The Family Unit

7 Strategies to Ensure You Enjoy the Holidays

Let’s face it, holiday time in any family can be challenging, but when you are a part of a military family, there are some additional stresses depending on where you have been posted to, deployments and what has happened throughout the year (absences due to courses or training exercises, living away from family and friends, etc.).  However, there are some things that you can do to make life easier for yourself and your family around the holidays.

1. Prioritize

Take the time to prioritize the activities and events you want to do and attend.  Live with the mantra that you can’t be all things to all people all of the time and do what is important to you and your family first, and everything after that is a bonus or doesn’t happen, and that’s okay.

2. Create a budget

This will help you make decisions about presents, food purchases and activities but is also a proactive way of reducing stress in the new year.  Rather than getting bills in January and thinking, ‘How did I let this happen?’, you will know what’s coming and know you will be able to manage it. (Check out Liz Summer’s article Shining a Light on Christmas Spending here on how to stay on budget.)

3. Make a calendar of the month

Post the calendar in a high-traffic area of your home so that everyone in your family can see what is happening and when.  Colour code each member of your family and assign one colour to when it is expected that everyone in the family is participating or expected to be a part of something. Review the calendar regularly with your family to ensure you have all the up-to-date information, and so you can avoid the ‘I didn’t know’ or ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ conversations which can really add to your stress level and everyone else’s. (Download Calendar)

4. Schedule time for yourself

While I am a firm believer that everyone should have time for themselves each day (about an hour a day of doing something just for yourself), this is especially important during the holidays, otherwise, your holidays come to an end, and you feel as though you need a holiday from your holiday!  Let everyone in your family know you are taking this time as you are also modeling it for others.

5. Be comfortable using the word ‘No’

No is often considered to be a negative word and one that people should avoid saying.  During the holidays, try getting comfortable with saying no when you are too tired, you know that whatever it is will cause you additional work or stress or when saying yes means that you will have to sacrifice doing the things that recharge you or you enjoy.  Say no and make a commitment to do something at another less busy or demanding time.

6. Honour traditions but don’t be afraid to skip a few

Don’t try to do everything and especially if you have a family member that is or has been absent a lot and you are already exhausted.  Ask your family members to make a list of the top ten things they love about the holidays and then pick five they all have in common rather than trying to do everything and wearing yourself out.  You may discover that your family doesn’t miss a few things and would rather just spend time together relaxing or making new traditions.

7. Create a holiday that you’ll enjoy

Finally, make a list of all the things you want to get out of your holiday and then look at your to-dos, priorities, traditions, and invitations. Ensure that you do things that will be fun and create lasting memories, not the things that are on your list because of an obligation or that it is something you have always done or is what everyone expects you to do (mainly because no one considered any other options).  Create a holiday that you’ll enjoy without sacrificing your own personal well-being and sanity!

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Megan Egerton

Megan Egerton is a military wife, mother of two, principal and writer. Author of While You Were Away:101 Tips for Families Experiencing Absence or Deployment

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Canadian Military Family Magazine