By Kimberly Blaker
Do you dread the hustle and bustle of another holiday season?
Between shopping, wrapping, baking, holiday cards, parties, and many other obligations and tasks, surviving the season can be a feat, let alone finding the time to enjoy it with your family. This year, why not make a pact to eliminate stress by following these tips?
Early planning — First, close your eyes and think back to the previous couple years and how hectic and stressful they felt. What percentage of holiday activities and tasks would you need to eliminate to make the season truly enjoyable and relatively stress-free? During this process, don’t think about what you can’t eliminate. Just determine the percentage of reduction you need to make.
Next, make a list of everything you need to do during the holiday season, to which parties you’ll be invited, and how much money you’ll spend. Now cross off the least important, least necessary and least desirable events and tasks. Then review the list, and calculate how much time and expense you’ve shaved off. If you haven’t reached your predetermined reduction, go through your list again.
Once you’ve decided which parties you’ll attend and the commitments you’ll make, plan how you’ll say ‘no’ to all the others, so you’re not caught off guard.
Share in the preparation — Enlist your family to help prepare for the holidays, and divvy up the tasks. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or your family. Remember, you probably don’t notice or mind the imperfections in others’ holiday gatherings. They’re just as unlikely to see any in yours.
Also, keep in mind the holiday season isn’t the time to be head cook. Plan potluck gatherings. Then, either suggest what each person should bring or, to avoid duplicates, ask guests to let you know what they’ll bring.
Save time — in gift wrapping by setting up a station in a spare room or the basement. Or stock a large box or basket with wrapping paper, ribbon, bows, tags, tape, scissors, and pens, so everything is stored in one place. Have extras of everything on hand.
Keep cleaning to a minimum during the holidays. Dismiss unused areas guests won’t see or use, and clean only the obvious in rooms that will be seen. The barely-visible layer of dust on your baseboards is unlikely to be noticed with all the holiday decorations and festivities.
Make everyday meals quick and simple throughout the season. Soups, sandwiches, fresh fruit and vegetables, cottage cheese, pre-cut veggies and dip, and other prepared or semi-prepared healthy foods will suffice for one month of the year.
Do your holiday shopping early in the day on weekdays while your energy is high and crowds are small.
Shop online or by catalog. If an item lacks details, search for a manufacturer’s website to get the information you need.
Give gift cards. Hard-to-shop-for recipients will appreciate something practical. Gift cards to restaurants, department stores, sporting good outlets, and specialty shops, or for a massage, pedicure, or round of golf make great gifts.
Don’t overdo the baking. Your guests will likely have had their fill of holiday treats long before your gathering arrives. As for the warm gesture of taking a plate of baked goodies to friends or neighbors, instead, show they’re in your thoughts by visiting or calling them to wish them a happy holiday season.
Money saver — Does your gift list grow each year? Decide with whom it’s essential or important to exchange gifts. Then talk to extended family, friends, coworkers, and others about forgoing gift exchanges, putting a cap on the price, or doing a drawing instead. You’ll likely learn many feel the same as you do.
Care for yourself — Enjoy holiday treats in moderation. High fat and sugary foods and the lack of healthy meals can lead to tiredness and stress. Keep goodies stored in the freezer where they’ll be less of a temptation. Have plenty of convenient, healthy snacks such as raw vegetables and nuts on hand. Prepare low-fat meals that won’t bog you down.
Pace yourself, and don’t try to do everything in one day.
Finally, give yourself a break. Get plenty of exercise such as a brisk walk in the fresh air, and set aside time for relaxation, like a long bubble bath.
Things to do for next year — Start your shopping early. Create a new tradition with a friend or family member and set a monthly shopping date for the upcoming year. By making a scheduled commitment, you’ll be more likely to follow through. Keep the early holiday shopping fun and choose a different town or shopping center for each trip, focusing on unique malls or trendy towns.
Also, get a label printing software program or app early in the year and enter all of the addresses on your holiday card list. When the holidays roll around, you can print the labels and eliminate the most time-consuming aspect of sending out holiday greetings.
Finally, remember the holiday season should be a joyful time for everyone, including yourself, to join in the good cheer with family and friends. Maximize ways to ease your stress to keep the ‘happy’ in your holidays!