When my husband first became a police officer the hustle and bustle of the holidays became a time of stress for us. There were so many family and social expectations without any consideration to the fact that my husband was working over the holidays.
Through his years in service and my struggles with a stress condition we have figured out how to tactically navigate the holidays to make them work for us. I thought that I would share some of our strategies with you today.
Before we get into all of the ways to organize and take the overwhelm out of the holidays we need to talk about something serious first.
Most of the officers I talk to started their career because they love helping people and wanted to make a difference in this world. Unfortunately, helping themselves is often one of their lowest priorities.
Taking time for you may feel selfish and take away from doing things for others, when in fact you can accomplish more with a full bucket, than you can an empty one.
It was only after my last crash from stress when the realization sunk in that if I did not take care of myself, then I was not able to give as much to others. Most important my husband and kids.
Have you heard of the airplane analogy?
When you are on an airplane with your kids and the oxygen masks drop down. Whose do you put on first?
If not, you may pass out and then can not help your kids risking their life and you become a liability instead of an asset.
Taking the time to recover during your shifts and in between is your way of making sure that you are able to be there for others.
What does this have to do with the holidays?
Quite often people get wrapped up in the obligations and expectations of the holidays and lose sight of what is really important.
Your physical and mental well-being.
KEEP THINGS SIMPLE
Every year is different, but there have been years where my husband has ended up with back to back overtime. It’s a tough time for many civilians which can mean more calls. Tough calls. It’s very important to make sure that you are taking care of yourself. There is no way that you can be there for everyone else if your bucket is empty.
This time of year, we try to keep things as simple as possible.
Shift work and the demands of your job take a toll on your body.
Accepting every invitation or request for help is so hard to say no to. My instant reaction was to say yes to everything. This trick has taken the guilt out of picking and choosing which to accept and which to decline.
Now when either of us are asked about anything that may affect our schedule we pause and ask our self this question.
If I say no, what am I saying yes to?
If I say NO to meeting my long-time friends one evening during the holidays,
I am saying YES to down time to recover and rest between shifts or depending on the shift, yes to getting enough sleep, time with my kids and husband, being able to have the energy to make it to my kids concert the next night, time to make sure I have proper food for my next shift, time to get what I need done for the holidays…
Rephrasing will help you figure out which ones are the most important and which ones you should politely decline, or request to move to another day/time/month.
Keep this trick in mind as it will help with the next one.
This has to be one of my favorite exercises to decrease my overwhelm. I do this exercise multiple times of year in my business and personal life and my husband does this on his first block of days off every shift. This is my version for the holidays.
Sit with a paper and a pen. Make three columns and write down everything you can think of. #2 and #3 use the rephrasing trick first!
- Things to do this month – This included everything from cleaning the house, groceries, meal prep and other regular tasks to buying presents and for who, host a party/family and anything else you can think of. Even kids concerts and school break.
- People you plan on seeing this month
- Events/social gatherings that you have been invited to
Now take things from the things to do this month and put them into 3 categories
- Things you have to do
- Things you can delegate/hire out
- Things you don’t have to do
Really sit and think about this. Especially if you are someone who tends to take on a lot yourself.
Are you hosting people over the holidays? If so, then is it possible to hire out a cleaning service the day before to give you a full or half day of more time to do other things?
If you are hosting are there tasks you can delegate or schedule to be done? Pot luck with everyone contributing a dish? Create a grocery list and pre order it now to be delivered so that it arrives the day you need it saving you time shopping? Can you order pre-made food to be delivered? Or is take out an option?
Can you shop online now and have everything arrive at your doorstep without having to travel from store to store?
Schedule play dates with your kids’ friends over the holidays or sign them up for camps now so you can sleep after night shift.
If you can figure out a way to delegate the task, ask family or neighbours for help, or hire out than this is the time to do it.
Once you have your list sorted look at your calendar.
Add in the invites you are going to accept. Realistically schedule in when you are going to do the tasks that you have to do. And schedule time to delegate the tasks that you can farm out.
If your calendar looks too overwhelming see if there are more things you can ask for help with or simplify. Are there any invites that you feel would be best to decline?
Keep tweaking it until it doesn’t overwhelm you.
Think outside of the box.
Can you change a large dinner party to an informal pot luck?
Can you move some things to January and in future maybe have some events in October or November?
This is a big one for us.
We celebrate Christmas, but my parents are snow birds (leave Canada and go south where it’s sunny for 6 months) They leave early November every year. We celebrate Christmas with my side of the family in October. It’s so much fun! Buying presents isn’t as stressful, we carve pumpkins and we sometimes get to play in snow. My mom is cleaning out her fridge so makes soups and stews and whatever else she can come up with and that’s our Christmas dinner. Then when we leave we fill our coolers with cooked meals and empty out her freezer. We all love it. It’s scheduled around my husband’s days off. We don’t have to travel all over from house to house on Christmas day leaving Dec 25 for Santa to come. Our kids love that we celebrate Christmas in October. Who wouldn’t want to make an October and December wish list?
Police Families don’t have regular schedules, so why should we try to fit into one? Work gatherings can be any time of year. Maybe next year you can plan ahead and have your work party during a month that is slowest for most.
Rephrase to decide what you should commit to and what you shouldn’t.
Keep things as simple and stress free as you can.
Have a great holiday season.