How to Stay Sane During the Holidays

by | Dec 13, 2023

If you came to my house you might believe I am so in love with the trappings of Christmas, I could never do without them.

You’d be wrong.

Despite the fact that our home is decorated with five fully decorated Christmas trees inside, and lots of other holiday accessories, you’d be incorrect.

If my husband would agree to it (and he never would) I would take at least a one year break from putting anything out– anything at all, and just focus on Jesus for a year. I would do it in a New York minute! But, my husband would possibly go into a deep depression if we set nothing up for Christmas. He lives for this. So, we keep doing it. As for me, I sometimes go into a deep depression as I’m setting it all up again, although we share the responsibility of doing so. It’s sooooo much, it still feels overwhelming. Yet, for his sake I do it again.

To be fair, I started this! It was me who started this multiple tree thing back in the early years of our marriage. I’m ready for the tradition to end, but he is not. He reminds me often that his life theme is, “memories.” (Why can’t we just remember the trees, as as they were? LOL)  We used to have seven fully decorated trees and I got him to agree to cutting back to five. Being super transparent with you…it’s a subject of contention in our house. At times the season can be overwhelming physically and emotionally. And with this…

I’m committed to focusing on Jesus, and tending to my physical, and emotional health.

Here are some ways that I take care of myself and keep from losing my mind.

Take a strong stand during crisis times

Last year, I was taking care of my father Gus, and he was on hospice. I knew I could not do the usual things I always did. My focus needed to be Gus and not decorating trees. I told my husband if the decorations were going up, he’d have to pay someone to handle my contribution to doing it. I thought this might be the year for change, and figured he wouldn’t go as far as to pay someone, but he did!  He paid a gal from our church to come and help him put everything up. Literally everything. The two of them hustled and bustled around the house, decorating trees, hanging up garland and putting out poinsettias. I didn’t put one decoration up myself last year, or take one down. This showed me how important this is to Larry because generally he would never think of paying someone to do something like this. (Maybe I should have him do that every year? I’m conservative financially so that’s a hard move for me to make but I’m really thinking about it. Don’t you love how I ‘think out loud’ about these things on a blog anyone can read?! Ha! That’s real and raw Deanna for ya.)

If you are care giving for a loved one, or you are going through a serious medical crisis, or anything else of an overwhelming nature, set boundaries and take care of yourself. Your mental health is more important than putting up the Christmas tree.

I have a friend who has been going through cancer treatment at this time and is understandably weak. She is unable to do many of the things she normally does for her family at the holidays. She is concerned that everything from the pies to the gravy be perfect for Christmas dinner. I encouraged her, “The greatest thing you could give your family, and all of us, is to be here next Christmas. Please, rest. Take care of you right now.”

Make these stores your best friend

Costco, Sam’s, BJ’s…they all need to be places you take full advantage of at this time. For holiday parties, they are the best. Don’t be afraid to get your entire holiday party spread from one of these stores. And do it unapologetically. You may have some pushback, but do not give in and do not feel bad about it.

Larry and I have always had at least two Christmas parties at our home, and over the years there are signature dishes that I have served that I make from scratch. People love my crab puffs and artichoke dip and chicken salad among many other dishes. The year that my birth mother died I was recovering emotionally and simplifying my life a bit during that time just to have more space to process. That year I didn’t make any of the signature dishes and I got everything from Sam’s. A lady who was part of our church at the time came to the party at our home and was stunned that none of my usual dishes were there. “Where’s the chicken salad?” she exclaimed. “Where’s the crab puffs?” I gently explained that it was a year that I needed to scale back for my own self care and do things a bit differently. She was disappointed and said, “Well, this sure isn’t the same party…” and made it seem like it wasn’t worth it to be there. I was unapologetic about it. Taking care of myself at that time was more important than a crab puff. If she didn’t come to the next party, so be it. There would be more crab puffs for everyone else the next year, if I was up to making them.

Don’t forget soul care

During times that are increasingly busy, soul care can go by the wayside. Although it’s the holidays you still need a devotional time, a Sabbath day, and more. Do not neglect feeding your soul. Your holidays may be full but your soul be left starving.

It is important to set boundaries so you can still take a day off, and continue with the spiritual disciplines that feed your soul. If therapy is a priority to you, continue to make time for it even though your schedule is busy. Having a counselor to talk to during these times is helpful to keep a healthy perspective.

Make room for reflection

It is good to take time to reflect, not only on memories of Christmases past, but even more so on the Savior. We become so enamored with the merriment of the holidays we lose sight of who we are honoring and why we do any of this at all.

One of the things I practice that brings me peace and calm and opportunity for reflection is so lie down for a few moments and put on Josh Groban’s Christmas album, Noel. I have it saved as a playlist on Spotify and I listen frequently. It’s not a new album, but I enjoy it tremendously. Some of my favorites are Silent Night, and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. These serve to remind me of what I’m supposed to be dwelling on this season (Jesus) and not worry so much about Christmas shopping and getting everything “just right.” I realized recently that although I have received nice gifts each year from other people, I’m hard pressed to even remember one thing I got last year and as far as the year before –I definitely can’t remember even one thing I got. And there is nothing neurologically wrong with me that I can’t remember things. The holidays become a blur. So in my quest to “get it just right” I need to come back to remembering that nobody will even remember a year or two from now about that gift I painstakingly agonized over to get just right.

Be yourself and don’t compete

I am Deanna Shrodes. And sometimes Deanna feels like making homemade cookies and sometimes she feels like picking up a package of pre-made cookies from the refrigerated section of the store, like where the butter is. And I say to my niece and nephew, “We’re making cookies tonight and watching movies!” and that means opening the package, letting them break the cookies apart and put them on the baking stone. Other times it means I will have the energy to make homemade Italian cookies rolled in powdered sugar. (My favorite.)

I am not Martha Stewart.

I am not Paula Deen.

I am not anyone from HGTV.

I am not an Instagram Influencer.

I am not another woman at my church.

I am not another woman at my work.

I am me.

And sometimes I have energy for more and sometimes I do not.

There is no need to compete.

If they bring a dish to the Christmas event that it ten times more yummier than mine I will probably eat two helpings of theirs and thank God for it. I do not need to have the best dish at an event and have everyone rant and rave. If they do, great. If they don’t, who cares?

I will be me, and I will listen to my body.

My only regret about any of what I’m writing in this post is that I didn’t have these attitudes and boundaries thirty years ago.

I’m late to the self-care party but here I am.

1 Comment

  1. LaDonna

    Appreciated this post. The woman from your church was unbelievable but sadly she is. I’ve been in ministry close to 40 years and have seen and heard it all too. You are more important than a Crab puff and more!


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