Your Plan For a Stress-Free Holiday Season
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…kind of. Here’s your plan for making sure you get more pleasure out of the holidays.
I know, Halloween was just last week. Do we really need to talk about Thanksgiving and Christmas already? Yes, yes we do. Let’s face it. Once Halloween is done, everything is a mad blur from November first until some early to mid-January date.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. If you plan for it, and stick to your plan, you can spend the next two months enjoying the season instead of wishing it was over.
These are my 10 rules for getting through the season with your holiday spirit and sanity intact.
Do all your holiday planning in one place
Grab a blank notebook or open up a new note in the app on your phone. Use this as a central location for all your holiday planning: meals, gift shopping, parties, and more. Put it all here, and if it’s a notebook, take it with you everywhere.
This cuts down on stress by putting everything in one spot so you don’t have to worry about where to look to find that one thing you need.
It also helps because with this portable planning center, every time you stop in a store, you can check all your lists to see if there’s anything you need: a gift, a meal ingredient, a decoration, etc.
While you can and should put parties and other plans on your calendar, this also gives you a quick and easy way to make sure you don’t end up agreeing to go to six different parties in different parts of town all at the same time.
Speaking of which…
Don’t overbook yourself
The season is full of parties and dinners. There are also school performances, office events, cookie swaps, and more. Everyone wants you to come, to bring your special holiday dish, to help take tickets at the door, to bake the cookies you’re famous for.
While you want to help out with everything, and attend every party or event, the reality is you just can’t do it. You know this, so you tell yourself you’ll say no to some things. And you do, but it’s not enough. You still say yes to more than you can comfortably handle, and end up rushed, stressed, and utterly exhausted.
This year, when you tell yourself you’ll say no to some things, be ruthless about what you say no to. If there are events you’re required to attend (like an office party) put it on your calendar and mark it in a color that lets you know it’s a non-negotiable. Everything else gets written in your holiday notebook with a promise to the asker that you will consider it and get back to them. Then take at least 48 hours to consider whether you really want to do it, and if you don’t, say no.
Start early — like NOW!
We don’t want to think about the holidays yet. Halloween is barely over, we want to take some time to breathe and relax before we move on to the next big holiday. But all too often, we put things off way too long and that’s the cause of our stress.
Start now on all your holiday stuff. Start purchasing a few nonperishable items for the holiday dinners each week. Get everyone’s Christmas wish list now so you can take time to compare prices, shop online, and buy a few things a week instead of trying to cram it all in a week or two before Christmas. Plus, you can wrap things as they arrive so the process isn’t as tedious and time-consuming (or is that just me?).
Giving yourself more time than you think you need also allows you to shift directions if things don’t go according to plan. If a gift doesn’t arrive as quickly as promised, the earlier you order it, the more likely it can still arrive before Christmas. Making pumpkin pies this weekend and freezing them means one less thing to do the week of Thanksgiving when you’re trying to figure out how to fit a 30 lb. turkey into an oven designed for a 20 lb turkey.
Let go of the most stressful holiday things
Does hanging Christmas lights from the second-story roof leave you curled up in tears? Do you hate baking Christmas cookies? Do you wish you could skip the family Thanksgiving dinner with its side dish of drama?
Guess what? You can!
You have permission from me, your spouse, the Universe, or whoever else you need permission from to skip whatever makes you feel most stressed. Seriously, just let it go.
No one cares if you hang the lights from the second-story roof or wrap them around the rails on the porch. If the family loves your Christmas cookies so much, they can follow your recipe and make them. If your family causes more stress than happiness, then tell them you love them and you’ll see them after the new year and make your own plans for Thanksgiving.
Maintain a healthy diet
Sugar cookies, gingerbread men & houses, fudge, egg nog, holiday-flavored ice cream… the list of yummy holiday treats is endless. And it’s all so delicious, and only available this time of year, so you have to indulge now or wait until next year, right?
Well, sure… but no.
Yes, you can and should indulge in your favorite holiday treats. But you should also make sure you maintain your usual healthy diet. When you know you’ll be heading to a big holiday meal, adjust the rest of your meals that day accordingly.
Keep your treats as an occasional indulgence. Choose your absolute favorites rather than going wild. If you want to try some new things, go for it. But try them in place of a favorite instead of in addition to.
Nutrition (and exercise) can play a role in how stressed out we feel. By sticking to our usual eating habits even as we savor a holiday delicacy, we give our body what it needs to deal with the stress we encounter.
You can cause, or add to, your stress by trying to do everything yourself. You are just one person. Much as you might want to, you can’t do everything all on your own. So enlist some help.
Delegate tree setup to your spouse. Get the kids to help you roll out cookie dough and cut it into shapes. You might be room mom in your kid’s class, but you can still ask another parent to help you decorate the classroom.
You can also get help in other ways. If your spouse drives past stores that sell certain gifts you need to get, give them a list and ask them to stop on their way to or from work. If you need to bring a dish to a potluck, swing by the supermarket and pick up something already prepared.
Hold on to some of your daily rituals
Maybe you read in bed before you go to sleep. Maybe you take a daily walk around the block. Whatever it is, keep doing it even during the holiday season. All too often, we shove regular activities aside to make time for the holiday festivities.
Sometimes we have no choice. A holiday party goes late, we come home exhausted and have to get up early, so skipping our nightly bedtime reading is a no-brainer. But when we skip everything we usually do, for up to two months, it can leave us feeling off-kilter and ungrounded.
Make it a point to stick with as many of your regular daily rituals as you can during the holiday season. Even if you usually don’t, try scheduling them on your calendar to help you remember.
Make time for self-care
Many of us find great joy and excitement in the holidays. We enjoy wrapping gifts, baking goodies, attending parties, and all the rest. But even if we enjoy it, and especially if we don’t, we still need to make time for self-care.
In fact, during the holidays, I’d say you should try to find a little extra time for self-care. Typically, I would say daily is ideal, but at least once a week will do. During the holidays, if daily isn’t possible, try to make time at least twice a week to engage in some self-care.
A nap, early bedtime, a couple of holiday-themed movies, self-massage with a deliciously-scented body lotion, a face mask — find some things that will help you feel relaxed and re-energized among all the shopping, cooking, baking, and celebrating.
Let go of perfection
The perfect turkey, perfectly shaped cookies, perfect tree, perfect gifts that are perfectly wrapped. Listen, everything is always perfect on Pinterest, but in real life, it truly is the thought that counts. Let go of perfection and simply enjoy!
I will never forget the first time I tried to bake my grandma’s Christmas cookies. It was a total disaster! But after that first time? When I let go of trying to get those cookies perfect, or even getting them the way my grandma made them? I now bake the most delicious, and visually appealing, cookies I’ve ever baked!
Your kids won’t remember that your tree decorations were all spaced exactly five inches apart. Nor will they remember a perfectly crisp, browned turkey skin. What they will remember is dipping misshapen, headless gingerbread cookies in cold milk with you. Or snuggling with you while you read a Christmas story or watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special.
Let go of perfection and embrace the benefits of imperfection. Enjoy the extra free time that comes with not stressing over getting things exactly right. Enjoy the laughs and memories you can make.
Keep your sense of humor
Perhaps the most important thing you can do during the holidays is keep your sense of humor. Things will go wrong. People will be rude. Some things might even end up being a total disaster. Find the humor in whatever happens.
If you feel like things are getting to you, take a break. Watch a holiday comedy or read a holiday-themed book with some funny moments. Read the comics in the newspaper. Look for whatever makes you laugh and reminds you to look for the lighter side of things.
Are you ready to dive into the holiday season?