The attic door creaks loudly as it drops and the ladder squeaks at it extends out into the hallway. The smell of hot cider wafts into my childhood bedroom and Christmas music plays softly.
Goosebumps prickle on my arm and a grin spreads across my face.
It’s the day after Thanksgiving and my Mother is up early to start the Christmas decorating.
This is one memory that will be forever imprinted into my soul.
This was my most favorite day of the entire year.
Christmas was coming!!
My Mother loved Christmas…and so did I.
She made December a magical time filled with sweet treats, fun holiday adventures, and glorious decorations. All of my favorite childhood memories take place in December.
As a grew into an adult and became a Mom, I wanted to infuse my house with just as much warmth, joy, and happiness that my mother did.
And I did…for a few years.
But then the magic of the holidays started to lose its sparkle.
Around mid-November, I’d catch myself starting to dread December coming.
I knew I was going to be nothing but a bundle of stress and anxiety.
I wanted the holidays to be fun…but they just weren’t anymore.
Don’t get me wrong I still loved Christmas, but now it was all up to me to create the magic…and I was exhausted!
December is filled with shopping, wrapping, gingerbread houses, cookies from scratch, advent calendars, Christmas cards, handmade ornaments, holiday gift exchanges…
And the list goes on and on and on.
One December, a few years ago, I thought I was managing it all okay. I mean, I hadn’t cried about the stress in days!
And then, I got a note in my preschooler’s cubby. It simply said…
“Our holiday party is this Friday! Make sure to bring a dish for everyone and a wrapped book for one of our friends!”
I read that one little note, and tears streamed down my face.
It was just one party…but it was one more thing on my to do list. One more grocery run. One more present to buy. One more gift to wrap.
And I was DONE.
I called my best friend and wept.
She thought something really bad had happened, she actually asked me if I was okay or if someone was in the hospital, I was crying that hard.
This was the end…
The end of my holiday rope.
I just couldn’t take anymore.
Then my sweet friend said, “Amanda…you are in control of your list. You get to decide what you do and what you don’t do.
“Girl! Learn how to say NO!”
And that’s exactly what I needed…
Since then, I’ve been learning to live a slower life with less stress and overwhelm.
I’ve learned how to say “no” and how to live my life the way I wanted to live it.
And because of that one little phone call…I’ve learned how to create a holiday that I love!
Now when mid-November rolls around, I look forward to December.
I can’t WAIT to decorate and start shopping.
It’s once again…my favorite time of the year.
And this is how I do it…
Begin Your Day Well
It’s important, especially this time of year, to begin your day well.
I prefer a slow wake-up, with hot coffee and quiet, but there was a stage in my life when my day started by being jolted awake by little boys.
Having my senses assaulted by loud boisterous children first thing in the morning did not get my day started off on the right foot. I’d wake up crabby, frustrated, and irritable.
So, I took the course Makeover Your Mornings and it changed not only my mornings but my entire day.
I’m so grateful that I took the course, especially during the holidays.
It’s a stressful time of year, but I’m able to cope with it better because I’ve learned how to start my days off on the right foot.
No more stressed out Mom, no more yelling and crankiness first thing in the morning.
You’re busy and overwhelmed. So start your day off right, so you can conquer it and be mentally ready for whatever gets thrown your way.
Remember What’s Important
There’s a lot going on during the holidays, and there always will be.
There will always be a list of gifts that need to be bought, wrapped, and possibly shipped.
There will always be holiday events that you want to and need to attend.
It’s easy to get lost in the hub-bub that you forget what the important things are.
In order to not lose yourself in the chaos, it’s important to stay focused on what matters most.
For me, it’s family. It might be something different for you. Maybe it’s religion or charity.
Take some time and figure out what your most important thing is, then use that important thing to make decisions about your time and money.
Yes, I’ll happily take my family on The Polar Express Holiday Train this year because it’s something we’ll all enjoy, and it helps bring us closer.
No, I won’t volunteer to plan and decorate the annual Holiday Party because it takes a lot of time away from my family.
My family is my barometer. My family is my focus.
Once you decide on your holiday focus, it’s easy to know what to say “yes” to and when you should say “no”
Because when you fill your days with things you don’t want to be doing, it’s easy to end up feeling resentful and frustrated because you don’t have time for the things that really matter to you.
This is how you end up feeling rushed, unhappy, and resentful during the holidays.
Fill Your Days With The Best “Yes”
“If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no”
This has been a statement that I’ve used throughout my entire year.
Well…this doesn’t apply to “must have’s” like laundry, dishes, cooking, etc., but anything that goes above and beyond what I have to do, I remind myself that “if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no.”
This helps me fill my days with things that bring me joy and happiness, instead of unfulfilling tasks that stress me out.
With the holidays upon me, I have to remember this quote and to use it every day.
This is the time of year where everyone wants you to donate, volunteer, host, and attend a bazillion events. Our schedules and to-do lists get overwhelming.
So this year, I’m all about finding ways to make holiday chores easier. I enjoy wrapping presents, baking cookies, and entertaining. Those are my “hell yes’s”
What don’t I like? Addressing Christmas Cards.
I love creating them online, but the second they hit my mailbox I dread addressing, licking, and stamping all those envelopes.
So, I stopped doing it and found a service that would. Postable.
This year, I created our Christmas Card online, uploaded my address book, and Postable made them and mailed them for me. How amazing is that?
Count your blessings
This is the most wonderful time of the year….right?!
Well, yes and no.
It is filled with excitement, joy, and surprise, but it’s also stressful.
Keeping a daily gratitude journal helps me stay grateful for the good things in my life, especially during times when the good things get lost among my to do list.
It’s easy to remember all the things on my holiday checklist and to focus on our stress levels and the negative things about this time of year.
But how often do you pause and recognize how blessed you are?
I’ve worked hard at infusing my life with gratitude. Every day, I try to find three things that bring me happiness.
When I’m feeling frustrated, I pause and find something (anything) to be grateful for.
A practice of gratitude helps me not get so lost in the hustle and bustle. It fills my soul with joy and I feel happier throughout my day.
Gratitude keeps the negativity away.
Gratitude keeps me from becoming the Grinch.
Take the Chaos Out of Christmas
“I’d like to just enjoy the holidays with my family without the drama! It feels like we’re rushing from one thing to another without taking the time to relax. Then, I end up mad and yelling because the holidays aren’t turning out the way I expected. It’s always a letdown.”
We all want a great holiday with our family, but we end up being let down in the end.
It’s time to bring the joy back into the season!
Learn every single one of my tips and tricks in my holiday book All is Calm…Even Mom: A Survival Guide For Moms Who Want A Less Stressful Holiday Season.
With this book, and its pack of holiday printables, you’ll be armed with everything you need to truly enjoy this holiday season.
It’s time to take back the holidays!!