I looked up the dates of Chanukah and took a deep breath. Chanukah’s dates change every year because the Jewish Calendar follows a Lunar cycle. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the date of Christmas. I say this because my children have off from school around Christmas and New Year’s and we love to celebrate Chanukah when they are off school. I also say this because the later in December that Chanukah falls, the more time that I have to shop for presents. Not this year. This year Chanukah starts right after Thanksgiving which means I needed to get moving in October.

I know how stressful the holidays can be. Especially for moms who do tend to do the majority of the work (I’m sorry to the fathers and men who read this and do a lot). It was a no brainer for me for the topic of the week. We need to jump into how to manage our holiday stress. I’m writing this for you and I’m writing this for me.

One of my biggest pointers that most of you already know is to start shopping early. When I saw how early Chanukah is this year, I got online and started ordering presents. Presents are taking a long time to arrive from online shopping. My brother still hasn’t received his birthday present that I ordered in September. Order from a reputable place that you have used before and order now. Don’t wait. I know that some of you enjoy shopping right before Christmas. I know people who like to shop on Christmas eve for Christmas gifts. Not this lady. I want to shop, shop, shop and get it done. My friend posted that she is almost finished Christmas shopping, and I am so impressed with her. Go get it done. Go get it done and try to enjoy the process along the way.

I was just going over my week before I started typing to see when I have time to do some more Chanukah and Christmas shopping. When do you have time to shop? If we are planful in our schedule and we know when we are shopping and who we are shopping for we will feel less stressed. If we have no plan and no list, we will definitely feel more stressed out. Who do you need to shop for? Go over the list with your spouse and make sure you didn’t forget anyone. I was just remembering that Seth is going to want me to shop for his staff as I’m typing this!

I know that I tend to do the majority of the shopping, but I have also in recent years gotten my husband involved. The main reason for this is that he is so much better at technology than I am. I call him my tech master. The tech master should be buying the tech gifts for our children. That does not seem like something that I should be doing. I know that he is on top of ordering stuff for our son Max. Whether it’s my brother, Seth’s brother or our father’s, I tend to get Seth involved to get his input and help me buy things. I like to get his opinion and assistance with the men in our family. Delegate when you can and ask for some help.

Take the guess work out and ask questions. What do people want? Some people are all about surprises. My nephew just told my mom to surprise him as he has no idea what he wants. Max on the other hand has a list of specific things that he wants, and he really doesn’t want surprises. I don’t live near my nieces and nephews, so I really don’t know what they already have so I ask questions. I ask for lists. This is helpful for me. I realize this may not work for you. I want to buy you what you want. If you are my friend reading this, you are always welcome to give me suggestions. I want to make you happy.

I’m going to encourage you to sit down with your partner and have the difficult conversation about money. I am the first person to admit that I avoid these conversations, but they are necessary. What can you afford? What is your holiday budget? Please don’t put yourself in debt buying presents. There are plenty of handmade gifts that people would love. Your kids need to understand what you can afford. You need to understand what you can afford. My mother in law is very good at budgeting. She knows she can spend X on each person, and she sticks to that. That is a good way to shop. I do tend to overspend. I know this about myself. As you probably know, I absolutely love buying and giving gifts. It brings me so much joy. I also need to be reasonable about it.

Seth has tried to get me to stick to a budget for a long time. I remember one year he typed up a spreadsheet (he loves spreadsheets). He listed every single person we were buying for and what he thought we should spend on each person. I am not a spreadsheet or budget lady. That is not fair to Seth, and I do realize that. I remember when he told me I could spend X on each child for Chanukah. I looked at him like he was crazy. One item that I wanted to buy them would equal the entire budget. I tend to like to give my children a gift all 8 nights. I know that sounds totally crazy but think about how many gifts you open on Christmas. This year that is going to be impossible because Max’s presents are so expensive. Max will not be getting 8 presents (unless I go buy him more clothes). My advice to myself is to reread the last paragraph I just wrote and actually listen to myself.

This is not a time to compete with what your friends and family are able to buy. Just because Sally’s mother is buying her X, Y and Z, doesn’t mean that you have to. People don’t love you for what you spend on them. It is 100% the thought that counts. Your children need to learn this too and they need to learn that just because Sally got something doesn’t mean that they can have it. Focus on your own family and don’t worry about what other people are doing.

I want to take a minute to remind you that you need to get some sleep. I have friends who stay up extremely late on a normal day. Add in holiday work and they are going to be up all night. I’m here to intervene and tell you that you need sleep. Dragging through the day because you are exhausted is going to lead to you getting less accomplished. You will get more done and feel less stressed if you make sure that you are sleeping and taking care of yourself.

This leads me to reminding all of us not to throw our healthy habits out the window. I am eating so well. I am walking every day. I have added in weights. I am being mindful of taking some breaks. I want to keep this going through the holidays. This doesn’t mean that we can’t have a cookie. This means that we shouldn’t eat the cookies every day. This means that you are going to feel more stressed out if you are eating poorly and aren’t exercising. Taking care of ourselves will lead to a reduction in stress no matter what time of year it is.

Ask yourself what you want the holidays to look like? What do you want the holidays to feel like? Do you want to feel joyful? How can you make this happen? I flipped a switch to make this happen for myself. I was feeling anxious about all the gifts to buy, and I said to myself, “Isn’t this fun? Don’t you love buying gifts. Let’s have fun doing this. Let’s enjoy this and have a good experience.” We are creating our own experiences. There is someone out there having a ball shopping in stores and online while you may be stressing about it.

What are your challenges? Evaluate what is stressing you out and let’s come up with a plan to fix it. Are you stressed about money? What can you afford? Make yourself a budget to reduce your stress. Reduce who you are buying for. My family has started drawing names. We are buying less and less for adults and more for the kids in the family. That may not work for you as the adults in your family may really want to exchange gifts. Maybe you are going to tell me that you have no time to shop. Who can help you shop? Can you take 15 minutes every night to order a gift online and take it off your list? What is stressing you out and how can you fix it? Technological gifts stress me out so I delegate that to my husband. I don’t like giving him work to do but he also feels good when he is helping.

How can we reduce our holiday stress?

  • Shop early. Shop now. Let’s not wait for the last minute.
  • Be planful. When can you shop and who are you shopping for?
  • Go over your list with your family to make sure you aren’t forgetting anyone.
  • Delegate – who can help?
  • Ask for lists. What do people want? Take the guesswork out unless you want to surprise people. Do they like surprises?
  • Have the difficult money conversations and refrain from overspending.
  • Not a time to compete. You buy what works for your family.
  • Remember to get sleep and take care of yourself.
  • Continue your healthy habits.
  • What do you want the holidays to look like? How do you want to feel?
  • What challenges are you having? How can you fix these issues?

My biggest question to myself this holiday season is to ask myself what kind of experience I want to have? How do I want to feel? I know that I have the power to create my own experience and I want to have a good one. Frazzled, stressed out and overwhelmed does not sound fun to me. Planful, joyful and memorable sounds much better to me. I hope you can take something away from this to make your holiday season more enjoyable for you and your family. I know that for me, I feel much less stressed writing this all down.

Laughing, Learning, Loving,

Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R


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