It’s the first week of December and my calendar is full. We have school functions, water polo tournaments, church functions, family visits and myriad other holiday-related activities that seem to punctuate most people’s calendars this time of year. Adding anything else at this point will require some serious juggling, and possibly forms – filled out in triplicate, I suspect…

 There is always a lot going on at our house – and I like it that way. I do not, however, like the stress that comes with being over-scheduled. As we entered this month, I was already feeling a little over-committed. I knew that I needed to do something.
Fortunately, last month Dr. Heather’s focus was meditation, and I was inspired to develop the habit of starting my day with a morning meditation. What a difference a few minutes of daily meditation makes! (I’d like to tell you that I have consistently meditated every morning, but I have missed a few… which is how I can tell you that I notice the difference when I don’t do it.)
If you haven’t started meditating, I encourage you to start with Deepak Chopra’s guided meditations. You can find more information here.
The holiday season is considered by most people to be a time of joyous celebration. It’s a time for gathering together with those you love.
So what is it about the Holiday Season that causes some people to stress-out and go overboard?

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is probably one of my favorite holiday movies. Who cannot relate, at least a little, to Clark Griswald’s desire to create the perfect Christmas for his family? We all sympathize as he carries on despite Fate throwing curve after curve at him. He finally snaps, but only when it appears that he has let his family down. He can shrug off disaster after disaster, but the thought of personally disappointing his family is more than he can bear, and he loses it. How many of us live under that type of self-imposed pressure during the holidays?
I could feel myself nearing the edge, and I did not want to go there. So, I set my attention on the intention of keeping this holiday season as stress-free as possible, despite the many activities my children, husband and I are involved in.
During my meditation, I posited the question: what needs to happen to keep this holiday season as happy, bright, joyful and connected as possible for me and my family?  
The answer that I received was to schedule “downtime” into my calendar each week. It’s not an answer I would naturally gravitate to, but I am going to trust the wisdom of my inner guidance. I know that the idea of scheduling downtime probably sounds obvious to some of you, but I am one of those can’t-just-sit-and-watch-TV types. I don’t do downtime well, but I am really good at multi-tasking! I have blocked the Friday evenings as family/downtime (not all of my Fridays were open, so I used Sunday evening as an alternate). We have more Fridays open than Sundays this month, so it worked better, but I suspect Sunday will be the regular day if I decide to continue this beyond the holidays.
What will I do with my downtime? I hope to spend it with my family (or those family members who are available – I’m not going to increase my stress level by turning this into an attendance required activity). Maybe we will drive around to look at Christmas lights, or watch a holiday movie, or just take a walk. Maybe I’ll convince my children to put away their electronics and play Scrabble or Monopoly. Maybe we will bake some cookies… as long as it is fun! I do not intend to use the time to start a project – no cleaning out closets or reorganizing the garage.

There is no doubt that the holiday season brings its own special stress. Whether it’s the cantankerous, eccentric relatives, or the turkey that wouldn’t cooperate, there will likely be moments that threaten to push you to the limit. When that happens, actually, preferably before that happens, take some time to ask yourself what you need from this holiday season. The answer might be far simpler than you think.