Halloween is barely over. But guess what? Christmas is the next big holiday and it's closing in fast. At least it seems that way when you walk into stores. The candy and trinket displays are busting forth with treats of the season. Chocolate Santas and marshmallow snowmen abound.
My calendar tells me something different though. There is another big holiday nestled between now and Christmas. Soon we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. Granted it's not a big candy or gift holiday, but it's very important in the US. And it's fraught with anxiety for many cooks. It's the BIG food holiday. Just walk down any grocery aisle, you will see display after display of holiday meal items. Kitchen stores are stocked to the ceilings with roasting pans. Magazines lure us with tips and tricks that promise to help us get through this day without disaster. There is even a Turkey hotline.
What does this all mean? The answer is obvious. Expectations are going to be sky high for the balance of the year. Nothing like a little pressure to make us feel like we 'should' already be in full holiday mode. But that really is the idea. Marketers want people, in particular women, to feel like they have to do and be everything. Buy the perfect gift, cook the perfect meal and decorate the perfect home. Intellectually we know this is crazy, but somehow it's all too easy to buy into. We do it despite the fact that it feels less than great.
Why does it feel less than great? Mostly because to do everything we think we 'should' do goes against the principles of organized living. Organized living is about embracing systems that make doing the things we need to do as efficient and easy as possible. It's about making thoughtful choices about what we do with our free time. That is doing the things we want to do. 'Want to' is very different from 'should do' or 'need to do'. 'Want to' means just that, we want to do it. We don't have a sense of obligation, we aren't being bullied by pseudo guilt, and we certainly aren't trying to satisfy the marketers demand of meeting their absurd version of holiday perfection.
The whole idea behind being organized is that we have control over how our days play out. We can find what we need when we need it. We decide which commitments to allow into our lives. We decide what gets our time. To succumb to the 'shoulds' of life flies in the face of what being organized means. Organization is all about order and planning. We live organized so we can have as much freedom as possible.
Sadly, and more often than not, the holidays have a way of creating undue stress. We essentially cede control and allow ourselves to be caught up in the frenzy. With all the pressure that exists in the modern world it's no wonder this happens.
The big question then is this: What can we do to prevent caving in to outside pressure and staying true to our own ideals? This question is very important. We need to answer it definitively so we can create an action plan that will address how we will react to holiday stressors. This is especially true if we want to authentically enjoy the holidays.
Here are three action steps to can take now:
1. Assess Your Situation
Has your life changed since last holiday season? If so, you may need to make some major adjustments. Now is the time to start thinking about what you might need to alter. A new family member, a relocation, an economic development; these are all things that could significantly impact how you celebrate. Begin planning for those changes now.
2. Reflect on the Past
Have you been happy with the way your past holidays played out? Did you enjoy your commitments? Did you feel too much stress? Maybe you felt like you spent more than was prudent. Or perhaps you need to retire some traditions so you can welcome new ones. In any event now is the time to get clear on what you want your holidays to look and feel like.
3. Share Your Expectations and Plans with Family and Friends
If things have changed in any way for you, make sure you speak up. Be as open as possible. The idea is to get people on the same page sooner rather than later, so disappointment doesn't get in the way of enjoying the moment. Maybe exchanging gifts with every family member is too much of a burden. Don't hesitate in voicing your desires, you may find you have plenty of company. Holding in feelings leads to resentment and that is not a feel good emotion.
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