I think that a lot of problems and haste can be prevented if you sit down and plan the holidays. I usually take notes of what I want to buy for whom, plan the Christmas menu and check our Christmas tree ornaments – if anything needs replacing, it’s not too late – in November or at the beginning of December at the latest. For the menu, I collect the recipes in my planner and write the shopping list. In order to limit rambling around in shops, I divide the shopping list into the following categories: dairy, vegetable/fruit, meat, baking, personal (e.g. soap, shower gel, makeup, diapers for the baby). When I’m in the vegetable department, I check the relevant category, put in the cart whatever I need, then move on to the next department, check what I need from there, etc. By doing so, I can usually avoid having to go back to an aisle for something. When I write the shopping list, I mark the items with letters, showing where I want to buy that particular item. For instance, T = Tesco, S = Spar, L = Lidl. Another useful piece of advice in this category: always have a plan B.
2. Online shopping
As I hate crowded shops around the holidays, I purchase 90% of the presents online. At home, in the warm room, in silence and peace, I put the presents into my virtual shopping carts, transfer the money, and it’s delivered to my home. I only have to walk to our gate. No crowd, no pushing, no stampeding on each other, no queuing. Whoever invented online shopping, god bless them.
3. Christmas with the family
The most hated part of Christmas is when we have to which members of the family we should meet, when and where. These arrangements usually end up with arguments like “Why won’t you come earlier?”, “Why won’t you stay longer?”, “What does it have to happen this way?”, “Why aren’t you happy with the food?”, “Why is everyone so picky?”, etc. Last year, I learnt that my peace is as important as pleasing the family. I’m also tired, I also want to relax, I also require certain things. We usually meet my parents on the 23rd. On the 24th, it’s just my husband, Peter and me, only the two of us – since last year, it’s the three of us, obviously -, and on the 25th we go to visit my in-laws who live 400 km from us. Last year was the first year when we didn’t go to his parents’ place. Janka was very young, I was dead tired and Peter didn’t want to go to visit his parents alone. Guess how “happy” they were. My parents dropped in for 10 minutes on the 23rd. This was the family Christmas. This year, the question arose again: “How is Christmas going to happen?”. As I’m fed up with having to pack my suitcase and cook diet-friendly food for two days apart from the Christmas Eve menu, my husband is tired because the end of the year is a huge rush at his workplace, we agreed that we will go to my in-laws’ place on the 26th. I’m trying not to care about what people think. It doesn’t always work, but I’m trying to improve it.
4. Don’t waste it
Accept the fact that you can’t make everyone happy. Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect anyway.
5. If you’re alone during the holidays.
Sadly, there are people who spend the holidays alone. Five years ago, when I was in the middle of a divorce, I had a terribly lonely Christmas. Although I was living with my parents, from mid-December – when I started my holiday – I wasn’t talking to anyone. It was the worst thing I could do. By isolating myself, I got even more depressed. Even if you’re alone during the holidays, try to get in touch with someone, at least online or on the phone.
6. If I do get run down by stress
If all of my tactics fail and I get stressed out, first I try to calm down and think about the situation. In this case, I find it really helpful to write a hierarchy of the things that cause my anxiety. I don’t only write down what makes me anxious or nervous, but I also try to come up with a solution to each of my problems. For this, I make a flowchart. If this is my problem and I try to solve it this way, this is what’s most likely to happen. If this happens, I’ll do that, and so on. There’s one flowchart for every single issue. Usually, by the time I finish it, I realise that 1. the problem isn’t that big, 2. there’s a solution to everything. Then I try to think about the fact that Christmas lasts for only three damn days. I usually think about it in the company of an adult colouring book and a box of gel pens and colour pencils. Oftentimes, when I can’t sleep, I sit at our dining table even at night to create my flowcharts or do some colouring. In the morning, my husband can tell that I had a difficult night by looking at the pens and pencils left all over the table along with some half-done colouring pages and he asks if I want to talk about it.
So these are my tips to prevent and handle the “nightmare before Christmas”. If you happen to have any tried and true methods, share it with me in the comment section below.
(Sources of the images: opening image (broken ornament) – pixabay.com; colouring book – my own photo)