Four weeks from now is Christmas! I’m excited about it, but there are many who fight depression and have challenges finding joy at Christmas time for a variety of reasons. These include financial limitations, loneliness, grief, exhaustion, health challenges, unpleasant family situations, unfulfilled expectations, or all kinds of other stresses.
Last year at this time, my husband had been in the hospital since before thanksgiving, fighting an infection in his spine that had caused paralysis. It was easy to get discouraged, but celebrating Christmas – the birthday of our Savior – is vital to our family, and we decided we would do our best to make things as simple as possible and enjoy the season to the best of our abilities. We were realistic in what we could or couldn’t do. We put up a tiny tree in his hospital room for him, and set cards up for him to see. We set up our tree and decorated at home too. We served faithfully in our church participating in the church dinner, Christmas program and other activities.
I don’t know if you are struggling this year, but I pray that these suggestions might be a help you, and that you might relax and experience enjoyment, as you enter this Christmas season.
1) Go to church (and not just on Christmas Sunday.) This should be first on your list. Without God in our lives, we have nothing to live for.
2) Put on some Christmas music. Pandora has many choices. My favorite station currently is “Christmas Traditional Radio.” It is mostly instrumental, makes great background music, and has many of the favorite carols.
3) Watch a Christmas movie at least once a week. Here are some ways to find them: Check out Amazon Prime’s selections, get them from your local library, check Netflix, look for them on “over the air” TV, and the Hallmark channel has continuous unrealistic 🙂 Christmas movies. Or you can simply watch an old favorite from your stash.
4) Bake a big batch of cookies or make some fudge. Put some of it on a paper plate with a bow and give it to a neighbor or friend who might be going through something tough this year. Doing something for someone else helps us get our minds off our own challenges and blesses others.
5) Do your best to get seven or eight hours of sleep each night.
6) This last suggestion is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given: “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” Do what is important to you and your family and nothing more.
WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK:
If you are planning on cutting a real tree, try to wait until December to get it. They generally will only stay fresh for about a month, and you have to get them into water within two hours of cutting. They will require many gallons of water to keep them from drying out.
Choose a public area of your home to deep clean – it may be the living room or dining room or even the entry. Set your timer for 15 minutes at a time. Work steadily and then take a 15 minute break to do something you enjoy. Repeat! Start high with a long broom to knock down cobwebs and then dust all surfaces – cleaning them off as you go. I like to start at a door way and work my way clockwise around the room. Last of all, vacuum the entire carpet – including under furniture. Add some Christmas color. A bright poinsettia, a colorful throw, some pillows or a bowl of pine cones with a bow. Here are some easy ways to decorate with Christmas Wrap.
Try to wrap gifts as you buy them. (Which I hope is going well.) Set up a gift wrapping station in a spare room or on a table, you can hide the wrapping paper underneath it when you aren’t wrapping. If you have challenges with sneaky kids figuring out which gifts are theirs, consider putting tiny initials or numbers or even some sort of code on one corner of each package – so that later you can label them appropriately.
As you grocery shop, pick up additional items you will need for any potlucks, special dinners or holiday baking.
Check out these past Countdown posts for hints on how to have a relaxed organized Christmas. “Getting A Good Start,” “Nine Weeks Left,” “Eights Weeks to Go,”
“Week Seven Tips,” “Six Weeks to Go,” “Five Weeks to Go.”
SIMPLE IDEAS TO HELP MAKE MEAL PLANNING EASIER:
The closer we get to Christmas the less time there seems to be for making dinner, and “take out” can cost a bunch. I’m ending this post with some tips to help make meal planning a lot easier.
1. Make a list of the foods your family loves to eat, when you need an idea for dinner look there and you can match up what you have on hand. Divide your list by type of food or ingredients. My list is divided into Comfort Foods, Asian, Italian, Fast Meals and Southwestern. You can divide yours into chicken, beef, pork or meatless.
2. If you have trouble coming up with enough meals, start keeping track of what you have eaten for dinner each day on the calendar – at the end of the month you will have a month worth of menus. There is nothing wrong with repeating meals your family loves. Mine would eat spaghetti or pizza just about every day.
3. When you find it on sale, buy a big package of ground beef and brown it up, using a large fry pan, skillet, electric fry pan, or even griddle. Drain on paper towels cool, and scoop into freezer bags. When you need a quick start, you’ll have already completed the first step. A little less than two cups of cooked ground beef equals one pound.
4. Buy chicken breasts when they are priced well. All the Walmart stores in our area carry boneless chicken breasts in large packages for $1.99 a pound. Poach in salted water until the interior of the breast is about 140 degrees. Chill and cut in pieces, put in freezer bags and place in the freezer. A little less than two cups of diced chicken equals one pound. Save the salted chicken broth in quart jars. Keep one in your refrigerator and freeze the rest. Use in recipes that call for chicken broth
5. Here are some quick one pot or skillet meals that can help simplify your meal planning. Cook double recipes a couple of times a week, and freeze half for future busy days.
Marjie Briggs is a Consumer Scientist who loves Christmas. Her hints for “What to Buy and When” year round will help you save lots of money!