The most wonderful time of the year also brings with it a ridiculous amount of pressure and stress. This year, I really thought it would be different. We're used to being home with just immediate family for the holidays. We're used to not having visitors or traveling. But for some reason -- probably because we're exhausted from keeping it together when the world is falling apart -- I'm exhausted.
How do we finish the spring towards Christmas, with enough energy to start the next year on a high note? I think the key is falling back on what we do well: handling all the things. We can do this, we have done this and it's time to pull ourselves together and get through.
Here’s what I’m doing to make that happen.
Adjust your expectations. Just like no two deployments are the same, no two holiday seasons are the same. Even if you are in the same house and have the same plans, it's different this year. So, throw out the expectations you had for last year and even the ones you had for this year, and focus on a few things you can control.
Make some lists. My favorite advice from seasoned military spouses involves making lists. The advice included a traditional "to-do" list, of course, and also a "don't do" list. This changed my world. Last night, as I felt like things were slipping out of control, I made a list of all the things I thought I had to do before the end of the year. Then I moved some of those things to other lists.
The "don't do" list has items on it that simply do not need to be done right now. I do not need to clean out the deep freezer, so why am I worrying about it? But by putting it on the list, I've acknowledged it and noted it and now I can move forward with the things I do need to do, like wrap presents.
Outsource. This morning, I took my "to do" list and decided that while it all needed to be done, it did not all need to be done by me. Luckily, I have built-in help in the form of children, so I informed them they would have tasks to do each day to help me keep the house running.
And outsourcing doesn't have to be just to those who live with you. You can outsource your grocery shopping this week, you can have the place that's printing your Christmas cards address and mail them for you and you can have Amazon gift wrap that package and send it right to your sister (or warn her that it’s coming and not wrapped).
Make a plan. For the things on your list that you really need to do yourself, make a plan and prioritize them. You're going to have to wrap some presents yourself and you have a pretty solid deadline on when that has to happen. But you can make cookies at any point, right? You can prepare dinner in the morning while you're getting kids out the door for the last few days of school. You can even create a new tradition that says you eat frozen pizza on Christmas Day instead of a giant, home-cooked meal.
Sit back and enjoy this season. Do you know what your family will remember from this year? The time you spent together. They will not or barely remember the beautifully wrapped and color-coded presents sitting under the perfectly decorated tree, the dozen different varieties of cookies you put out for Santa or the intricate homemade hot chocolate bombs you stayed up until 2 a.m. making. But being together, making memories in whatever house is home right now is what you'll take with you into the next year.
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