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Top 10 Tips to Surviving the Holiday Madness

How's your holiday season going so far? Are you loving every second of the chaos or are you scurrying through each day, just praying for it all to be over?

If the idea of spending the next couple of weeks shopping for gifts that you really can’t afford, standing in long lines at the Post Office to send out those precious photo cards that nearly cost you your sanity, trying to keep your kids from climbing the walls with excitement all while juggling your job, fitting in one too many holiday parte on top of wrapping, baking, and decorating your humble homestead so that you can create the near-perfect holiday for your family, let the Gansett Moms’ Council talk you off the ledge.

Too often the holidays get a bad wrap (No pun intended!), but it doesn’t have to be that way. ’Tis the season to be joyful and merry, but thanks to all the pressure we put on ourselves, it often ends up being the season of bah humbug.

Our Gansett Moms’ Council collaborated on the topic of holiday stress, and after a few glasses of light eggnog (at least that’s what I think we were drinking!) came up with a list of Holiday Survival Tips that we hope will help you handle the madness this time of year.

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL TIP #1: Put your own family first.

Most holiday stress comes from trying to fulfill obligations to others. You have the right to put the health and comfort of yourself, your spouse and your children first, and not accept added responsibilities.  Amen to that!

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL TIP #2: Delegate to the elves.

Santa can’t pull off Christmas without the help of all his elves, so why should you have to? Figure out what holiday preparations and errands you can delegate to your children, spouse and perhaps a friend or two and then do it! 

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL TIP #3: Don’t be afraid to change a tradition.

If the thoughts of traveling to two (or more!) houses on Christmas Day makes you want to crawl under Santa’s sleigh and hide, this might be the year to lovingly stand your ground. Discuss how you feel with your partner, and then commit to starting a new tradition. 

If the in-laws don’t understand and lay a little guilt on you, ask yourself what feels better? Would you rather rush around on Christmas going from house to house so that you can please other people, or is it more important to stay in one location and spend that extra time relaxing with your kids, enjoying a glass of holiday cheer, and soaking in the true meaning of Christmas without the added stress?  Your call! 

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL TIP #4: SIMPLIFY! 

Our society has certain expectations about what makes the season special — ka-ching, ka-ching!

The good thing is that most of the activities we associate with this time of year truly are fun and magical. It's easy to become so overwhelmed by all the holiday activities and invitations that we become too busy to actually enjoy what we're doing.  

If you find certain activities and commitments enjoyable and meaningful then make sure you include them in your holiday season.  In other words, if Christmas wouldn’t be the same in your home if you didn’t spend one weekend baking cookies and treats, make sure you don’t eliminate that. 

But if sending out 100 Christmas cards is going to push you over the edge, scale back and send out half that amount, or even wait and send New Year’s cards so that you don’t have to trade your valuable time completing something that ultimately doesn’t have a positive impact on you and your family. 

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL TIP #5: Demonstrate spirit.

Kids learn by watching you. If you tell kids there is more to life than material things, but never demonstrate that by acting charitably, the lesson will never sink in.

When that happens, don't wonder why your sweet angel has a fit that he did not get the video game he wanted. Take your kids to help those less fortunate.

Help them arrange a book drive for disadvantaged kids, sing carols at a retirement home, or make a holiday dinner for the people staying at Welcome House. Keep it up throughout the year and your kids will know the true meaning of the holidays. 

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL TIP #6: Buy for yourself!

I’m going out on a limb here by admitting one of my favorite ways to squash holiday stress—shop for myself!  Throughout the few weeks before Christmas, I start purchasing things that I need and want and wrap them all with a gift tag that says “To Cheryl”  “From Mrs. Clause.”

By the time I’m done selecting items like new perfume, fun nail polish, a couple of novels, a cozy sweater, cruise tickets for one, I get a little jolt of excitement because next, I wrap everything, so by the time I open my own gifts on Christmas Day, I’ve usually forgotten half the stuff I bought and I end up actually being surprised.  Go me! 

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL TIP #7: Send Christmas cards to strangers. 

A few years ago one of the funnier moms in our group (no, it wasn’t me!) started a crazy but fun tradition by sending Christmas cards to people she didn’t know.  Even better, she wrote personal notes inside them. 

For instance, one year she sent 15 random cards out to folks she picked out in the phone book and wrote the same note in each one — “I know the New Year ahead is going to be as awesome as you are!” Ho Ho Ho!

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL TIP #8: Limit your gift giving. 

Before you think we’re scrooge-like by suggesting you cut back on all that shopping madness, please hear us out.  One of the more generous moms in our group (again, not me!) told us she couldn’t even get the time for a shower during the holidays (sad, isn’t it?) because she had to buy gifts for 15 of her nieces and nephews, six siblings and spouses, 17 teachers and aides at school, the CCD teachers, her Secret Santa at work, her second cousins who lived in some remote location in South America and something for practically everyone that lived in their village, the mailman, the rubbish removal people, her favorite deli clerk, the UPS guy, her kid’s orthodontist, and I think she mentioned the gals who groom her two dogs!

This didn’t include anything for her spouse, her own kids and parents, and certainly not her BFFs here in town! Once we had her tied to a chair with extra sturdy garland, we bravely asked her how much she was charging, we mean spending, on all of this each year because let’s not forget, shipping and handling must also be accounted for. 

Our advice to our dear Mommy Friend was this — “If you enjoy this kind of torture and can afford to do it, by all means, go for it.  But, if you really feel it’s gotten out of hand and you just don’t know how to let people know so they won’t feel offended — send some type of nice holiday token with a heartfelt card that lets them know you’re no longer crazy and the buck stops here!” 

Kidding, just kidding! 

“It’s really okay to let people know that during these tough economic times combined with your demanding schedule, you have to scale back on EVERYTHING, not just Christmas shopping.  Be sweet and direct and then do not we repeat, do not, feel guilty.”   

Fa la la la la la… la la la la la.

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL TIP #9: Stop and smell the holly bush.

Okay, so holly bushes really don’t have a strong fragrance, but during the holidays it sounded better than saying “stop and smell the roses.”

The one common wish all our busy moms and dads (yes, dads get stressed during the holidays too!) wanted this year was the ability to live in the moment, and not wish away all the time leading up to Christmas just to get it over with. 

That of course is easier said than done, but if we could all just learn to set realistic expectations about every aspect of this festively busy season, maybe, just maybe, we could remember what Christmas is really all about, not what we think it has to be. 

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL TIP #10: YOU TELL US!

We decided to leave Tip #10 blank so you could fill in your own suggestion about how the holidays could be a lot less frazzled and a lot more peaceful and enjoyable.  Please let us know in the comment section or you can e-mail me at CB091987@aol.com or contact our editor, Steven Greenwell at Stephen.Greenwell@Patch.com 

No matter what holiday you and your family celebrate, our Gansett Moms’ Council wishes you a very healthy, fun-filled, stress-free Holiday Season!

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