by Kimberly Blaker
Freelance Women’s Lifestyle Writer
Mom-to-Mom, Nov 2015 (among others)
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Do you dread the hustle and bustle of another holiday season? Between shopping, wrapping, baking, holiday cards, parties, and countless other obligations and tasks, just surviving the season can be quite a feat, let alone being in a frame of mind to enjoy the time with your family. So make a pact to eliminate stress this year by following this holiday survival guide.
First, close your eyes and think back to the previous couple years and how hectic and stressful it 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. Simply 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 roughly 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 commitments you’ll make, plan specifically how you’ll say ‘no’ to all the others so you’re not caught off guard.
Share in the preparation
Ask for help. Share this holiday survival guide with your family. Then enlist them in preparing for the holidays, and divvy up 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 are just as unlikely to notice any in yours.
Keep in mind also, the holiday season isn’t the time to be head cook. Plan potluck gatherings. Then suggest what each person should bring or, to avoid duplicates, ask guests what they will bring.
Holiday survival guide time-and-energy savers
Save time in gift-wrapping by setting up a station in a spare room or the basement. Or stock a 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. That barely-visible layer of dust on your baseboards isn’t likely to be noticed with all the socializing and holiday decorations.
Keep everyday meals quick and simple through the season. Soups, sandwiches, fresh fruit and vegetables, cottage cheese, pre-cut vegetables 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 certificates. Hard-to-shop-for recipients will appreciate something practical. Certificates to restaurants, department stores, sporting good outlets, and specialty shops, or for a massage, pedicure, or a 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. Find other ways to show family, friends, or neighbors you care by visiting or phoning to wish them a happy holiday season.
Does your gift list grow each year? Decide with whom it’s necessary or important to exchange gifts. Then talk to extended family, friends, co-workers, and others about forgoing the gift exchange, putting a cap on the price, or doing a drawing instead. You’ll likely learn they feel the same as you do.
Holiday survival guide with children
Allow children to spend the day they open their gifts at home. It’s hardly fair and often stressful for children to leave their gifts behind that they’ve waited so patiently to open. In turn, this causes stress for parents. Plan family get-togethers either on Christmas Eve or on the weekends before or after the holiday. If there’s no way around it, have an early celebration with your kids the day or weekend before.
Traveling and holiday visiting is also stressful for young children because of changes in routine and unfamiliar faces. Have children help with packing before you leave, even if only for the day, to make sure their favorite toys aren’t left behind. A security blanket or stuffed animal will also reduce stress for your young child in strange surroundings. And don’t forget to leave yourself plenty of time for rest stops.
Don’t take children shopping during the holidays. Ask your partner or an older child to baby sit; trade sitting with a neighbor or friend, or hire a babysitter. Not only will this reduce stress, it’ll likely cut your shopping time in half.
Caring 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
Hold onto this holiday survival guide and 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, purchase a label printing software program 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 to join in cheer and good fun with family and friends. Look for ways to ease stress to keep the ‘happy’ in your holidays!
Kimberly Blaker is a writer for women’s lifestyle publications.