Stop the Holiday Insanity

Too often, the holidays become a time of extreme stress and difficulty.  Women, especially, tend to think that they are supposed to provide a magical family festival, keeping every tradition and even adding more each year. Men feel either left out or “bossed around,” while children are alternately over-excited or rushed from activity to activity in a hectic schedule that leaves little time for enjoying special family moments.

Now is the time to sit down with your family and decide, “What kind of holiday season do we want?” A little time spent planning and prioritizing can go a long way toward creating a celebration that will result in happy memories.

Discuss expectations. Write down the activities, events, decorations and even foods that have been part of your family’s tradition in the past. How important are these to each member of your family?  You may discover that some things you have always done are not so necessary after all, and can be eliminated from your holiday chores. 

Make a budget, and stick to it. Everyone should have a clear idea of what your resources are, so false hopes are not raised, and there is less pressure to “just charge it.”

Create a holiday calendar. Display a large calendar where everyone in the family can see it, and fill in the dates for parties, shopping trips and school programs. Reserve days for family activities like decorating and baking. This eliminates “double booking,” and helps you see when you are trying to cram in too much.

Work together. Many tasks, such as addressing greeting cards, can be done jointly. Use the time together to talk about what the holiday season means to each family member and to share stories of holidays past.

Reduce other commitments. This is not the time to volunteer for a school fund-raising drive, or even to schedule a routine dental appointment. Make household chores easier by planning easy meals, or even using paper plates and other shortcuts that will reduce everyday household maintenance.

Take care of yourself. It is easy to get tired and run down by the hectic pace of the season. To make matters worse, the holidays coincide with flu and colds season, making your whole family an easy target for illness. Try to keep eating and sleeping routines as near to normal as possible, and don’t neglect proper nutrition.

Don’t let competition spoil the holidays. The idea behind the holidays is not to serve the most elaborate meal or have the prettiest decorations. Don’t let yourself be pressured into doing things because others are doing them.  It is up to you and your family to plan and create the kind of holiday season that you will enjoy.

Ohio State University Extension embraces human diversity and is committed to ensuring that all educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, age, gender identity or expression, disability, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or veteran status.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in Dec. 2005.