Keeping a Healthy Balance During the Holidays

I’ve been on a mission to help women during the holidays. I overhear women all the time who have a love/hate feeling with Christmas. I’ll admit, the older I get I fall into that same category. You might have read my post on “Traditions” where I say just because you did it (certain traditions) before doesn’t mean you always have to do it.

As we’re pulling the Christmas boxes from the attic this weekend, I’ve decided to not put as many Christmas decorations up this year. Of course I want to do the basics, and I look forward to pulling out some special pieces that bring joy to our family. But with traditions, we can even be enslaved to them in the way we decorate.

Am I trying to impress?
Does my family really care that we stuff the house?

And with baking, again I have to ask myself the same questions.

I’m challenging myself to a sweet, simple Christmas this year. When I find myself losing control, I want to focus on what really matters.

-Remember, it’s being together that counts. It’s not about how beautiful your tree is, how many cookies you bake, how many dinner parties you throw or attend, the perfection of your decorating, or a clean house.

-Focus on quality. Quality of guests and intimate times together, not chaos and noisy crowds of people who may not mean anything to you. The emphasis should be on quality of gifts for your family, not a contest of how many are under the tree.

-Keep it simple. There’s no law that says the mother in every home has to organize and plan formal sit-down dinners. Plan potlucks, delegate, or better yet – eat out (if you have the means).

-Focus on the conversation and getting to know your friends and feeling the “spirit” of the moment. (You’ll probably be listening to Christmas music in the background, which is festive and really puts you in the mood).

-Enjoy “family.” There’s no rule that says that family has to all be together on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Spread it out – the week before Christmas plan events for your immediate family?. Don’t take family for granted. Be respectful and express in words and actions that you are happy to be together.

-Make it comfy and relaxing. No one wants to go to a party or dinner where things are out of control. Don’t plan too much – don’t pile too much on your plate. Don’t forget as the hostess that you need to “experience” the season.

-Be Flexible. When you look back at times together, you won’t remember the food that didn’t turn out or those who maybe didn’t want to go out to Christmas carol or play games. But you will remember the feelings you experienced. If you can’t go with the flow, you will be miserable. Don’t drag your family down with you. Create happy memories.

Back to quality. I’ve had several discussions with friends on the difference of quality versus quantity. It seems like at Christmas we try to do more and more and more. We take on too much, bake too much, eat too much, party too much – and we find ourselves spinning out of control. But I really want to encourage a positive approach to Christmas, because we have so much to celebrate and to enjoy!

As I trim back on decorating, entertaining, and shopping, I want to think about the reason we even have Christmas, and the quality of relationships and blessings around me.

How will you plan to keep a healthy balance this Christmas season?

   

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22 Responses to “Keeping a Healthy Balance During the Holidays”

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    Jessica W. — November 25, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

    Love this! I’m trying hard to keep things simple now that I have two little ones. Love the thought about focusing on conversation. We get so caught up in the details, we miss out on creating real memories through our relationships! Thanks for sharing this!

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    Patti Smith — November 25, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

    I’ve watched a particular relative of mine walk through the motions every holiday for several years. I love her but feel so bad for her especially at Christmas because it literally feels like she hates it. It shouldn’t be that way. As my daughters grow and begin to leave home, I’ve tried that much harder to make sure home is a comfy, calm and quiet place to be during the holidays…bring on the family but also use that time for regeneration, a safe harbor, and love…unconditional love at that…isn’t that what it’s all about anyway? Thanks for the reminder, Sandy.

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    Kathy — November 25, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

    I’ve learnt over the years to slow down, make it a bit simpler and remember the reason we celebrate and incorporate Jesus into each visit. When our family walk in the door I want them to feel right at home.

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    Aggie — November 25, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

    I really needed to read this today! I put up the tree with the kids and instead of going all out and doing the whole house (like planned) I slowed it down, and really enjoyed the moment. The kids helped put the branches, lights and ornaments on the tree…more help than any year before, mostly because of their age but also because of my PATIENCE! I kept thinking to myself “this is how it’s supposed to be”.

    I’m really trying to keep myself in check this year. Thank you for your lessons my friend. Love y!

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    Curt — November 25, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

    All good points. Quality vs. Quantity is what it really comes down to. So many presents get bought because you have to get so and so something.

    My wife and I started a tradition for ourselves last year to not buy for each other, but rather adopt a family through charity. We both enjoy buying for them so much more. Especially when it’s anonymous.

    And yes, less baking and less decorating gives us more time to appreciate the quality of the baking and decorating e did do.

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    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — November 25, 2011 @ 7:22 pm

    super tips!! Miss you!

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    marla {family fresh cooking} — November 25, 2011 @ 8:05 pm

    This is such a wonderful honest post….everyone who feels an ounce of holiday guilt needs to read it :)

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    sheri — November 25, 2011 @ 8:47 pm

    awesome post. love it.

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    Ann — November 25, 2011 @ 10:37 pm

    Balance is key! I’ve actually had two years where I didn’t put up a tree. I put up other decorations around the house and everything felt….clean and balanced. It was liberating!

    My husband and I – rather than go crazy over gifts – purchase $100 for each other and it MUST fit in a stocking! That way, if we travel, it’s portable.

    With a scaled down Christmas, we’re able to concentrate on the things that really matter.

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    Barbara | Creative Culinary — November 25, 2011 @ 11:08 pm

    I love the decorations but each year I find something else I can do without. I don’t do what I do to impress; I do it because I love the ambiance of the tree and white lights; not having some of those would make Christmas feel, well, not like Christmas.

    Where I’m cutting back is on gifts. I make everything I give as gifts. That has often meant 2 weeks of baking following by complicated packaging and shipping and that would get stressful. I found a great solution…seems my family and friends loved the liqueur I made last year and have asked for more. Who knew that little bottle would mean more than dozens of cookies! I’m also including in their gift baskets this year a pound of home cured bacon…so easy!

    The good news? The bacon is almost ready to smoke and I’ve got close to 4 gallons of liqueurs already aging in the garage…a month before Christmas…whoo hoo!!!

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    Heather — November 26, 2011 @ 4:46 am

    Flexibility is the one thing I’ve learned over the years as my children grew into adults and in-law and work obligations sometimes took away December 25th as Christmas – Now we celebrate when we can, this year OUR Christmas will be on December 28th as my son, the police officer, must work throughout the holidays and won’t be able to make the 3 hour drive during the actual days.
    But my biggest challenge is taming the “Martha” in me – not that everything has to be perfect, trees in every room, but I like the simple touches that a homemade Christmas can bring. So this year, I’m taming the Martha by making a smaller number of cookies, but working towards making them the best they can be.

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    Salad in a Jar — November 26, 2011 @ 6:56 am

    Great reminder of what’s most important.

    p.s. I want to know how to get on Barbara’s (of Creative Culinary) Christmas list.

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    Erin — November 26, 2011 @ 7:01 am

    I’m in the same boat, Sandy. I long for a Christmas season free of the distractions that keep my focus away from the true reason for Christmas.

    For the past few years I’ve done a homemade Advent Calendar. Each night the kids take a turn opening the fabric pouch and inside there is a little treat and a note. The note will say something like “Watch a Christmas movie as a family”, “Drive around looking at Christmas lights”, “Read about Jesus’ birth in the Bible”, “Pray for our troops as a family”, and so on. It’s all about creating an atmosphere of family time, tradition, memory making and focusing on others. (You can see the calendar here: http://thewhatevergirlz.blogspot.com/2011/11/recognizing-advent.html)

    I struggle with the whole quantity verses quality, myself. I love how a ton of beautifully decorated gifts look under the tree and a table full of delicious and beautiful offerings. This Christmas I want to remember the greatest gift of all time arrived in a manger. No tinsel, sparkling lights or scented candles. Not that anything is wrong with those things, because I love those things, but I don’t want to be deceived into thinking Christmas won’t be as special if I don’t “do this or that”.

    Thanks for the inspiration!!

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    Lauren@SimplyLKJ — November 26, 2011 @ 10:41 am

    Love this Sandy! I was that wife, mother, daughter, sil, aunt, etc that always went all out-every room decorated, cookies baked, presents perfectly wrapped, and EXHAUSTED! I never enjoyed the holidays. As our girls got older and I realized the few Christmas’s I’d have left before they would start their own traditions, I took the time to reevaluate what was important to me and our family. Not every room will be decorated, just those we spend the most time in and done much more simply so we can enjoy it rather than be overwhelmed. Rather than tons of Christmas cookies, that while fun decorating, never really all got eaten…the girls each decorate a gingerbread house…and they LOVE it (even at 18 and almost 22). Presents are wrapped as they are purchased, so no more 12 hour wrapping marathons on Christmas Eve!!! Parties are kept simple and few…this year a graduation party for our oldest-dessert (mostly store purchased with a few homemade) and a candy bar…doesn’t get any simpler!! While I love to bake, let’s face it…my local grocery and Whole Foods store do just as good a job and I am left to enjoy my guests with my daughter.
    My only regret? It took until I was in my 40s to realize it! I have however sat both my girls down and shared my story in hopes that they will realize it truly is about quality time with family and not quantity!

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    Becky@Organizing Made Fun — November 26, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

    Thank you for this reminder, that we don’t need to do it all. The older I get, the more I realize this. I can give my kids much more free reign of putting up the decorations and they get the real joy that they love! We have four Christmas parties at our house this Christmas, but we’ve figured out the simplest way of having them – most of them are potluck. It seems like a lot but they are for different things – ministry, family, and one for my husband’s staff at work. I have learned to just take it easy and have people help when they come over, and they want to help. So, I don’t do everything myself and I wait until they start coming in to start do most of the last minute things.

    Becky B.
    http://www.organizingmadefun.com
    Organizing Made Fun

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    Robin — November 27, 2011 @ 9:28 am

    Great reminder to not let peer pressure or tradtion make you do things during the holidays that don’t bring you real joy! Some people will need to simplify while others will feel the desire to amp it up, Whatever you do just make it joyful!!!

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    Brenda — November 27, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

    About 10 years ago, with two teenagers, I was dreading Christmas….too much to do, etc. I asked my husband and each of the kids what really meant “Christmas” to them…..what things, if they weren’t there, would mean that Christmas just didn’t feel like Christmas. I was amazed that the resulting list was really, really short. It was the most precious gift that I ever gave myself. For the past four years we been travelling 1700 kms to where they now live. My DIL has such a knack for centering on what is important and not getting frazzled by anything else…she has been an inspiration. Now that all four, including my grandson :), are coming home this year, I am following those guidelines…….I won’t be an exhausted, frazzled grandmother!

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    Dayle — November 27, 2011 @ 7:46 pm

    Time is a great teacher. I no longer try to do it all. Instead, I do what feels right for me, and make sure to leave enough energy and free time to enjoy it all.

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    Large Family Small World — November 27, 2011 @ 9:33 pm

    A few years ago I had a baby due soon after Christmas, I needed to keep things simple. It was the best Christmas we’ve ever had! I learned from that, and we’ve tried to keep things simple since then. We still do plenty of fun things, but just what we love and enjoy. Less certainly is more!

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    Amy — November 28, 2011 @ 6:31 am

    I’m totally trying to tame things around here this holiday season. Scaling back on what we pull out and being reasonable (and smart/efficient) about the cooking plans. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement! Wish you were close by so we could help each other prepare. (Although I think you’d be helping me more than I would be helping you.)

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    Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary — November 28, 2011 @ 8:11 am

    Your posts always make me feel better Sandy. We are scaling back too. I’m going to donate the decorations I no longer use to our company cafeteria. I’ll still get to see them! We are busy making hand made gifts and we encourage others to do the same. There is nothing like a gift made from the heart (and you don’t have to scramble for a spot at the mall !) Whenever I need a little encouragment that I’m doing the right thing…I come here and read your posts, then take a deep breath and say “it’s going to be fine!”. Thanks!

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    kathy — November 28, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

    I am definitely decorating less. My husband and two boys don’t care how the lights look, only that they are there and the house looks festive. Since I love the lights, I will put them up in all the rooms downstairs, but the knickknacks are going to stay in their boxes this year. And maybe next year too…

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