How to Enjoy the Holidays with Less Stress

It seems like one day it’s Halloween – decorations in the stores and scary movies on TV – and the next thing you know, you look around and you’re hurtling towards Christmas and there’s like, I don’t know, only 9 days left. Baking isn’t done and shopping’s not done but time isn’t stopping. What do you do to stop it from freaking you out? Here are my ideas on how to enjoy the holidays with less stress.

Be flexible. Decide if you really need that fancy 300-piece nativity set up. I decided that while I love it, it may have to wait. (And let’s face it, if I put it up this late, there is only 9 days before Christmas for us to enjoy it….)

Say “no” to some things. You can’t donate to every cause or send food to everyone you know. Pick and choose where you can feasibly spend your time and money and feel good about those causes rather than bad about the ones you can’t help.

Be ready to roll with it. Some days are just going to be crazy-busy so it’s a time to admit “Yes, I have lost all control. And maybe my mind.” Shake it off and keep going, the season only lasts so long and soon you’ll be saying “Where did it go? Why didn’t I xxx…”

Stock up on small gifts for people who may drop by. Some $10-$25 gift cards for easy places work great when someone surprises you, and if you have leftovers, they are easily used elsewhere.

Bake double of everything. The initial act of mixing and all that is what is timely, and while it can take longer to bake 48 cookies instead of 24, you’re still saving time and adding to your arsenal.

Multi-task. When you go to Target, give yourself enough time to run into the grocer’s or clothing store in the same parking lot. Gas may be cheap but time still costs, so plan ahead and save yourself time later. Is the place to order that fun spirally-looking ham on the way to Target? Starbucks around the corner? Hit them all up at once and come home feeling accomplished….until you walk in and see the laundry still sitting there. (Laundry is ugly and can smell, but I’d much rather watch a Christmas show with my kids than match one more pair of my white socks.)

Take time to smell the pine. Right now, I’m looking at several blog posts with deadlines this week, the need for an ugly sweater for a fun brunch coming up, and gifts for my son’s teachers and case worker. I could be working on all of that right now, but instead, I’m here with my laptop in front of the fireplace, next to my kids’ Christmas tree. It’s a happy place and from my seat on the floor, I can see the star ornament, with his picture in the middle, that my oldest son made in first grade. I can see the wooden snowman my youngest son made in a homeschool class years ago and the gold spray-painted macaroni ornament my oldest daughter made in first grade. It’s falling apart but like the rest, holds a very special place in my heart. Hanging down towards the right is a bright yellow star my youngest daughter made in Girl Scouts when she was 7 or 8. I could get lost staring at all those ornaments; the kids are growing too fast and this tree is a huge time capsule of their lives. I don’t want to sit here with a snifter of Bailey’s or I could get really sniffly and wish I’d had a couple more kids, but my point is that you need to enjoy the holiday. Everything else has a way of coming together. (I have to remind myself of this nightly.)

holidays with less stress

Notice I didn’t call it “stress-free.” No holiday will be. There’s always something you’ll worry about: a gift you didn’t get, will that gift fit, will that gift get returned, did you spend time with everyone you wanted to, and so forth. You can’t do it all but don’t shoot for a perfect holiday; shoot for an enjoyable one. And buy some extra wine.

I wish you all the happiest of holidays with less stress. Life’s short, try to live stress-free every year you can.

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