How to Chill Out for the Holidays

Yesterday I was standing at the meat counter in my local grocery store. An older gentleman had approached the counter just a few seconds before me, so when the staff member came over to help us, I waved him ahead of me to go first. We had a brief exchange of “No, you go first”s, before the man agreed to go ahead of me. I insisted, as he had been there first.

After the man left with his meat, the guy behind the counter said to me, “That was the nicest exchange I have ever heard from behind here. It was nice to hear that.” “Oh?” I asked. “Yes,” he continued, “People usually aren’t that nice at all!”

I was surprised to hear this, and wanting to believe the best of people, I ended our conversation by saying “Well I think people are more anxious and uptight than usual, during the holidays…” “That’s for sure!” he agreed with me, and handed me my pound of grass-fed beef.

As I wrote in my magazine article for Align Body & Soul this month, there is so much to do during the holidays. So much we feel obligated to do. Well at least, us women. Papa might have to put up the outdoor lights, but once all the household decorations are up, Mama still has a long list of tasks to accomplish, and a looming deadline. This time of year more than ever, it’s easy to get stressed out.

Which is why today I’d like to share some of the activities (and non-activities) I have been occupying my time with… now that my Christmas cards are all mailed out of course!

Christmas Movies

When I was a kid, my favorite Christmas films were a set of “Christmas classics” my parents own on VHS. To this day, they are still my favorite movie versions of these stories. The Grinch is okay, but it’s not my favorite. When I do watch The Grinch, I much prefer the old, classic cartoon version.

This year, I decided I needed to share my own childhood favorites with my children, before they get too old to remember them as part of their own early childhood memories, so I spent $8 on Amazon and bought Santa Claus is Coming to Town, The Little Drummer Boy, and Frosty the Snowman, which are all listed as “episodes” under a season called The Original Christmas Classics. Be sure to click on “More Purchase Options” to buy them in SD for $2 rather than $3.

The Original Christmas Classics on Prime Video

I had to search for The Year Without a Santa Claus, which is listed separately but I found it. I am very disappointed that Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is not available to purchase on prime video at this time “due to content restrictions,” so maybe next year.

I think everyone loves Snow Miser and Heat Miser from The Year Without a Santa Claus! Actually hearing Heat Miser’s song on our favorite radio station, Kids Place Live, is what reminded me about these awesome Christmas classics. Did you know they were actually made in 1969?

Christmas Crafts

Five weeks ago I discovered a free, local children’s event 8 minutes from our house at our local library. It’s called Finally Friday and we go now every Friday at 4pm, straight from school. It is craft projects for children ages 7-12, so it is perfect for my girls who are 6 and a half and almost 8. I love that we don’t have to plan or prep or buy any craft supplies. All we have to do is show up. You can check your local libraries to see if there are any fun, free craft days on their calendars too.

The past two weeks my girls got to make giant lunch bag snowflakes and decoupaged Christmas trees.

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As always, we are looking forward to this Friday. Will we make another Christmas craft? I’ll edit this post with our craft project so you can see!

 

I was also very pleased to find a pre-assembled gingerbread house at Sprouts, as I despise the task of assembling! It was $12, a little more than the $8 ones at Walmart, but I appreciate the peace of mind that the Sprouts’ house does not have preservatives or food dyes. I literally just gave my girls the box and let them go to town on the project after school one day while I made dinner. The result may not have been picture-perfect, but they were happy with it!

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I also picked up a $7 all-in-one mess-free glitter craft project that my almost-8-year-old absolutely adored. She spent several hours independently glitterizing, and in the end we had some pretty decorations to display in the house.

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They’ve also been coloring in a coloring book called Christmas Patterns to Color from Usborne, which is also great coloring fun for adults.

As for myself, I have been working on some small Christmas cross stitch projects. I know cross stitch may not be for everyone, and I certainly don’t have the patience for it most of the year! But it is helping me to slow down and chill out this holiday season, and I may get a Christmas present or two out of it.

I bought a $9 book of “Christmas Quickie” ornament patterns and some stardust Aida cloth. I made one ornament from the book that took me 8 hours. I wanted to do some beading so I bought this Snowy Owlet kit for $11 and it took me 14 hours to complete.

Christmas Cookies

Rather than viewing Christmas baking as an obligation,  we can choose to view it as an anti-stress activity. In this case, it really is all in how we choose to perceive our reality.

In this article from The Atlantic, millennials talk about how baking helps them cope with the stress of everyday life,  year-round. “A lot of people have jobs that traffic in ideas or theoretical things, so it’s nice to make physical things,” says one.  All agree. “Baking is mindful… it can have an emotional impact akin to practices that are intended to more directly affect mood, such as meditation or breathing exercises.”

Christmas cookies
The recipe for these Christmas cookies has been passed down in my family for many, many generations. They are a Dutch cookie called Speculaas.

The best way for me to view baking as relaxing rather than stressful I’ve found is to bring an attitude of meditation and calm to the activity.  I talked about cooking as meditation in my blog post Feeding My Family Love. Baking with love and attention is the same.

One thing I’ve found helpful over the years is taking out ALL the supplies and ingredients I will need for a project before I start. I also clean up as I go, putting used measuring cups and spoons that I won’t use again in the sink, and putting away ingredients. This helps keep my workspace clutter-free and reduces overwhelm. I was pleased to hear KonMari mention both of these tips in her book Spark Joy. KonMari is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Often our instincts are on-point, we just have to listen and be open enough to hear them.

It’s important to find a space in your life when you won’t feel rushed. So don’t start baking two hours before you’re supposed to be at that Christmas party! Always expect that your baking project will take longer than you think it will, and you will enjoy a relaxing time spent baking.

Christmas Chill

Another way to chill out during the holidays is just to soak in the fun of it. There are so many ways to have fun during the holidays without breaking the bank, or even spending any money at all.

It has been between 30 and 60 degrees here in Colorado Springs most days this month, so I have been able to take walks around the neighborhood a few times per week. I am practicing the Walking Meditation from Mindful Birthing (lifting, placing, shifting, lifting, placing, shifting), and enjoying all of the beautiful Christmas decorations my neighbors have put up. 

Christmas tree, fireplace, mantle
Our home and hearth. The girls’ snowflakes looks perfect above the mantle!

You stressed over getting it put up, now take the time to actually enjoy your tree! I’ve really been enjoying curling up by the fire and lit Christmas tree with some hot cocoa or peppermint tea and a book on weeknights when we don’t watch movies. In the post-bedtime quiet this space is peaceful and serene. I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.

And if you’re going to read, maybe you’ll enjoy a Christmas story. There are lots of them available for free at your local library. I took all our Christmas books out of our library closet and lined them up along the baseboard in the hallway along with some library books so that the girls can remember that it’s the perfect time of year to read Christmas stories.

Christmas tree made of books

It’s always fun to get lots of packages and Christmas cards in the mail around Christmastime! My girls have been spoiled this year! There was one week we received at least one package every day.

little girl standing next to mailbox with packages

Asking Siri has been our Advent calendar this year (I know, lame!), but next year I think we’ll do this sweet, simple Santa’s beard Advent calendar my friend Katie is doing with her children.

Santa's beard advent calendar

This year we went to two parades, a live nativity scene (aka a 4-H club of costumed children + animals running amuck = sweet, sweet chaos), and a holiday party at a friend’s house.

We even got to see some cool ice sculptures. With all the free events our county offers this time of year, there’s always someplace fun to go with a little gas money.

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My last suggestion may not be possible for you unless you are an “amateur” ham radio operator like my Pop, and if you are, then you probably already know that you can call Santa on Christmas Eve on his radio as he flies around the world delivering presents. He can tell you where he is and you can corroborate this with the NORAD Santa Tracker online. Kids love this! This is a special activity my girls get to do with Grandpa.

 

 

 

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This year’s Christmastide has been fun and not too stressful for my family. It has really helped that we have focused more on free and fun. What have you been up to this year? What do you think you could start doing now to make your holiday time less stressful?

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