The festive season fills me with anticipation and excitement, but it also brings a sense of apprehension. Though I revel in the decorations, delightful foods, and family customs, being the primary coordinator for my family’s holiday events often leaves me drained and weary. As we prepare for the holiday festivities, the cognitive weight that mothers carry during this period intensifies. However, this year, I’m implementing adjustments to alleviate my burden and ensure that I too can relish the celebrations.
Strategies for Handling the Cognitive Load During the Holidays
1. Streamlining traditions
While I cherish our holiday customs, attempting to uphold too many routines and rituals can become overwhelming. This year, I’m simplifying my family’s traditions to prioritize quality over quantity. I’m concentrating on the ones that bring the greatest joy and significance and relinquishing those that feel like mere additional tasks on my agenda. I’m also discovering ways to streamline certain significant traditions. For instance, my children eagerly anticipate delivering treats to the local fire station every year. While they have previously enjoyed baking with me, this year we will simplify the process by purchasing goodies from our local holiday market rather than making them ourselves.
2. Contributing instead of gift-giving
With numerous wonderful friends and family members, holiday shopping can be overwhelming. Additionally, most of my loved ones do not require more material possessions. This year, I’m utilizing the funds I would have spent on gifts to make contributions to causes that are meaningful to them. To personalize it, I have found Heifer International, a global non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating hunger and poverty. They offer a “gift” catalog where you can specify the exact donation made in someone’s name, such as a flock of chickens, a hive of honey bees, or a baby goat.
3. Exercising fiscal mindfulness
Managing post-holiday finances brings an added cognitive burden. This year, I’m proactively budgeting to alleviate potential stress later on. I am reminding myself that my family will cherish the experiences more than their gifts and consciously refraining from overspending, while being aware of my budget.
4. Establishing achievable anticipations
If you carry the cognitive load during the holidays, it’s likely that you also shoulder it in other spheres of life. Unfortunately, normal daily activities do not pause for the holidays. This year, I’m allowing myself to remove tasks from my list or approach them differently. I will not be accepting every invitation and may even opt to bring store-bought cookies to a baking exchange. By doing this, I will have the energy to focus on what truly matters to me and my family. Ultimately, the holiday season is about creating impactful memories, not striving for flawlessness.
5. Assigning responsibilities
Delegating tasks is one of the most efficient ways to diminish the cognitive burden. I am assigning responsibilities to family members and friends, such as meal planning, grocery shopping, or decorating. Even young children can participate. This year, I’ve taught my 6-year-old how to wrap gifts and made it his responsibility. Sharing tasks not only alleviates some of the pressure but also nurtures a sense of teamwork and collaboration, engaging everyone in crafting a magical holiday season.
6. Utilizing external resources when feasible
Handling everything alone does not make the holiday enchantment any more “real” than seeking assistance. If financially viable, I’m opting to outsource certain tasks, particularly those that I find less enjoyable. For me, this entails hiring a cleaning service before hosting gatherings. If finances are tight, I can exchange tasks with a friend. For instance, if I enjoy gift-wrapping but dislike holiday baking, I can offer to wrap a friend’s presents in exchange for a tray of treats that I can use at my next gathering. This may not save time, but at least I’ll be dedicating my time to something enjoyable.
7. Prioritizing self-care
The stress stemming from the cognitive load of the holidays can adversely affect both our physical and mental well-being. Amidst all the magic created for others, it’s crucial to allocate time for self-care. Consistent physical activity, ample sleep, and setting boundaries are essential. You are not obliged to socialize with anyone who makes you uncomfortable, and you are entitled to take breaks and decline invitations if necessary to safeguard your happiness and peace of mind.
At times, it may seem like the holidays entail an overwhelming array of individual tasks, but in the end, they consist of memories—both our own and those of our loved ones. We deserve to cherish every bit of the joy we create for others, even if it means not completing everything on our to-do list.