The holidays are the happiest time of year, but also the most stressful. Most of us don’t have a clue as to the real reason holidays are so stressful. We tend to blame our stress on our procrastination and poor organizational skills. Social media and magazines make it seem like everyone else has it more together. That perspective makes holiday stress seem like a personal failure, compounding bad feelings, and, get this, it’s not even true.Holiday stress isn't a personal failure: it's simply too much work to do in too short a time.Click To Tweet
The real reason we get so overwhelmed is that we simply don’t have enough time or money to meet the crazy expectations that the holidays bring. We don’t have an accurate view of how much work the holidays entail. We think we do, but we don’t. By perpetually underestimating the amount of work involved, we spend the entire holiday season playing catch-up and wondering why the work never ends.
Of course, the first step is to get organized, so we might write a list of all we need to do. We don’t want forget anything. But rather than shrinking as items get ticked off the Great Holiday To Do List, it seems to grow! Why is that?
The truth is our Great Holiday To Do List is a monster that nobody, not even Martha Stewart herself, could complete without a staff of helpers.
Our real problem is that we underestimate our workload which inevitably leads to feelings of overwhelm. Here’s an example to give you an eye-opener. Take one thing from The Great Holiday To Do List and count the actual steps it takes to complete it. For example, you might jot, Christmas Cards on your list. That seems to be a single entry, but it’s not. Let me break down the real steps it takes to complete just that one task.
Avoid Holiday Stress by Seeing the Real Work Involved
- Decide on holiday outfits for the family.
- Have children try on clothes to see if they fit.
- Shop for coordinating outfits if they don’t.
- Launder and iron outfits.
- If adults are included you may have to dry-clean some items (Mark that twice for drop off and pick-up.)
- Decide on a location.
- Make an appointment with a photographer. (Extra item if you have to find a coupon.) Or arrange someone to take the picture. (Count all the calls and messages it takes to get everyone together).
- Do the photo shoot.
- Select a picture.
- Select the card design and place order.
- Address all the envelopes.
- Write a message and sign each card.
- Buy stamps.
- Drop them in a mailbox or at the post office.
That one item, Holiday Cards, actually involves at least fourteen different tasks!
When you break down the entries, you realize how much work is involved in a seemingly singular task. The same thing is true for just about every item on your Great Holiday To Do List which means that the list is much longer than it seems on the surface. No wonder it feels like the work never ends!
Knowledge is power, so understanding that you are probably drastically miscalculating the amount of work that needs to be done for the holidays enables you to make better choices. It’s also really important to share this information with your partner and older children, so they can understand what it takes to celebrate in the way that you are used to. Changes need to be made! Everybody needs to slash some items off of their list and delegate others in order to have time to relax and enjoy this magical time of year.
(FYI, before I mention my book, I am legally required to tell you that I would profit from you buying it through this link. Silly, huh?)
In Stress Free Holidays: Bring Back Joy & Peace I have created a master copy of the Great Holiday To Do List that covers the gamut from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. It is pages and pages long. By perusing it, you can get an accurate picture of the effort and energy involved in creating these lovely holidays. The list can be downloaded and printed, so you can customize it to your individual family celebrations. You can also make your own list by breaking down items you think of the same way I broke down holiday cards in the example.
You may choose to forgo the holiday picture card when you realize how much time and effort is involved in pulling it off. You can replace it with ecards or a special social media post to your loved ones, or even just buy a premade box of cards. You may also decide that you love the sending those cards and treasure them as keepsakes, so the effort is well spent. You can cut back in other areas. That’s also a valid choice. The point is to take a little time at the beginning of the season to appreciate all the effort that is involved in creating holiday magic and make deliberate choices about where you will spend your time, money and energy.
This post was proudly featured on Working Mommy Abroad’s Momlife Link Up!