Earlier today a fellow creative (the wonderful Glady Ann of Heart Take the Wheel) asked her Instagram followers how they get into the Christmas spirit and it made me pause. I wanted to give a really thoughtful answer because ‘getting into the spirit’ is something I’ve struggled with for the past couple of years. In addition to work and the general chaos of the season, my family has suffered the loss of some exceptional people, people who I was missing, but had not taken the time to grieve the loss of since their respective passings. These losses are something that I only recently sought counseling for and, through that journey, I’ve realized that I had been throwing myself into work and generally just powering through the individual days rather than addressing the profound sadness that had taken up residence in both my heart and mind and was impacting my daily behavior.
Throwing myself into work has long been a crutch of mine, which was one thing when I worked for a family business, but has taken on quite a different energy in my current position. I have come to the realization that I am the only one who will tell myself that enough is enough, because I am doing quality work, and I deserve to disconnect at the end of the day. I deserve to leave work at work and not bring it home with me. It is not only my right, but my responsibility to decline work requests during my time off, and to push back when work is impacting my physical and mental health.
It is these realizations that led me to take every last bit of vacation time that was owed to me this year. My superiors wanted to know where I was going and what I had planned. I happily informed them that I would be spending my time off with friends and family. Working in Manhattan can be wonderful at times, but it can also be a massive time-suck. When all is said and done, my commute takes three hours, door-to-door, and it can be difficult to match schedules with those who don’t work in the city or muster the energy to keep plans with the ones that do. All that being said, I needed to take this time to recharge and, hopefully, get into that ‘spirit’ I mentioned at the beginning of this post.
I’m not going to lie, it was really hard to disconnect and unwind. My first official day ‘off’ I woke up 6:30AM panicked that I had overslept. My heart racing and my muscles tense with anxiety, I forced myself to breath deeply and concentrated on relaxing so that I could go back to sleep until a reasonable vacation waking time. Also, I’d made a long-overdue doctor’s appointment, so I needed to be up in time for that.
After a few work-related interruptions in my first two days off, I finally began to relax. I worked out (running is a major stress-reliever for me), I spent time with my parents, and I took time to think about what I wanted to do – not what I felt like I should be doing (shout out to V for telling me that I need not worry about cooking dinner every night just because I was off from work – love you, Handsome!).
So back to the question of how to get into the Christmas spirit. Beyond all of my usual methods of shopping, listening to Christmas music, and watching movies with Christmas scenes (not necessarily Christmas movies, per se), I decided to create a meaningful Christmas craft with the help of my mother. Growing up, she made personally crafted stockings for every member of our immediate family. Each one was a different print, hand-selected by her, with our name handwritten in her “Catholic-school-script.” Those stockings are, to this day, one of my favorite things about Christmas and I wanted to carry on that tradition in my own home, so I asked my mother to carve a little time out of her own very busy schedule to help me make V and I our own stockings. Three hours (and one very late-in-the-evening celebratory glass of wine) later, we had completed the beautiful, one-of-a-kind stockings you see here.
Using my hands to physically create something helped me connect to the holiday in a very concrete way. Doing that with my mother, who I love, appreciate and have a fabulous time with, made it all the more special.
So that’s what I recommend to get in the spirit. Take time for you. Be present. Create something – whether it’s decorating your own wreath, making a stocking or ornament for yourself or a loved one, or just selecting fresh flowers and greenery for a festive arrangement – and then give yourself the luxury of time to appreciate it. In fact, that’s what I’m going to do tonight as soon as V gets home.
Wishing you a very merry and relaxing Christmas.