The holiday season is a wonderful time of year, complete with family gatherings, meaningful traditions, delicious food, and presents galore.
It is precisely these elements that can lead to stress and can overwhelm, however.
If you’d like to find more enjoyment and reduce stress, consider the following ways to simplify your holidays this year.
Send Cards Early
Author Gretchen Rubin says, “Nothing is more exhausting than the task that is never started.” Touché.
If you’re sending out Christmas cards this year, get those done as soon as possible. Don’t worry about being too early. The weight that is lifted when you complete that task is totally worth the effort of licking envelopes this Saturday night. (Well, maybe not then, but you get the point.)
Pick a Theme
Whether you’re talking about gifts, wrapping, or a party you’re throwing, give your holiday season a theme. Perhaps it’s reindeer, snowmen, charity, or pancakes. Whatever your theme, choose gifts, food, and decor around it.
For example, if it’s pancakes, turn your fancy sit-down Christmas dinner into a more casual Christmas brunch where pancakes are the star of the show. Give pancake- or breakfast-related gifts (for example, syrups, kitchen tools, or gift cards to a pancake house). Take your kids to a pancake breakfast with Santa.
A holiday theme will streamline your choices and make for fond memories of the particular year.
Manage Your Expectations
Author and motivator Tony Robbins recommends replacing expectations with appreciation.
It can be all too easy for our minds to expect nothing but magic and perfection from holiday time with family and friends. However, reality tends not to be perfect.
When you find yourself drumming up lofty expectations of others, instead try replacing those thoughts with appreciation for who they are and what they mean to you. Whatever happens this holiday, you’ll meet it with greater ease.
Just Say No
Fill your calendar with only events that are truly meaningful to you at this time of year. If you say yes to every invitation out of a sense of obligation, you’ll run yourself (and your family) ragged. It’s okay to politely decline in a timely manner some or even most of the invitations that come your way. You’ll likely find that people respect you for it.
Cross Items Off Your List
That mile-long to-do list needs an editor. Before you’ve even completed a task, review your list and begin crossing items off. Do you really need to bake seven batches of cookies this year? Do you really need to give a gift to every child on your street? Do you really need to have your home completely redecorated by Dec. 1?
Renegotiate with yourself and cross off as many items on that list as possible. You’ll be left with less to do and only those things that truly matter to you.
Do a Little Each Day
Do you typically find yourself frantically wandering the aisles of your local big-box store on Christmas Eve? If you have a tendency to procrastinate, aim to take on this philosophy: Do a little bit every day.
During the holiday season, ensure that each day you make some progress on your to-do list, however slight. Wrap a gift, clean a room, mail a card—anything.
You’ll enjoy the feeling of regular progress and momentum to keep you going, and in the end, you’ll find that you’ve done quite a lot.
Simplify Meals and Exercise
The combination of colder weather, less daylight, and a lengthy to-do list is like a perfect storm for physical depletion.
Simplify your routine to ensure that you continue to eat well and get exercise. Put your slow cooker to work, have lots of fresh fruit and vegetables on hand, keep healthy grab-and-go snacks stocked, and choose replenishing meals, like salmon for dinner or soups made with bone broth.
When it comes to exercise, if you find you’re not getting to your regular routine, at least go for a walk or do a quick seven-minute workout before the day is through.
Take Time to Enjoy
Create a holiday routine each night that includes enjoying your Christmas lights, reading a holiday story to your children, listening to seasonal music, or simply relaxing with a cup of warm cocoa. Don’t let it all be a mad dash to the finish line.
Reflect on What Matters Most
Whatever this time of year means to you, ensure that your actions reflect that meaning and share your understanding with your children. A bigger-picture view and faith in what matters most to you is the greatest stress-reducer of them all.