The holidays are such a magical time when you are a child. Everything is all fun and festivities. However, as you become an adult, the magic tends to get crushed by the overwhelming stress that accompany the most wonderful time of the year. There are gifts to buy, parties to plan, feasts to prepare, and the list goes on and on. Here are my tips for dodging the overwhelm and how to avoid holiday stress.
Plan, Plan, Plan!
Sometimes trying to make plans for the holidays can be stressful enough. I get it. There can be a lot to think about. However, a little stress from advanced planning can actually save you from an overwhelm when the holiday is upon you. Planning is totally key to avoid holiday stress.
What to Plan
Avoid Holiday Stress with Gift-Giving
This wonderful time of the year is often the most expensive. That adds a lot of financial stress to many people. The last couple of years, I have found some tricks to getting crushed with debt coming out of this gift-giving season. Here are my tricks to avoid holiday stress when giving gifts.
The earlier you can start, the better. Spreading the financial burden out over longer periods makes the spending more manageable.
Make a List, and Check it Often!
Write out a list of all the people you need to buy for. This will help with planning and purchasing.
Use the List!
Once you know who you are buying for, figure out a general budget. This will save you from overspending. For example, maybe you plan on spending $20-$25 per child on your list. Now you can plan what gifts to get in that price range.
Utilize the Deals of the Season!
Stores go crazy with sales, discounts, coupons, etc. at this time of the year. Once you know what items you need to purchase, you can watch for sales. There are even apps you can use right on your smartphone that will display all the current sales at the big retailers, and offer cash back on online purchases made through the app.
Avoid the crowds and craziness with online shopping. I have also found that another benefit of online shopping is that I tend to only purchase what is on my list. It eliminates impulse purchasing and saves money.
If money is tight, do not be afraid to speak with your family and cut out unnecessary gifting. Years ago, my family would purchase gifts for every single member of the extended family. Including children and adults. Eventually, we had a discussion and decided to make Christmas for the kids only. You can also do a “white elephant” game. This is where every family purchases 1-2 gifts, and then you take turns choosing a gift or stealing someone else’s. It can be a lot of fun. Everyone walks away with a gift, and nobody goes broke buying for 50 of their closest relatives.
Avoid Holiday Stress While Hosting Holiday Parties
Hosting a holiday party can make it nearly impossible to avoid holiday stress. There is just so much work that goes into these events. So what are the best ways to avoid party preparation burnout?
Clean Only What is Necessary.
Nobody is going to look into your attic. They better not be checking your bedroom closets. And Heaven help anyone who looks under my bed to inspect for dust bunnies. Don’t waste your time with extra projects on thing none of your guests will see. Don’t make unneeded work for yourself. Spend some extra time cleaning the main areas of your home. The unused areas can wait.
Nobody should have to do all the preparation for the holiday party by themselves. Ask for assistance. Have your family help. Give the kids simple tasks. Have your spouse help with what they can.
Don’t Go for Perfect.
Shoot for a nice party. A fun party. If you aim for the “perfect” holiday party, you will be disappointed every time. Because nothing in life is ever truly perfect.
Decorate in Moderation!
Sure we’d all like to have the house decorated in a way that would make Martha Stewart as green as the Grinch with envy, but its just not practical. First off, decorating is a lot of work. Second, if you have children, especially small ones, that expensive fancy beautiful and breakable décor won’t last a day. You can make your home festive and welcoming with simple and easy décor perfect for the holidays. I always recommend checking your local dollar store for adorable items that wont break the bank, and wont devastate you if they get broken or ruined.
Avoid Holiday Stress While Making Meals
Holiday meals are a ton of work. There is so much to buy, prepare, cook, eat, and clean up that it can be hard to avoid holiday stress. However, here are some of my favorite tips.
Potlucks for the Win!
Every year, my Uncle and Aunt would host the family Christmas party. Then, last October, my Uncle passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. The family was devastated. Nobody could even consider the holiday as we grieved our loss. It was a couple of weeks before Christmas when the question was raised. Would my mother host Christmas? She agreed, with the stipulation that everyone would be asked to bring a specific dish. She hadn’t planned to host, and didn’t have any time off of work prior to the holiday. Let me tell you, it worked out beautifully. We came up with a list of all the dishes we traditionally have in our family. Then we assigned each family one item to bring. My mother and I prepared a couple of the main dishes. It was a fraction of the work, and everyone pitched in, and we had a wonderful meal.
Less Sometimes IS More.
I know you may want to make all the traditional dishes and sides, plus try out some of those awesome holiday recipes you found on Pinterest. And it sounds like a complete holiday joy to have a huge variety of homemade holiday cookies out for guests to enjoy. Plus, you saw the video on Facebook of that amazing Christmas Tree Cake that looked just so simple to make. Stop right there. Look at the amount of people that will be attending your party. Prepare enough food for them. Maybe with enough for some leftovers to save you from cooking for a day or two post-party. DO NOT cook like you are feeding a stadium full of hungry athletes. You are making much more work for yourself and you already have plenty to do. Stick with the basics, and maybe throw in a new recipe to try, or one type of cookie to make.
Honestly, I know desserts are a must-have for a proper holiday feast. However, it always seems that they are the one item people are willing to contribute. So maybe if you cant do a full-on potluck meal, you can at least request your guests bring a dessert to share. People can make something, or even pick something up from a store. It saves you from having to come up with a variety of desserts, allows your guests to feel like they’re contributing, and everyone gets to choose from a variety of delicious desserts.
Avoid Holiday Stress When Dealing with Family and Friends
Sometimes, one of the hardest parts of the holidays is dealing with the stress of visiting with family and friends. While family is so important, we all have at least a few nuts on our proverbial family tree. Here are some tips to avoid holiday stress caused by more difficult family and friends.
Be All-Inclusive, If Possible.
One of the easiest ways to avoid family drama is to invite everyone. Include even the more challenging members of the family if you can. Seriously, nothing starts the drama faster than the “Why wasn’t I invited?” nonsense.
Find Your Inner Chill.
People are going to get on your nerves. The holidays are such a stressful time, and you are going to be super busy, and your mind will be running a million different directions at once. Find your calm. That might look different from person to person. Some may have a glass of wine. Some may simply count to ten before responding to your Aunt’s back-handed compliment on your choice of holiday outfit. Maybe, before everyone arrives, go outside and let out a primal scream to release any pent-up frustration, aggression, anxiety, or whatever else you may be feeling. Whatever works for you, embrace it.
Lay Down the Law BEFORE the Festivities.
Sometimes, with more…well, we will call them “spirited” families, you have to lay the groundwork way in advance for what is acceptable and what is not tolerated. If you have excessive drinkers that tend to get out of hand, put the word out ahead of time that drunkenness and unruliness will be a no-go. If you have someone who like to start political arguments at the dinner table, put in a call to the entire family and let it be known that this will not be allowed. I have a family member who does NOT like me for whatever reason. Every single year, at our annual holiday party, she would always find a way to insult, demean, or be downright rude to me. Finally, several years ago, I’d had enough. Prior to the holiday, I put the word out to the family that those kinds of behaviors would absolutely not be tolerated. We haven’t had an issue since.
Focus on the Little Ones.
Christmas is for kids, in my opinion. They still see all the magic, and none of the stress. Focus on making their holiday wonderful and magical. The more you allow yourself to see the joy in the eyes of the children, the less you will notice all the adult nonsense that may be occurring around you.
Another thing that is important to avoid holiday stress is to deal with the travel situation. The holidays are a busy time for many families, and everyone wants to get their face time with each other. That can mean a whole lot of running around and not a lot of relaxation time. Here is how I deal:
Make a plan. Know ahead of time where you need to go, and who you need to see. Plan the amount of time you can spend in each location.
I know that it sucks having to say no to family, especially during the holidays. However, sometimes there are just too many invites and not enough time. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you can’t make an appearance on busier days, like Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day. Maybe you can find a different time to get together during the season with those whom you cant see on those big days.
Or, I should say, IMMEDIATE family. You, your spouse, and your children HAVE to come first. Trust me, if you push your toddler to run from house to house to house from sun up to sun down and miss naps, and be over-stimulated, NOBODY is going to have a good time. Do what works best for your immediate family circle and work outward.
Keep the Kids Occupied!
If you have to do a lot of travelling, and will be spending extended periods in a car or on a plane, make sure to have things to keep your children busy. Tablets are great for these occasions. However, if you aren’t into screen time, you can find tons of other small portable toys and activities to keep kids busy on long car rides or flights.
Remember, This Too Shall Pass
Just like everything else in parenthood, and life, this crazy stressful time will be over before you know it. Avoid holiday stress as much as possible and try and roll with things as much as you can. One thing that holds true in this life is that time seems to be speeding right along. This season will fly by, and then Spring will come, then Summer. The next thing you know, Fall will be here once again. And then you get to do it all over again. The other thing that seems to always hold true is that the more time that passes, the better you will get at navigating these stressful times. Happy Holidays everyone!