I LOVE the holidays. The change in seasons, music, crisp air, baking, shopping, light displays, gatherings, the hustle and bustle downtown, and of course celebrating the real meaning of Christmas. Sadly, I often hear people say how much they dread the holidays! The commercialization, crowds, cost, numerous family issues, and the overall rush and stress of having to prepare for what is such a big holiday for many of us.
After celebrating 48 seasons of this favorite holiday, a few of which were quite stressful even for an “all things holiday” lover like me – I know why you may be feeling overwhelmed and I can help.
Tip #1 – Organize
I create a holiday calendar. It doesn’t have to be pretty (mine isn’t), just effective. I sort out appointments and plans that have already been made and balance those out with my to-do list for the month. I figure out which days I’ll spend shopping, wrapping, baking, buying groceries, and food prepping. I put everything in one binder. Calendar, menus, baking ideas, recipes, gift lists, gift receipts, reminders, and grocery lists.
I also schedule me time (manicures & pedicures, hiking with the dogs, catching up with friends, baths and books, prayer time in the mornings), fun time (movies, dinners out with the hubby, light viewing, travel) exercise time, family time, and blog time (sharing recipes here with you, on Instagram, and managing my GFZ Facebook page). If you don’t make time, it won’t happen.
May seem a bit over the top, but I promise you – there is nothing like having a peaceful night’s rest because my brain is not spinning trying to keep track of a to-do list in my head. Once it’s on paper, it’s out of my head and my mind can focus on the present moment.
Tip #2 – Meal Plans & Baking Plans
I plan my menus based on my energy/health level and keep in mind that I TOO want to enjoy the holiday. As much as I enjoy cooking and baking, I do not enjoy catering to a house full of people who are relaxing and having fun while I am chained to the kitchen.
I break my menus down. I make grocery lists and a prep timeline. Anything I can either prep or fully make a day ahead or more, I do. I keep my prep timeline handy and I highlight everything I’ve completed as I’m going. I also use the prep list when guests arrive, then I can focus on the guests without worrying I’ve forgotten something.
Tip #3 – Prioritize
Do you want to have fun and enjoy the season or do you want it to be filled with angst, resentment, exhaustion, and debt? Not many people would willingly choose the latter…but we often do without even recognizing it!
You know how awful you feel every time you say yes to something when you really want to say no? Keep THAT in mind throughout the entire holiday season. Saying “NO” pertains to family, friends, co workers, gifts, parties, overindulging in food and alcohol, and your TIME. If you really hate visiting 6 different houses on Christmas and would really like to just enjoy a peaceful holiday at home, do it or consider hosting a big potluck and having everyone at your home instead. One stop for everyone! People will forgive you and if they don’t… well, that’s a post for another time about setting better boundaries.
Get your shopping and wrapping done early. I made a pact with myself this year that I’d have all gift shopping and wrapping done by the first week in December. If you don’t like to shop, you can buy almost anything online. If you dread wrapping, consider paying someone to do your wrapping. Or, here’s a concept so many of us forget – ask for help! Let go of the mindset that you are responsible for all the shopping, wrapping, and providing everyone except yourself with a meaningful holiday. Remember this – most people are not concerned with AND rarely notice, 90% of the things you think are absolutely necessary for a happy holiday – pare down! You really CAN relax and have fun.
Consider picking names out of a hat instead of buying for everyone, or do a homemade or Pinterest crafty Christmas. If you enjoy attending a party or two but can’t wrap your mind around the 10 invitations sitting on your kitchen counter, choose the parties you really look forward to attending and politely pass on the rest. Even if for just one year! You can also head out of town for the holiday. We have done that twice in the past 10 years and it was a really refreshing change of pace.
Tip #4 – Focus on Self Care
We know what the real meaning of Christmas is about, however, it’s easy to get caught up in all the extras. If you whip yourself into a complete frazzle, you miss out on all of the peace and magic the holiday season has to offer. The only way around holiday stress is to focus on self-care. Focusing on the true meaning, prioritizing, staying organized, being honest with yourself and others, and most importantly, taking care of your health. Once you’re stressed, it all slides downhill very quickly. Countless people are ill this time of year. We consume more sugar in the winter, get less sun (vitamin D levels drop even further), drink less water so we’re dehydrated which lowers the immune system, and we have the tendency to want to curl up and hibernate rather than getting fresh air and exercise.
Indulge in all the fun things – but in moderation and stick to your normal health routine. Say NO when you mean no, knowing that it is what is best for your health and your sanity. Make a list of all the things you’ve always wanted to do during the holidays but never had the time for – and make them happen! Celebrate! Tell your inner perfectionist worry wart to take a hike. And for crying out loud, take a pass on another holiday spent with your inappropriate uncle Fred and pot stirring aunt Sally.
Such a special time was not intended to be stressful and dreaded. You do deserve a peaceful, joy filled, holiday surrounded by the blessings in your life that have been so freely given.
It’s up to you to make it happen!