It’s just days before Christmas. Can you believe it? I can’t. If you’re done with all of your shopping, your house was fully decorated the day after Thanksgiving, you have your menu planned, and you’re completely relaxed about the holidays, congratulations. Most of us, the holidays bring some stress. For me, September through November is the busiest time of the whole year for me in my work. November goes by like a rocket, at the end of which I’m mentally exhausted. Then I suddenly realize that Christmas is less than two weeks away and I’ve done nothing. I’ve become an expert at holiday speed prep. Here are seven tips to minimize the holiday stress.
1. Remember it’s about love, family and community, not the number of presents you give or get
The best present you can give is your love and friendship. Pick thoughtful gifts that the person will truly enjoy, not just any gift. You’ll know what these are for the people you’re closest to. For people you feel obligated to gift, stock up on generic gifts you can give to nearly anyone. Candles, coffee, or gourmet hot chocolate mixes are great options.
2. Assess your decorating needs
Decorating the house inside and out is a job. Ask yourself, who are you doing it for? You have no obligation to hang lights and put out the illuminated reindeer. I love that my husband does this for me because it makes me happy when I drive up after a long day at work. I decorate the inside of the house for our daughter because it makes her happy. But I cut back this year on how much I decorated. I did just enough.
3. Consider giving hand-made gifts and homemade food
These are often more appreciated than store bought gifts. Steve and I make blackberry jam from the jungle of bushes on our property. We make it in August, store it, and bring it out at the holiday. It’s easy, and people love getting a jar of the jam. Last year our daughter made us each handmade framed notes of what she appreciated about each of us. We’ll cherish those for the rest of our lives. Use any talent you have to make a simple gift that can be created in advance of the holiday season.
4. Use an artificial tree
Ditch the ritual of cutting your own tree, hauling it home, having it dry out, and getting rid of it. We literally can walk to two tree farms and we changed to an artificial tree 10 years ago. It’s much faster, it looks good, and you just store it after the holiday. Reduced stress is more important than the smell of a live tree or a trip through the rain and mud to cut one down.
5. Shop online
The internet is the best thing that ever happened to reduce holiday stress. Amazon has everything, and anything can be ordered online. You can do ALL of your shopping this way. To ensure delivery by Christmas, order more than two weeks out.
6. Set a budget and stick to it
Reduce financial anxiety by deciding how much you can afford to spend in advance. Include all the expenses besides just the gifts themselves: greeting cards, stamps, wrapping paper, and food if you’re entertaining. These other things can really add up. This year, track all of these expenses so you can better manage them next year.
7. Set a reminder in November to start getting your act together
We’re all busy people. We put everything else on our calendars. Put the tasks for the holiday on your calendar too. I’m doing this next year. The best way to reduce stress is to not be crunched for time in the first place.
Remember, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to open your heart and remember the true meaning of Christmas. Happy holidays to all of you!
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