Stress less Christmas #3: stopping the shoulds

How to stop the shoulds this ChristmasAs we hurtle through the last week of November, I thought it might be a good chance to put the brakes on before we hit December and ask … how are you feeling right now? As you sit contemplating the full social calendar, the shopping and planning that needs to be done, alongside all the day to day responsibilities like work, end of school functions and household upkeep … how are you feeling?

If you have time, sit with your feelings for a little while. What’s nagging you? What are you excited about? What would you love to do if only you had the time? Jot a few notes to get those nagging worries out of your head and to establish a few things you could do for yourself to help you get through the next month as calmly as possible.

After my last post on Christmas gift giving, I was starting to freak out that I wasn’t following my own advice and filling out my Christmas Gift Giving printable and getting a wriggle on with my Christmas shopping. Silly, hey? The stress less Christmas advice giver wasn’t taking her own advice! I caught myself getting caught up in these thoughts and instead of letting the inadequacy fester, I decided to print out the damn printable and get the list out of my head and onto paper. I instantly felt better about it and more in control of the situation.

I find that at this time of year, the ‘shoulds’ can sometimes get louder and louder – like you ‘should’ buy all the stuff on the ‘santa’ list, that you ‘should’ accept every end of year function invitation and that you ‘should’ stress yourself silly over making it a magical time of year for your kids, complete with complicated Christmas craft. If you genuinely love and can afford to do these things, then that’s great. However, if you hear yourself saying ‘should’ a lot, it’s time to take a step back and reassess those Christmas values.

I caught myself ‘shoulding’ today when I was out shopping. I had bought a couple of carefully chosen gifts for some loved ones and I was worried, despite spending up to my budget, that they would be considered too ‘small’ a gift. ‘I should get them something else as well’ I said to myself. I caught my thought as it ticked through my head and I realised that I was only considering buying more gifts as the gift itself looked small, even though it wasn’t cheap, and I risked going over my budget just to make the present ‘look’ more expensive or generous. It’s so easy at this time of year to fall into people pleasing habits and doing things just for show.

I was so happy I caught myself and I looked at the gift in my hand and knew that though it looked little, that I’d chosen that gift especially for that person and that hopefully it would bring them happiness. I let go of that should and left it behind in the shop and walked on feeling lighter, budget intact.

It’s a trap I find myself falling into with the kids, especially. Buying ‘just one more thing’ so that the stocking is adequately stuffed, ensuring the right level of wide-eyed wonder come Christmas Day, but at the end of the day, it’s just stuff. Stuff you don’t have room for when the boxes are cleared and the novelty wears off.

Do you suffer from an attack of the ‘shoulds’ at this time of year? I’d love to hear how you combat them! 

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Stress less Christmas: gift planning + free printable

Stress less gift buyingNow that we have set our Christmas values, it’s time to dive into gift giving. I know there are many people who plan their gift list in mid-June and are already done and dusted with the Christmas shopping and have moved on to fashioning homemade gifts out of felt. However, I’ll go out on a limb here and say if you’re reading about stressing less at Christmas, that you may be a bit more like me and belong to the last-minute school of Christmas prep. And that’s OK! Life is busy and it’s not until we get down to the nitty gritty that some of us snap into gear. I love a good deadline and I really need them to function (self-imposed or otherwise), but this year I’m going to be a bit more systematic about my approach.

Gifts for close family are often fairly easy to choose and buy, but the ones that always make me come unstuck are all the little gifts for teachers, colleagues and neighbours. Despite my best efforts, every year I find myself making a mad dash to the shops for chocolates, books and gift sets and find that I spend more than I should on these smaller items out of convenience.

So, this is where my free gift planning printable comes in. Make a cuppa (or pour a wine) and start by writing down all the people you need to buy for. The next column leaves room for a budget for each person. Be really realistic about how much money you have to spend overall on Christmas and break it down accordingly. It’s tempting to go all out – especially when buying for our children – but it’s not worth the spending hangover come January. With a bit of thought and pre-planning you can get really lovely gifts that won’t cost the earth.

Click on image below to download the printable: 

what's stressing you out

Once you have your list of people and budget, brainstorm some ideas and write down what you’d like to get them in the next column. I like to do this with the computer and pile of Christmas Catalogues next to me, so I can search for inspiration or for stockists of those gifts. I am a big fan of online shopping so in the ‘where to buy’ category, I’ll type in the websites that I think might stock these items or can do a bit of a google search to find where I can purchase.

Once you have your list completed you can start planning your shopping trips and online shopping. Buy all your books together online and save on posting, or do one trip to a giant shopping centre to get the gifts you’ve found in the catalogues. Or if you prefer breaking it down into manageable chunks, do a little bit each week and cross off that list!

I’d love to hear your stress less approach to gift planning and shopping in the comments below! I’d love to hear how those Christmas stress levels are going so feel free to join in the conversation on Facebook too.

Stress less Christmas: establishing your Christmas values

Stress less Christmas week 1It’s started already. The familiar avalanche of junk mail crammed into our modest mail box. Colourful catalogues telling us how many weeks of buying days left, what to buy for who, what to cook, what to wear and what else we might need to buy.

In addition to the retail bombardment is the avalanche of pre-Christmas events and catch ups, sometimes with people we haven’t seen all year, leaving our calendars also bursting at the seams.

Is it any wonder we feel a bit overwhelmed?

It’s the season to be merry, but is this merrymaking coming at a cost to our own sanity and peace? Are we doing certain things because we feel we ‘should’, or are we living our own Christmas values – focusing our energy, support and spend towards the things most important to us?

It’s a question I’ve been pondering lately as I aim to have a simple Christmas that’s focused on celebration without all the stress, preparation and obligation.

Last night I was flicking through a catalogue and looking at the array of Christmas pyjamas for kids that were advertised. It struck me as a product that, although cute for present opening photos, is inherently wasteful – they won’t fit the child next year, so unless there’s a younger sibling or a friend or family member to pass them onto, it’s a bit pricey, when a new pair of non-festive pyjamas will garner countless wears for the same price. When those thoughts were running through my head I realised that excess consumption in the name of Christmas doesn’t sit particularly well with me. I had hit on one of my Christmas values.

Like so many other ‘traditions’ it’s sometimes easy to get caught up in the hype and feel you need to buy and do certain things to make the day special and make lasting memories. But I want to encourage you to get back in touch with what you really value, not so much about what society at large values, which let’s face it seems to ramp up every year.

How to set your personal Christmas values

So, this week have a think about what you want Christmas to mean to you and your family. You might love the social aspect of Christmas and love a full diary, or you might find being so busy completely suffocating. You might love to go crazy with present buying or you might like to keep the present buying simple. You might feel energised about the thought of extended family gatherings or you might be filled with dread. Be honest with yourself! It’s okay to have these feelings.

Think of how you want to feel during the festive season and how you can make that possible. If you feel like it, jot a few notes down about what’s most important to you. What makes you uncomfortable about Christmas – is it the financial pressure, the coordinating of family members, food preparation? What changes could you make to help you feel more comfortable?

I’m still working on my values list, but I really value having relaxation and downtime around Christmas, I want to buy presents that support smaller businesses and gifts for the boys that encourage outdoor activity, I want to keep our Christmas budget modest and enjoy food that is simple, fresh and tasty.

I’d love to hear what your personal Christmas values are. Let me know in the comments below.

Next week, we’re going to put these values in action with our #stresslessxmas to do list!