Fall is here and the holiday season is just around the corner. Fairs, festivals, carnivals, parties and other events are already popping up on my calendar. I’m sure yours is no different.
They say this is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year” but it seems so many end up stressed out and wishing it was already over. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually enjoy the holiday season this year—without being stressed out?
Here are a few things you can do that will help you enjoy the holiday season this year.
You can’t do everything. You can’t have everything. Even if you won the lottery or have unlimited funds, you don’t have unlimited time. And, if you “do it all” this year, how are you going to keep up next year? Be real. Stop setting the holiday bar so high that it turns into a stress fest where you make yourself and everyone around you miserable by trying to create “perfect” holiday experiences. Perfection is overrated and unattainable and not a whole lot of fun. Trust me, no matter what you do, your holiday celebrations are going to be memorable.
The question is: do you want it good memorable or bad memorable?
Learn to Say No
You do not have to accept every invitation. You do not have to volunteer for every potluck, planning committee or event. Overbooking yourself is a sure recipe for stress and exhaustion. At the beginning of the holiday season (or earlier, if you’re that much of a planner), sit down with your family and your calendar and choose the events and activities that are most important to you, and that align with your values. Saying “no” to requests that don’t fit isn’t rude or impolite. In fact, it’s doing you and the person who made the request a favor. You get time for what’s important for you, and they get to ask someone else for whom it is a good fit.
Use a Calendar—Don’t overschedule
Speaking of not overbooking yourself, learn to use a calendar. Contrary to many myths, using a calendar doesn’t make you more boring, it makes you less stressed. When you write down all your commitments and plans on the calendar, you are far less likely to overbook, or to miss an important event or obligation. At our house, we all use Google Calendar and share our calendars with other family members, so we can see what’s happening and coordinate schedules. When our children were younger, we hung a large desk/wall calendar in the kitchen and used color-coded markers for each member of the family.
While you’re scheduling, make sure your calendar includes some downtime for you and your family to just relax and enjoy one another’s company. Too much on-the-go at the holidays is one of the things that leads to stress. A few well-placed family evenings on the couch with a bowl of popcorn, a cup of cocoa and a holiday movie are a great antidote to holiday stress.
Go to Bed
Sleep is one of the biggest stress-inducing casualties of the holiday season. Trying to fit everything in and get it all done leads to late nights and lack of sleep. Exercise your self-discipline and get yourself to bed at a reasonable hour so you can avoid trying to live on caffeine for the next few months. Lack of sleep not only leads to exhaustion, poor decision making and cranky moods, it also can lower the immune system and contribute to over eating and holiday weight gain. For those nights when you just can’t turn your brain off, try a natural sleep inducer like melatonin or Valerian root, which generally have fewer side effects than prescription sleep aids and won’t leave you feeling groggy in the morning.
Learn to Delegate
Stop trying to do everything yourself. This is a perfectionist-control-freak move. I know. You want it done right. If you have kids, it’s often easier and quicker to do it yourself than it is to have their help. If you’re a solo act, you can always invite friends to go shopping or come over for a baking day. And if you’re part of a family, as many of us are, involve your family members in all the holiday preparations.
Whether it’s doing some of the shopping or gift wrapping, whether it’s putting up and taking down the decorations, or whether it’s planning and preparing holiday meals and treats, your family can help. And not only will delegating and sharing reduce your workload—and your stress load—you will be creating priceless memories with your family. Even your toddlers and preschoolers can help with holiday prep. You may end up with some funny-looking packages, and some misshapen cookies, but the holidays are more fun and less stressful when they’re shared.
Stay on Budget
Ugh, budgets. What an unpleasant and limiting word. Who wants to worry about money when there are holidays to celebrate? Guess what? Money is the NUMBER ONE cause of holiday stress. If you set a budget during your planning phase, and stay within that budget, there will be less stress, AND no big scary holiday bills in January to torpedo your new year.
If you need a place to keep track of all those plans and budgeting, check out these fun holiday planners/budget trackers from Amazon.com.
Leave the Drama for the Holiday Specials
Office drama, school drama, financial drama, and worst of all—family drama. So many people dread the holidays because they dread the drama that surrounds the holidays. If this is one of your holiday stressors, choose to make this year different. Choose not to engage in the drama. If necessary, decline invitations that you know are just a dramafest. If you can’t decline, minimize your attendance and choose to excuse yourself before it all hits the fan.
I know, easier said than done. I get where you’re coming from on that one. I’ve been a party to it too. But more than anything else on this list, deciding not to participate in the holiday drama that comes with so many holiday gatherings will be the thing that will allow you to actually enjoy the holiday season this year without getting stressed out.
So now, that you’re going to enjoy the holiday season this year, what’s your favorite holiday and your #1 way to celebrate?