Calm before the Storm- Stress Reducing Holiday Tips to Use Now!

Take a deep breath and brace yourself. The Holiday season is entering full swing. The Halloween madness has been in full swing now for at least two weeks.  Happy Halloween!

Thanksgiving/fall/harvest stuff has been in stores as well, and last week I noticed stores clearing floor space for the first sparkly plastic Christmas tress.

While I feel irritated at the early onset of the holiday marketing push. Can we just enjoy October before looking at Christmas trees? I can appreciate the idea of planning ahead, preparing for the holidays in small bites, to avoid turning into a stressed-out, screeching lunatic come mid-December.
The secret to keeping happy warm feelings through the Holidays without resorting to over the top commercialism, is to simplify. Before you dive headlong into the next ten weeks, take some time to consider ways you can streamline your to-do’s, to-buy’s and to-make’s. Take time to consider your priorities: how do you want to remember this season with your children? How do you hope they remember it? What is important to your family?

Here are some bite sized ideas to get you started and increase your holiday joy.

Again, reflect on your priorities.
You don’t have to do something, like buy gifts for every colleague or bake cookies for all of your neighbors, just that’s the way you’ve “always done it.” Before the momentum of the Holiday season kicks into gear and carries you away, take a few moments to outline what really matters to you during this time of year. In other words, determine your true priorities for the season. Consider questions like: what traditions really put me (and my family) in the spirit of the Holiday best? Or, looking back on seasons past, what mattered most to me/us?

Go Potluck.
If you are hosting a big gathering, whether Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah or even just throwing a festive party, consider making the event potluck. Not only will this make your life easier, but it enables others to more fully participate in a special day too. If you don’t want to leave the menu to chance, assign responsibility for specific dishes to guests who ask “what can I bring?” We have been hosting a neighborhood drop-in Brunch (potluck style)  for some years now. It allows us time with friends and neighbors without scheduling ourselves silly trying to catch up with them individually, also eliminates the perceived need for gifts for all.

Make a “Day Of” Cooking Plan in Advance.
You don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen all day without any hope of being able to mingle with your guests. At least one week before the event, sit down and map out the cooking schedule hour-by-hour.  Put it down on a piece of paper that you can keep in a visible place in your kitchen.  As you put it together, look for ways you can pre-prep items a day before and delegate tasks, like chopping vegetables, arranging hors d’oeuvres on platters, and setting the table.

Don’t head to the store without a list.
Shopping lists help you avoid buying more than you really need. They also eliminate the predicament of having to run back to pick up an essential ingredient you forgot. It is never fun to reach for an item you thought you had, but you really neglected to buy. Another added bonus: lists make it easier to delegate the shopping! Send your spouse while you tend to tasks you enjoy more than hitting the grocery store during holiday rushes.

Assign Family Members to Ongoing Clean-Up Duty.
Nobody wants to spend hours in the kitchen after a big celebration slaving away over the dishes. Keep a rotating team of dishwashers in the kitchen who can wash pots, pans, and cooking utensils as you go along.

Use Packing Lists to Help You Travel Light.
If you are hitting the road to visit family or friends, take five minutes to make a list of must-have items to pack before you start. people typically wear 10-20% of what they pack for a Holiday trip. This year just pack those essentials and skip the rest!

Send an E-Card.
If sending out physical cards is stressful and unpleasant for you, consider making the switch to e-Holiday cards. Many companies like E-vite, Hallmark, and American Greetings have huge selections of e-greeting cards you can customize and send to friends and family right from your computer.

Streamline Gift-Giving.
You give better gifts to the people you truly love without going over budget when you take the time to organize your gift-giving plan before hitting the mall.  Is there a simple, homemade gift that you can make for several people on your list?  Homemade Irish creme, spiced hazelnuts, homemade vanilla extract, or nicely wrapped loaves of pumpkin bread are always welcome our community.

Skip the Mall, Shop Online.
The great thing about doing your gift shopping online is that you can do it any time that works for you – and you can have items shipped directly to another person without having to schlep to the Post Office. It’s also easier to comparison shop so you get the best price.

Set a Deadline for Completing Your Gift Shopping.
A project will take up whatever time you allot for it. Simply set a date, say December 10th as the deadline for getting through your shopping list this year. Set reminders in your calendar to keep yourself on track.

Limit Decorations.
Keep it simple and natural.  Decorating wonders can be accomplished with four simple things: greens, red ribbon, baby’s breath, and candles (faux or real).  Add a few pinecones, ornaments you already have on hand, a few kid craft projects and you can create Holiday wonderland in your home (without having to throw away alot of stuff when you clean up)

Organize-Invest in an Ornament Box.
These inexpensive bins make it much easier to take out and put away Holiday decorations. They also keep your decorations in mint condition, which means you don’t have to buy new ones very often.  make your own with shoe boxes, but designate a place to store decorations!

Plan Ahead to Use Bad Weather Days to do Craft Projects.
Use bad weather to your advantage. If you stock up now on items like construction paper, scissors, spray paint, glitter and the like you can whip up a crafty item, like spray painted pinecones, on a dreary afternoon. If you’re in need of ideas, familyfun.com is a great resource.

Skip the Wrapping Paper & Gift Cards.
Instead, use old newspapers, outdated maps, cloth bags, or even kid’s artwork to wrap presents. It’s better for the planet and easier on your wallet. Instead of buying individual gift cards for each gift, use free printable gift tags, which you can find online by the gazillion these days (do a quick search on Pinterest) and print right from your own printer.

Limit Commitments & Set Aside Time Each Week to Decompress.
A few Holiday events are essential (i.e. your child’s school play), but many are not. Discuss invitations with your family and outline your true priorities in advance. If you feel “guilty” saying you can’t make an event, try this RSVP script: “My heart says yes, but sadly our family calendar says no. Wish we could be there to celebrate. Hope you have a wonderful time!” In addition, set aside one time a week, like Sundays after lunch, to relax, meditate, and recapture a sense calm.  I recently acquired a foot spa which I plan to use for this purpose!

Now go enjoy your family during this season!

Rachel

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