Let Your Heart be Light {on finding ways to banish stress & anxiety from the most wonderful time of the year}{9}

When I was little, when we all were little, the very idea that Christmas was a whole year away gave me a little pain in my heart.  For truly, I thought, I could not bear to wait that long.  The time from one Christmas until the next Christmas was at least 3 years.  Or so.  Right?  And then when the Holiday would finally roll around again, the feeling it aroused in me was just. . . indescribable.  It was happy.  It was beautiful.  It was. . . overflowing.

Now?  It seems like I am living in perpetual fast forward mode.  I think maybe my birthdays are still about a year apart, but Christmas?  Geez.  It seems like we’re having one every time I turn around!  And it’s not just Christmas.  It’s the “Holiday Season”.  I know that’s different for everyone – not just what Fall and Winter holidays you choose to celebrate, but which ones are important to you, personally.  For me it begins as soon as Halloween is over.  Halloween is not my favorite holiday and I hope you don’t judge me too harshly for breathing a huge sigh of relief when it’s finally done.  I do love Thanksgiving and Christmas though.  A lot.  So, one more Halloween in the books – costumes for kids, a Halloween party or two attended, trick or treating and the parade.  Done.  Phew.

And then BAM!!  It’s November 1st.

But wait!  It’s already November 8th!!  Ack!   A whole week of my holiday season – whoosh! – gone!!  Here it COMES!  Tension, stress, anxiety!  How will I make the most of this special time?  How will I get it all done?  Will I be able to make it as special for my kids as I think my mother made it for me?

Will they feel the magic?

holiday stress relief

one of the very first pictures i took when i got my DSLR for Christmas last year. . .

How can the magic coexist with the freight train of time consuming obligation that is a typical family’s November and December?

First of all, I really do make an attempt to keep that freight train under control.  There is a balance to be struck between participating in the festivities of the season and straight-up-over-obligation.  I simply refuse to make my family miserable by dragging them all over creation to attend too many events and parties whatnot.  My kids are still young enough to enjoy quiet time at home – it’s still part of what makes the holiday special for them.  There has to be time to snuggle in and watch the Charlie Brown Christmas Special and The Grinch.  We have to make room for some cookie and candy making.  And I don’t mean the kind where I am up till 3 in the morning, mixing dough and baking while everyone else is sound asleep because it has to get done.  I mean the kind where the kids get to mix and measure and have fun in the warm winter kitchen. (by the way, the only time my drafty old farm kitchen is warm in the winter is if we are baking)

holiday stress relief

This year I’ll be using a simple little idea to help me get a handle on the holiday season.   I think it will help me to keep things in check – and avoid letting the time just slip past.  Are you a very visual person, like me?  Maybe this will help you, too.

I developed this plan just before summer vacation this year.  I have had a Pottery Barn white board calendar for quite a while and during the month of June (the last month of school) it gets crammed with all of the kids end-of-the-year activities.  And then July rolls around (much like November) and I find myself unprepared to let the games BEGIN!  This year I decided to make additional “white board” calendars – so that I could plan out (and see at a glance) the entire summer.

holiday stress relief

this is on the wall just behind my desk. . .

Okay – I know that you can also use the calendar on your iPhone (and i have one) or on your computer (i have several) but for me?  For a visual person?  This just makes sense.  I created these calendars at a fraction of the cost of the Pottery Barn ones.  And if I’m not needing to plan out big blocks of time – I can use them as actual picture frames.

It made a huge difference (for me) in how my summer “felt”.  I never had that sinking dreadful feeling of realizing that there were only “two weeks left” or that “summer was almost over”.  Okay – I still felt sad when summer was almost over but it didn’t have a chance to sneak up on me.  July and August were right there – plain as day.  And in between was our “wish list” for the summer as well.

holiday stress relief

rocket camp in August. . .


holiday stress relief

July. . .

Now, I have the months of November and December up on the wall.  The big Holidays are already filled in.  There are a few doctors appointments and other boring things up there – and we are all set to plan out a few fun Holiday outings and events – while making sure we keep some time for family fun, too.

holiday stress relief

holiday stress relief

Tonight we will work on the Holiday wish list.  Not the presents – the traditions.  I know my kids are like me – there are certain traditions that are important to them and I want to make sure we can do as many of them as possible.  Have you ever asked your kids what their most favorite Holiday activity?  They might surprise you.  Mine have.  They can make their own lists and I’ll transfer them to the wall.  They know that we might not get to do all of them – but they can still wish, right?

holiday stress relief

How I made the calendars:

You will need:

Large picture frame (mine are 18×24)?? 24 X 36? .  I puchased them at The Christmas Tree Shop for 12 dollars each. (two of them)

one black sharpie and one pencil

a yard stick (or other long straight edge tool)

Chalk Markers

I pretty much copied the spacing and the writing from my Pottery Barn white board calendar.  They happen to be the same size.  Just measure the frame  that you have purchased and divide the horizontal inches by 7 (for the days of the week).  Most calendars come with a paper filler in them.  I simply turned the paper over and used the back side.  It’s white, and it’s just the right size!  Use a pencil and write very lightly so that you can erase any mistakes you might make.  Make 6 vertical lines from top to bottom but leave a 1″ blank space across the top (this is where you’ll write the month and year).  Just below the blank space, make a solid line across  and then another about 1″ below that (this is where you will write the days of the week).  Divide the rest of your vertical space evenly for the weeks of the months.  You’ll need an additional 4 lines to make room for months with 5 weeks in them.  I liked using the yardstick to make the lines because it went all the way across the paper.

holiday stress relief

A note about the “glass” in your picture frame.  The glass in my picture frame is plexiglass.  I suppose that’s why these great big frames only cost 12 bucks.  Now, if yours is glass – you can draw on it with any regular dry erase markers.  I had a feeling that those would stain the plexiglass – and I was right.  Next I tried a popular children’s brand of washable dry erase markers. . . those did not stain but they also didn’t show up when I wrote with them.  At all.  I finally got these Chalk Ink Wet Wipe Markers.  They’re advertised as “All Purpose Decor Markers”.  Ideal for chalkboards, mirrors, plastic, ceramics, glass windows and decor purposes.  I LOVE these markers.  I wrote a little about them here when I first got them.

holiday stress relief

Are you ready for the festivities to begin?  It’s starting without us – whether we are ready or not!  I think my new calendars are going to help me be a little more relaxed this year.  I’m hoping that my whole family will benefit.  It really is the most wonderful time of the year!  At least for me.

What about you?  Do you have any tactics for truly enjoying the season?  For not letting it get away from you?

Please, tell me about it!


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