by Julia Charleston

It’s mid-September, which means the holidays are just around the corner. Thanksgiving sneaks up on me every year and catches me off guard. Then, six short weeks later, it’s CHRISTMAS! And year after year, I become so overwhelmed I barely have time to breathe, let alone enjoy the festivities. Rather than run yourself ragged this year…consider these 10 tips to not only survive the upcoming holiday, but to take pleasure in the time spent with family during this joyful season.

1. Change your perspective.
Set a precedent for what you want this holiday to look like, and then, shift the way you view that event. For instance, rather than crowds of people, maxed-out credit cards, overindulging on food and desserts, and pushing yourself to complete exhaustion, choose to focus on relationships, laughter and on making memories. Rather than stress about the hustle and bustle, make new traditions in order to enjoy the holiday season.

2.  Keep realistic expectations.
So many of us tend to have idealized expectations of the perfect holiday, and we get disappointed when our expectations do not get met. Frustration settles in and we forget the purpose of what the holidays are really about. Remember, life rarely goes the way we planned, and no family or holiday is perfect. By keeping our expectations of ourselves and others realistic, we won’t be disappointed when things don’t go our way.

3. Unplug – Fast from your electronics.
Make an agreement with your friends and family to store all electronic devices away for the entirety of your time together. Encourage your family members to put their phones on a shelf. Ask them to commit to unplug for the day so you may focus on each other. Have games available or conversation topics on hand for discussion. It may be uncomfortable at first, especially for the younger folks who love their iPhones, but you’ll be amazed at what you learn from people when you sit down, look them in the eyes and talk.

4. Create an environment for unity.
Set up a family jigsaw puzzle. Find a beautiful Christmas or holiday-themed puzzle. For under $30, you can create a fabulous puzzle from a favorite family photo using any number of websites. Shutterfly does a really nice job, and your loved ones will be amazed at your creativity. You’ll find them excitedly working together as a united team to put their picture together.

5. Have an attitude of gratitude.
In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells of a time when she and her sister, Betsie, were prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII. Corrie and Betsie smuggled a tattered bible into the flea-infested barracks. Betsie took 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to heart, insisting they be thankful for everything, even the fleas. Come to find out, it was the fleas that actually kept them safe because the Nazi officers refused to enter. It’s very easy to be thankful when things are going well in our lives, but we tend to complain when life gets tough. Having an attitude of gratitude in all circumstances will help keep us filled with joy in this season.

6. Encouragement letters.
Prepare ahead of time: Type out the name of each guest on the top of holiday-themed stationary. Fold the paper into thirds and put in an envelope with their name on it.
Have your guests sit in a circle, and give each person their envelope. Have them take out their paper and pass it to the person on their right. Instruct everyone to take a few seconds to write an encouraging sentence about the person whose name is at the top of the paper. Don’t think too much as this should be a quick, off the cuff, encouraging word letting our family members know how much we care about them. Keep passing and writing until you end up with your own paper. I have participated in this exercise at staff meetings and small group parties; I still have my letters which I read once in awhile when I need encouragement.

7. Laugh!
Laugh a lot. Laugh until your sides hurt. Laugh until you cry and your jaws are sore. It takes more energy to frown than it does to laugh. Exercise your laughter muscles. Laughter and smiling creates a positive space and brings joy to everyone you encounter. Laughter is good for your heart and good for your soul.

8. Expect the unexpected.
Sometimes, things just don’t go as planned. Whether an unexpected guest shows up that you weren’t prepared for or you burn the marshmallows on your sweet potato casserole. Be willing to be flexible with whatever comes your way. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself (see #7.)

9. Ask for help.
Often times we tend to take on too much during the holidays. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help from friends and family. We know we can’t do everything on our own, whether we’re decorating; shopping, cooking, or we need a shoulder to lean on. Our loved ones cannot read our minds; if we need help, be vocal about our requests.

10. Contribute.
Give a gift of your time, talent or treasure. Volunteer at a soup kitchen scooping mashed potatoes or do something thoughtful for your neighbor. Here at The Foundry, there are several ways to serve or donate during the holiday season. Giving to something bigger than yourself will help generate positivity in your holiday season, while blessing someone else.

Making the decision to mentally plan ahead has proven to offer a successful holiday season. Happy Holidays!