Celebrate the joys of life rather than its commercialism
JANESVILLE If you are not already suffering from a clinical case of holiday stress, you will be soon.
We understand. It's easy to get pulled into the relentless holiday hype that begins Thanksgiving week.
But consider this: It doesn't have to be this way. There's no rule saying it has to be so full of must dos, should dos and oh-my-God-I-forgot-to dos.
As an antidote to those holiday lists, we offer an Advent calendar for simplicity, an undo-to-do list. After all, this is the season meant to celebrate the Prince of Peace, not the colicky baby of commercialism.
1. Give yourself the gift of saying, "No," suggested the Rev. Steve Umhoefer of St. Mary's Parish, Janesville.
That's right, "no" is a legitimate answer to a request for more of your time.
Not only will "no" reduce your stress level, but it might help you find the time to quiet your spirit and refocus on what you value: family, friends, faith.
"Everyone deserves that space of time to themselves," Umhoefer said.
Warning: Eventually, somebody will say to you, "You're the only person who can …"
Christian author and speaker Mary Pierce said "you're the only one" might be a signal that the event or activity has reached its natural ending and doesn't need to happen.2. Consider the Third Commandment.
"In the same way that when we are dedicated to being healthy, we are dedicated to going to the gym, so too would blank time be good for us," Umhoefer said.
The commandment to "keep the Sabbath holy" serves as a reminder to Christians that they need rest and a time to reflect.
"You're not supposed to work because we're really dependent on God," Umhoefer said.
3. Ask yourself, "What gives me joy, what energizes me?" suggested the Rev. Jane Tomaine, author of "St. Benedict's Toolbox" and a speaker on reconnecting with your spirituality amidst the fray of daily life.
The answer probably will not be "standing in a checkout line."
Incorporate whatever that activity is into your week. How to manage that? See No. 4.
4. "Make a quick list of all of the season's essentials, and whatever is not on the list, let it go without guilt," Tomaine said.
Maybe that means not writing the Christmas letter, not decorating the whole house or buying cookies for the holiday parties rather than making them yourself.
These decisions won't make you a bad person; they'll probably free up your time to become a better one.
"Think about what is really important to you," Tomaine said. "That will help guide decisions about how we use our time."
5. Reconsider obligatory gifts. Most teachers have cupboards full of perfumed soaps, tiny plaques with laudatory verses and decorative wooden apples. Ministers, ditto, except their gifts tend to fall heavily into the categories of slippers, scarves and religious statuettes.
They would never say so, but they would rather have your thoughts, prayers and thanks throughout the year.
6. Ponder the proverb of the boat.
There's an old saying: "The happiest day in a man's life is when he buys a boat. The second happiest day in a man's life is when he sells his boat."
"The more stuff you possess, the more you are possessed," said the Rev. Steven Ekblad of Good Shepard Lutheran Church, Janesville. "You have to take care of all this stuff."
7. Embrace the spirit of the season with good works.
"Shovel a walk for a neighbor, take someone a pie," Ekblad said.
Visit a homebound parishioner or friend.
Immerse yourself in those moments and enjoy them—instead of making them another item on a holiday to-do list.
8. Tell somebody who is difficult to love that you love them. Or forgive someone who is difficult to forgive.
"It will be healing for you both," Ekblad said.
9. Play a Christmas carol and meditate on it, Ekblad suggested.
The act of intentionally stopping, both physically and mentally, will help calm your spirits.
10. Remember, every step toward a simpler, less stressful holiday season is a step toward peace.
"People are hungry for a more simple life," Ekblad said. "Whether they can pull it off or not—well, at least they're heading in the right direction, and that will give them a sense of hope."