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How to "Make" Time This Holiday Season

Nov 21, 2019 | by Cindy Sullivan

The holiday lights are starting to appear and preparations are underway.  As much as I enjoy the holidays I also anticipate them with a bit of dread as I know that time seems to come at a premium this time of year.  So, in anticipation of what can be a runaway train in terms of time, I thought I'd highlight a few ways to impact your time this season.  While you actually can't MAKE time, you can certainly craft the way you spend your time so it's meaningful and fulfilling.

  • Start Early!  Unless you are one of those folks that really gets a charge out of last minute preparations and chaos, decide to start early.  For any events, activities, or preparations ask yourself now what you can start work on.  Some ideas;
    •  If you will be hosting / cooking / baking:  Pick up non-perishables early.  Many baking supplies and ingredients can be stored or frozen till needed.  It simplifies shopping closer to the date when they are needed and alleviates the worry when something is out of.  Look through and gather recipes early.  Decision making around what you will serve as well as having your recipes already gathered will save time later.
    • Are there gifts to purchase?  Start gathering ideas and keep a list handy so you can add things as you think of them or have ideas.  Purchase those teacher, hostess, and other small party gifts early.  These often get relegated to the last minute and can cause a lot of stress!  
    • Supplies.  What items need to be restocked and on hand so you are ready to act in the moment?  Tape, wrapping / gift bags, lights, candles, stamps, extra seating / dishes, etc are all things to think about.  
  • Turn your focus outward. One of the best ways I know to avoid getting wrapped up in the hysteria of seasonal craziness is to think outside myself and all I have to do.  Work in a way to think of others.  Even beyond donations to charities, consider those who are in need, those who are lonely, those who are grieving.  Spending time with someone who is alone all too often, writing a hand written note to someone we haven't seen in a long time, being with someone who is struggling - not to fix things but to simply be present, and invite those who may be overlooked.  There is a blessing in the gift of perspective we receive when doing these things.  It can mean the world to that person and tends to melt away that feeling of overwhelm as life's important actions come into clearer focus.
  • Set your Intentions.  Do you want your holiday season to be relaxing?  Exciting?  Filled with family time or taking in all the sights and sounds of the holidays?  Once you are clear on what you want, look at your calendar and see how it aligns with those intentions.  I encourage people to think about their "One Big Thing" that they will strive to do, see, or accomplish during the holidays and work to make that happen.  You can then choose to fill or eliminate other activities as you choose.  
  • Pick a Theme.  Similar to setting intentions, the idea of picking a Theme can be a way to get motivated but also to simplify.  If your theme is family and friends, it's much easier to acknowledge that all those get togethers - while exhausting - really are things you will be glad you incorporated.  Likewise, if your theme is to experience Peace and Joy, you can select activities in support of that.  A theme can help us simplify as we can use our theme as a filter through which to run all our choices.  Apply your theme to gifts as well as your calendar.   
  • Simplify  There is no rule that you need to do "All The Things".  There are simply too many choices, too many options, and too much stuff!   I have never heard anyone say that they wish they could make their holiday more busy, complex, or difficult.  Trust me - just about everyone wants to simplify.  Expressing your need to streamline where you spend your resources of time, energy, and money, will probably be more appreciated than shocking.  
  • Let go of those things which bring you down!  We all sometimes need the reminder that tradition or habit doesn't need to drive future actions.  If there is something you dread doing, consider dropping it.  What could happen if this year you didn't put those ornaments on the tree that remind you of a difficult time in your life, what is the worst outcome if you didn't attend that social event that you've always gone to, and how might people react if you asked to draw names for gift giving instead of shopping for 20 extended family members and friends?  You can certainly choose to keep some if you feel that it's ultimately a good choice but you might surprise yourself and decide the world wouldn't crash down if you eliminated some things.
  • Remember - January can be an option.  So much gets packed into the end of the calendar year.  I've largely talked about holiday prep in this post but you've got to remember that everyday life goes on and there is work, household management, and everyday life that continues at it's regular pace.  Remember that it can allow some real breathing room if you choose to do some things in the new year vs. cramming it all into late November and December.  I actually enjoy having something to look forward to after the holidays end, the days are still short, and all the festive decorations and lights have come down.  I've had several groups opt for January events.  Even family visits are nice here as it doesn't mean some people get left out of the holiday visits simply because there is only so much you can do on any given holiday.
  • Remember that self-care isn't selfish - it's wise.  We all do it.  Sacrifice our own sanity - and possibly even health - to the busy-ness of the season.  There is no one else that can care for ourselves but US.  Determine how much time you really need to devote to your own self-care so that you can BE your best self.  Holding yourself to a bed time, meal plan, or even scheduling time for a good soak in the tub can be as mood lifting as all that holiday cheer.

Overall, head into this season - whether it is a religious holiday, festive community with others, a time of reflection and rememberance, or simply the close of another year - with a sense of purpose.  Don't get dragged along in the wake of life.  Think before you leap and head into the holiday with a clear understanding of what you want to experience during this season.  Blessings to you all.