While the holidays are a time for joy and togetherness, the reality of the situation is that putting your entire family in one room together is probably going to result in a bit of stress. First, there’s actually getting everyone there – wrangling all those different schedules takes a level of planning comparable to a royal wedding. Then, once they’re there, they have to be fed and presented with gifts – all of which gets exponentially more complicated the more people you add into the mix.
This holiday season, focus on what matters instead of stressing yourself out about the details. Here’s a helpful list of tips to help you avoid holiday stress this year.
Avoid Overscheduling Yourself
One of the primary stresses of the holiday season is that there’s just so much going on. Family parties, potlucks with friends, school events, neighborhood gatherings – the list goes on and on. It’s really easy to run yourself ragged trying to present your best self at party after party.
This holiday season, resolve to block out time in your schedule for rest. As long as you schedule in the big events that you don’t want to miss first, you should be able to arrange things so that you have a few days of down time between parties.
Learn to Say No
The key to managing your schedule and your stress level during the holidays is learning to say no. If you’re actively involved in your community, you’ll probably be invited to tons of different parties. While they are fun, they can be a real drain on your time. For every party that you go to, that means one more chic dress (or suit) to find, food to make or buy, and a host or hostess gift to purchase.
This year, prioritize quality time with loved ones over a quick succession of parties – you won’t regret it.
Keep the Menu Manageable
If you’re responsible for cooking anything at all during the holiday season, beware of falling into the holiday food trap. Holiday food is anything that tastes like food that you make during the year, but for some reason is more complicated and exasperating.
This year, try and avoid going overboard on food by keeping the menu manageable. This could mean having a freezer meal some days, or even ordering in takeout. Don’t feel bad about taking shortcuts – save your energy for dishes that you’re truly excited to make.
Do a Dry Run of Complicated Dishes
Another great way to avoid stressing yourself out in the kitchen this year is to do a dry run of a dish that you’re planning on making. This is useful if it’s something that you haven’t made before and you are worried about how it’s going to turn out.
Cooking up a test version allows you to make tweaks and personalize the dish to your tastes, rather than just following the recipe and hoping for the best. Doing a dry run will also make you more comfortable if you have to make the final dish in a time crunch or with screaming children underfoot.
Stick to Your Budget
If money is tight this holiday season, or if you want to rein in your spending, the best thing you can do for yourself is make a budget. Make it early – preferably in November or even October, before the constant holiday advertisements begin in earnest.
By doing it early and without sentimentality, you can look at your finances clearly and decide exactly how much you want to spend. That way, when you’re tempted to buy matching Apple Watches for your entire family, your budget will tell you whether that’s a possibility. And if it’s not, move on, and think up another idea.
Get Your Shopping Done Early
There’s a reason why Black Friday has become such a big shopping event – people just want to get their Christmas shopping done as quickly as they possibly can. It’s understandable.
However, instead of going out at midnight on Thanksgiving, by planning ahead, doing a bit of research, and shopping online, you can get your Christmas shopping done with hardly any effort. The best gift you can give yourself this year is not having to step foot into a mall the week before Christmas.
Keep up Your Good Eating Habits
Another way to avoid stress this holiday season is to try to keep up your regular healthy eating habits as much as possible. Delicious cookies, cakes, and candies can easily make up the majority of what you eat during the holidays, but doing that will quickly make you sick and exhausted as your body struggles to find nutrients among all the sugary carbohydrates.
Don’t deprive yourself of delicious food, but do your best to keep your diet balanced. Stick to whole grains, lean meats, and veggies whenever you’re not at a party or event.
Get Outside Once a Day
During the busy holiday season, it’s easy to spend a few days prepping for Christmas and entertaining without realizing that you haven’t set foot outside your house in days. This year, resolve to get yourself outside once a day. Even if the weather’s bad, you’ll survive.
Getting 10 minutes of fresh air and sunlight a day does wonders for your mental health. If you’re able to walk outside, or even go for a quick jog or run, even better! Focusing on a physical activity allows you to clear your head and will help you put things in perspective.
Do Something for Yourself
Focusing on others is one of the most valuable parts of the holiday season, but it’s easy to get caught up in that and forget to take care of yourself. This year, combat stress by scheduling in a few things during the busy holiday season that are just for you.
Get a massage, curl up with a book, or take yourself out to a movie. The more you’re able to recharge, the easier it will be for you to spread love to your family and friends.
Rethink Your Family Customs
Traditions are the most enjoyable part of the holiday for some people. However, if you’re feeling like you’ve outgrown a particular custom, or if it doesn’t bring you joy anymore, you should feel free to ditch it or suggest an alternative.
This is particularly important if you’re grieving a loss – don’t stick to old traditions if you know that they’ll upset you. Take this opportunity to explore new traditions that feel more appropriate to where you’re at today. Traditions are only valuable if they’re enjoyed, not just followed by rote.
Ban Controversial Topics
One way that you can keep the peace among your family members this holiday season is to ban controversial topics, like politics or religion, if you know that they’ll only cause drama. Keep your family dinners stress free this year by gently suggesting at the start of the evening that certain topics remain off-limits. When you bring it up proactively at the start of the evening, it ensures that no one feels targeted. Plus, you can cut off conflict before it begins.
Ask for Help When You Need It
The holiday season can be exhausting if you’ve found yourself in the role of organizer, chef, or provider. Maybe you’re just of that generation, or maybe you’ve boasted about your cooking so much that you find yourself the only chef in the kitchen.
Avoid stress this year by asking for help when you need it. Don’t just ask and expect people to know exactly what you need. Come to them with a specific task and trust them to get it done without being reminded.
Don’t Focus on Perfection
At the end of the day, your friends and family won’t remember what your tree looked like or how beautiful your table decorations were. They’ll remember conversations that they had while sitting around the tree or at the table, and they’ll think back fondly on memories that were made that day.
This year, give your family the gift of your attention and presence, rather than focusing on making the day perfect. It’s easy to get caught up in the struggle for perfection, but cut yourself some slack, order in a pizza, and enjoy just sitting around with the people that you love.