The Gift of Less Stress

holiday-stress-how-to-curbHow many times to we hear people talk about “surviving the holidays” like it is a 10-day road march?  The holidays aren’t intended to be something we survive, it is a time we are supposed to thrive!  We’re surrounded by the ones we love, attend fun parties, give gifts we have thoughtfully purchased to delight the special people in our lives.  All around us is music and fantastic food…how can we not be in the most wonderful mood ever…RIGHT?

For many, this time of year turns into a chaotic, hot mess.  It is a jumbled calendar of crazy commitments, with everyone in the household needed to be somewhere different at the same time.  Schedules go out the window, laundry piles up and a dozen additional tasks seem to be added daily to the list.  It gets pretty easy, in the midst of all of the busyness of the season, to miss out on the most important moments.  Don’t fall prey to the trap!

Here’s some simple changes you can do to give yourself The Gift of Less Stress this season.  It’s ok to make this one your gift.  I am sure at this point, you need it!!

1.  Make a List.  Even if you aren’t a list maker (like me!), this time of year screams for a list of things to do!  Keep it on your phone, in your purse or wallet…the handy to-do’s you can tackle on a lunch hour, while you are waiting in a doctor’s office, etc., can be found time.  Case in point?  I finished my Christmas shopping for my daughter in a hotel room the other night with a mad case of online shopping…done!

2.  Wrap as You Go.  Wrapping and labeling gifts as you purchase and store them will make final preparations so much easier!  I save the bows and final embellishments for the last moment, but wrap it all as it comes in the house.  I also use different paper for “Santa” gifts, so we can make sure we keep the magic alive.

3.  Shop Off-hours or Online. If you’ve got hours to kill, bless you!  But an hour wasted looking for a spot to park and another 30 wasted in line is just time I don’t have this time of year.  Hitting Target at 7:00 a.m. on the way to work or at 9:00 at night is awesome…the shelves are restocked, the lot is empty and the lanes are flowing.  Ditto for online, where I can easily price compare, Google for online coupons and find great deals on shipping.  Make it easy on yourself and your wallet!

4.  Pare it Back!  This is a less popular one at my house, as my DH is still asking when I am putting the last tree up (I’m not planning on it), but sometime, you just have to decide when enough is enough.  Others in your life may have unrealistic expectations about what you can accomplish, so be the one in control of your holidays and set firm ground rules about what you can and cannot accomplish.  When something is really important to others, make it clear that you need to enlist their help to make it happen.  It really is ok to say no.

5.  Bulk Cook.  If you are making a pot of soup, or a batch of appetizers, double the recipe and freeze half for later.  You’ll appreciate the time you took now when those unexpected guests pop in or you get nailed when a late project at work.  Having something lovely you can simply thaw and reheat will save you tons of time later.  And bulk cooking does save money – something we can all use a little extra of this time of year!

6.  Reduce the Card List.  I haven’t sent out my Christmas Cards this year.  I did finally order them last night, but I ordered about half the amount I usually do.  I suspect that cards are going by the wayside in my lifetime.  Most of the people I normally send them to I communicate with often via social media; I don’t think they need a repeat on paper of my year!

7.  Give Others a Break. Putting pressure on others to meet your expectations adds a lot of unnecessary stress on them. Remember, they’re facing the same things you’re facing during the holidays. If people can’t make it to your holiday gathering, the world won’t stop turning. Cutting people some slack will go a long way toward doing what you can to help others reduce their holiday stress level.

8.  Stick to the Budget.  Money is one of the biggest sources of stress this time of year. Sit down and figure out your budget for holiday spending and stick to it!  Evaluate what you are spending and (more importantly) why you are spending it…no one needs – or expects you – to go into debt to show love.  That’s totally missing the point of the season.  Enjoy the holidays and give from the heart!

9.  Exercise.  This time of year, all those sweets and appetizers can do some serious damage!  Exercise not only helps provide some counterbalance to the season of overconsumption, but give some much-needed stress release.  Make some time to stick to your exercise regimen this time of year.  Your brain and your body need the release!

10.  Sleep!  All that running around can often mean that you don’t have time to get enough rest. Physical exhaustion and lack of sleep can lead to increased stress and anxiety, and one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety is — you guessed it — getting enough rest.

The holidays can be crazy, stressful times.  Take stock of what is truly important to you and your family this Christmas.  Make a plan – for your time and your money – and stick to it!  Be realistic about your expectations of yourself and of others and I assure you that you will truly be giving yourself a wonderfully rich gift:  The Gift of Less Stress!

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