I’m not proud to say it, but if this holiday season is anything like every single one since I became a parenting adult, there will come a time during the next few days when I will have my annual Christmas meltdown. Generally speaking, it will go something like this: we’ll start strong. I will turn on Pandora Christmas classics and together we will bring the tree up from the basement. My spirits will be so high and I’ll want to engage the whole crowd, but the boys will tear into the boxes of ornaments, thereby stringing all of my memories across the living room, all willy-nilly.
And then with both trees up, I’ll make lists upon lists with the best intentions and aspirations. But I will procrastinate because it’s what I do, and it will suddenly seem too late to get it all done, and I will lose my blessed mind over unfrosted sugar cookies, and I will say things like, “Don’t you know Christmas doesn’t just happen? Do you think these gifts wrap themselves?” And then I’ll feel guilty and afraid that this year’s Christmas memories will be discolored by my bad attitude that was really only a symptom of poor planning and several degrees of overwhelmed.
So, this year, I’m working on a handy list of ways to stay lighthearted for the Christmas season.
I will choose laughter at least once a day, even if I have to chase it down like a wild goose. My children and I decorated “ugly sweater cookies,” with an emphasis on “ugly.” (My younger son named them “abominations.”) But sometimes it’s just fun to aim for ugly instead of perfection, especially if you can sit back and laugh.
2. Sing in the car
It’s hard to sing and maintain a grouchy mood at the same time. But sometimes, Christmas carols aren’t what I need. If Pandora or the local radio station aren’t your jam, then find what works for you.
3. Get enough sleep
Nearly everyone is more fun when they’re well rested. Set your family up for success by helping everyone get the sleep they need—yourself included.
4. Do just a few things
What matters most to you? What traditions are most central, the ones that make the holiday complete? Choose to do those well, and let the other demands fall right off your list. “No” is a complete sentence, and it’s a word you get to use. Even at Christmas.
5. Repeat after me
Repetition works as a way of channeling your thoughts. Remind yourself to stay grounded and centered with some solid truths: I am committed to staying calm. I will do all that I can, and that is enough. I am in charge of how I feel, and I choose happiness.
6. Create a new tradition
Turn sad memories into happy ones by putting a twist on what you used to do. Try new recipes, visit new holiday spots, and celebrate the joy of letting yourself say yes. When you can’t fix what’s broken, make something brand new.
7. Light a candle
Candles make everything cozy, and a little flame can balance the cold, dark outside. Breathe in the scent and let it fill the air around you.
8. Remember: the age of Santa Claus is fleeting
The days are long, but the years are short, and Christmases fly by. The little children in your life won’t always embrace the magic from head to toe, so lean into the joy and the sparkle. (Confession: I love that my children know the truth about Santa. Because it’s crazy hard to make it all happen and somehow pretend like you didn’t.)
9. Make a list, and check it twice
I realize the last thing you need is one more thing to do. But sometimes, writing down the good things is a great way to ease the bad. Ask yourself: What are you thankful for? What brought you joy today? Who can you love today? What blessing do you have this year that you’ve never had before? Make a list.
10. Take a Nap
It’s amazing what 20 minutes can do.
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Tricia Lott Williford is a remarried widow, mom of two boys, a writer, teacher, reader, and thinker. Thousands of readers join her each morning for a cup of coffee as they sign online to read today’s funny, poignant stories that capture the fleeting moments of life. She is the author of three books: And Life Comes Back: A Wife’s Story of Love, Loss and Hope Reclaimed; Let’s Pretend We’re Normal: Adventures in Rediscovering How to be a Family; and You Can Do This: Seizing the Confidence God Offers. Tricia collects words, quotes, and bracelets, and she lives in Denver with her two sons. You can get to know Tricia through her daily posts at tricialottwilliford.com.