas didn't mean anything to him at the time. If I'd listened to those friends, I would have been stressed that I wasn't doing it right.

The point is that YOU get to choose what's right for you and your family. Once again, there are no rules.

2. Spend some time tending to people's expectations.
Notice I didn't say "trying to meet people's expectations." You may need to gently tell some folks that there are things you won't be able to do this year. Let them know that your saying "no" is simply because you're doing what is right for you and your immediate family, not for any other reason. Great Aunt Minnie would love to see you, of course, but she'll understand if you need to put off your visit until after the holiday season. Or your children may need to hear that you can't do the usual Thursday play group during December.

Making sure people have realistic expectations can really help reduce holiday stress.

And on the topic of expectations, make sure that your own are aligned with what is good for you and your family. The blogosphere is unbeatable for inspiration, but it can also promote unrealistic expectations of the crafts you can manufacture, the decor you can create, and the scrumptious treats you can make. Be sure you don't fall into the I-can-do-it-all trap.

3. Allow your kids to be kids.
Share their wonder. Let them help you decorate. Precious memories are much more valuable than picture-perfect decorations. For instance, my son wanted his Lego creations to be part of our Christmas decor. So I provided a felt-covered board and he created a scene that serves as our breakfast table centerpiece.

4. Take care of your body.
Moms get pulled in a lot of different directions during the holidays. And to tell the truth, we like it. There are so many good things to do, and we really want to do a lot of them. But we need to make sure we take good care of ourselves so that we don't end up in the emergency room--or the loony bin!

 Here are a few tips:
-Take a multi-vitamin. You know what happens: we eat Christmas treats, so we cut back on calories elsewhere. But in so doing we cut back on the vitamins and minerals we need for optimum health. So the holidays are an excellent time for supplements.

-If you increase your caffeine consumption, also increase your water consumption. We may all have an extra cup of coffee to keep us awake this time of year, but caffeine is a potent diuretic. Be sure to replenish your body with extra water.

-Exercise when you can. You might miss some of your regular workouts during these busy weeks. Do not stress about it--just exercise when you can. Perhaps you can squeeze 20 minutes of jogging in place while watching "Frosty the Snowman" with your kids. Remember that exercise is energizing, so you'll be glad if you can fit some into your schedule. But if you want to start a new Pilates or spin class, you might want to save that for after the holidays.

5. Feed your spirit.
There are myriad things to do this during the holidays; your to-do list may never be completed. But you need to take the time to nourish your soul.

 Here are some simple suggestions:
--Read. In addition to the Bible, my favorites include Alice Gray's Christmas Stories for the Heart, "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry, the Christmas chapter of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans.
--Watch a movie version of A Christmas Carol. If your kids are little, watch the Muppets version. If they're older, I recommend the Disney version with Jim Carrey. Allow the story to seep into your heart.
--In addition to your other favorites, listen to highlights from Handel's Messiah. Let the music transport you.
--After the kids are in bed, spend a few minutes with all the lights turned off except for the Christmas tree lights. Now put aside your chores--all those things that will still be there in the morning--and sit down. Take some deep breaths. Look at the tree lights.

 Allow yourself to be reminded that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of the Light of the world, Jesus Christ. Jesus didn't come to earth to make you feel stressed or guilty. Let the fact that He was born to bring you life wash over you. His grace is more than ample for you!

Thank you so much, Richella, for taking time to share your advice with us! These are tips that any busy woman can implement into her December schedule. I personally love the last one--sitting and enjoying the tree after the kids' bedtime is something I love to do.

Please be sure to visit Richella at her blog, Imparting Grace, for beautifully written posts full of inspiration! Her sweet spirit, classic style, and wise words will win you over.

PS. Did you miss my post from yesterday on How to Throw an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party? I can pretty much guarantee it will be a night to remember!


  1. I feel so honored to be guest posting for you! Thank you so very, very much for inviting me to be a part of this series. You're the best!

  2. Awesome post, Richella! (I'm popping over from your place!) I especially like Rule #1--there are no rules. Oh, and I liked what you said about the blog world making us set up unrealistic expectations for ourselves. Trust me, nobody from any blog is going to come peek in your windows on Christmas morning to see if you've done it all right. Just enjoy your family and friends and, especially, enjoy the blessing of this season.

  3. Wonderful post! I know I don't fall into the mom category but all the tips are helpful for when I do have kids & also for life in general. I'm constantly needing to slow myself down between work, family, church, etc., its hard to know what's "enough" before you crash & burn. Can't wait to see the rest of the series!

  4. Thanks Richella for a wonderful post! I really enjoyed reading this and, thanks to you, am now following this blog too, lol!
    I just found my Christmas spirit this evening, and now I am excited to make beautiful memories for my family. And without, blowing a gasket, (hopefully!) :D

  5. Great tips from Richella. I love her son's leggo creation.

  6. This was such a wonderful post. Richella's words really struck me! I need to write her quote, "YOU get to choose what's right for you and your family" on the back of my hand as a daily reminder. Thanks so much for sharing these tips!

  7. Hi Amanda...I am here from Richella's blog. Nice to meet you. I am becoming a follower.

    I liked your Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Idea. Looks like you had a good turn out and a lot of fun!

    These were good tips for staying sane during the Christmas season! I love Richella. I love her home and her decorating ideas. I love her sweet spirit and how she loves the Lord. Thanks for having her guest post.

    I am a Christian. A 61 yr. old wife, mom and grandmother to 14. (Three of those are in heaven along with some miscarried babes we never met.) God is so faithful, loving and kind.

    I love blogging. I have met so many wonderful people who inspire me and challenge me in my day to day life. Maybe you will stop by my blog and read some of my posts when you get a chance.

    Merry Christmas!

    Linda @ Truthful Tidbits

  8. Hi there! Richella told us to stop by so here I am! :-) You have such a wonderful blog and I'm so glad you had her as a guest here today. What an incredible post, full of wonderful truths and tips! She is just so open and honest and we adore her. And seriously, I cracked up at your Ugly Christmas sweater party idea! I totally want to do a family photo sometime for our Christmas card with us all wearing those. LOL! I'm a new follower now and can't wait to look through more of your posts. :-)

  9. Thank you for these great reminders. Taking ownership of your own holiday and deciding what is meaningful to you and your family is so important. I appreciated the distinction between meeting other people's expectations and tending to other people's expectations. The latter is sensitive, but protects you and your family from holiday craziness. Merry Christmas!

  10. I love this Richella, such wise words spoken from experience ~ you have sucha gracious way about you, I love how YOU make the rules at Christmastime and the harmony it brings, great feature Amanda!

  11. I loved this! Thank you Richella for your wise words and Thank you Amanda for this series! I feel very encouraged today because I was starting to feel stressed. I love the sentence, "Jesus did not come to earth to make you feel stressed or guilty." I am sharing this with my friends! Thank you!

  12. I love your take on this - sometimes we feel so much pressure to have a picture perfect home and well-ordered traditions that we actually rob the season of its joy. I love your Lego example - too cute! And what a great memory for your son!

  13. Hi Amanda and Richella! Great post here. My favorite tip? There are no rules. Sometimes I just need to be reminded that there are no Christmas police or craft police. Especially this year. {I'm tired and a bit uninspired.} And Amanda, you summed up Richella perfectly: "sweet spirit, classic style, and wise words." Wishing you both a peaceful and joy-filled holiday!

  14. Hello Richella and Amanda! Such wise, lovely words. I love that you got your baby a Christmas plate! You are right, they know no difference until they are 2 or 3.

  15. I love these tips! My mom would adore this post...especially the part about tending to people's expectations. We've made the choice to not give gifts to all 30 relatives this year as a way to save money and be more careful with our spending around this time of year, and still some family members can't grasp our decision! Loving this series already (:

  16. Well said, Richella. You are one wise lady! Loved this!

  17. Richella invited me over to visit. What a treat. I truly enjoyed it.

    Thank you.

  18. Richella has great tips, even for someone without children.

    If anyone hasn't read The Christmas Box that Richella suggests to feed your spirit, I highly suggest it. I used to read it to my class every single year.

    Great guest post!

  19. Richella you are always so full of wisdom! I have a bad habit of thinking I can do it all and then I get upset with myself when I just can't seem to! I need to work on that for sure! I love your son's Lego centerpiece! I need to show my oldest that and see if he wants to try something like that for our table:)

  20. Hi, Amanda ~ Stopping over from Richella's. Really appreciate your open and genuine spirit, Amanda. Richella ~ Wise and grace-filled words, as usual. Thank you for the much needed reminders to stay focused on the One who loved us enough to come down to us....Christmas Blessings, Friend ~


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