'Tis the season to be jolly, and yet the stress and rush of the Christmas holidays can reek havoc with the joy to be found with friends and relatives. We can count our blessings that it all happens over a month's time, and yet finding time to relax and enjoy the madness can be a challenge. One way to accomplish all your holiday goals is to have a plan that allows time for shopping, entertaining guests, handling the kids, cooking meals and decorating the house. With a well thought out plan you have a timeline for unfettered freedom during the holidays.
CREATE A HOLIDAY PLAN
First thing to do is create a "To Do" list with deadlines for getting each thing done. Post it on the refrigerator and in your cell phone, so you can find it easily. You can also add and subtract from the list as things get handled or show up unexpectedly.
Go over your list and schedule each day with family and guests so they know where you are and can reach you if needed. Have everyone's cell phone number; let them know meal times and other activities. If you need help with cleaning, laundry or grocery shopping assign each house member a job to do. Rather than assume everyone knows what you are thinking, communicate the essentials especially to your houseguests, such as waking and sleeping times, when the computer is open for use, consumption or not of alcohol, no smoking zones and lowering the toilet seat.
This is the perfect time to shop locally and support the small stores, farmers and artisans in your community. The gifts are unique, often reasonably priced and can be chosen for someone special in mind. Discuss with your family that you will each buy one item per person. This way everyone gets something they really want rather than many items they don't really need; plus you will have more time to relax and be with each other. Consider for next year that if you shop for gifts February to November, come Christmas you will have your shopping done, money in the bank, and time to be at home rather than braving the malls and highways.
MAKE HOLIDAY COOKING A PARTY
If you are hosting a house full of guests assign everyone something to do, whether chopping the vegetables, setting the table, washing the dishes, or keeping the wine glasses full and conversation flowing. It is when you are left alone in the kitchen having to do all the work, while everyone is enjoying the warmth of the Yule fire that you can feel anxious and resentful.
On the other hand, if you are the guest visiting friends or family a few suggestions to keep the relationship from going up the chimney. Do not expect to be waited on for meals. If your host is amenable to having you in the kitchen, put on an apron and throw some veggies on the grill. If you cannot cook find out your host's favorite take-out restaurant and bring dinner home. Most importantly, if your host cooks the meals, then you should do the dishes.
SHARE THE FUN OF HOLIDAY DECORATION
If you are going to get everything done and enjoy the celebrations you will need help in getting the big tasks done. Bring the family together and delegate, delegate, delegate. You can go so far as to write up lists for tasks everyone can do around the house. Then take them along to buy the tree, set it up together and decorate it in the evening with the Christmas lights setting the right mood.
This is also the season to share with others less fortunate or those without family or friends nearby. Invite co-workers, you children's friends or new community members over for a potluck meal and help in decorating the tree. You might be surprised how much they appreciate the show of good will and friendship.
CREATE CALMNESS AMIDST THE STORM
Plan an enjoyable activity, whether a sport or exercise, and commit to keeping your body fit and healthy. With all the stress you will be experiencing this is the perfect time to take up yoga to help you relax, calm your agitated mind and keep you centered and in balance. Ask for a pre-Christmas gift certificate to a yoga studio or fitness center and begin before the wave of activities gets overwhelming.
AVOID WEIGHT GAIN
No need to gain ten pounds during the holiday season when you can focus on eating seasonal, locally grown foods. Rather than overeat at the holiday parties have a lite meal before leaving home or eat exactly what you are craving at the party, even if it is a bacon wrapped scallop; this way you will reduce the sweet cravings and avoid overeating the sugary desserts. Instead get the sweetness you need from your friends and family members, otherwise you will be looking for sweetness in your food.
LEAVE TIME FOR YOURSELF
The most important issue here is to allow time for yourself amidst all the activity. Time to make healthy meals, take a brisk walk or run, do your yoga, and have time to relax at the end of the day. These are essential activities you will need for mind and body, so if you cannot get away by yourself then invite your guest, husband or kids to accompany you and create some quality time together.
Put it on the daily calendar to have time to do nothing. Just enough time to sit in front of the decorated tree, clear your mind and breathe. When you take conscious breaths you infuse the body with energy, and at the same time calm the nervous system. This is a simple practice for the Self, which will result in much less anxiety and irritation.
Delia Quigley is a holistic health practitioner, author of seven health books and an experienced yoga instructor. She also teaches the exquisite science of preparing whole, organic foods to support and strengthen the mind, body and spirit.