TIPS | 7 WAYS to DE-STRESS the HOLIDAYS
De-Stress Your Holiday Checklist
Even though you’re looking forward to spending time with family and friends during the holidays, you may also be stressed about all you have to do to make those gatherings special. There are presents to buy, travel plans to book, meals to cook, and rooms to decorate. How can you get it all done?
Use these tips to accomplish the must-do items on your holiday checklist. These strategies will help you relieve holiday stress and allow you to enjoy the season. The real trick is to start holiday tasking immediately — no procrastination. “So much of the stress that comes around holidays is the shortage of time," says Joe Piscatella, a health advocate and president of the Institute for Fitness and Health in Gig Harbor, Wash., and author ofPositive Mind, Healthy Heart."Anything you can do in advance is helpful.”
Holiday Checklist: Shopping
Just making your shopping list and checking it twice can ramp up your worries before you even leave the house. Here’s how to reduce shopping stress:
Organize.Make a holiday checklist on paper, your iPad or laptop, or with an app on your smartphone. As you buy gifts, decorations, cards, and other holiday needs, check them off. As the check marks add up, you'll see how much you’ve accomplished, and making progress can help reduce holiday stress.
Don’t wait until the last minute.“I suggest that people do as much shopping in advance as they can to alleviate stress,” says Deborah R. Wagner, PhD, a psychologist in Ridgewood, N.J., and author ofThe Fifth Decade: Is It Just My Life or Is It Perimenopause?If you start early, you won’t have to fight the crowds of last-minute shoppers.
Shop online to avoid lines.When you shop from the comfort of your home, there’s no waiting at the checkout and no need to worry about store hours or finding a parking space. But keep in mind that even when you shop online, you can’t wait until the last minute, Piscatella advises. You must allow enough time for your gifts to arrive for the holidays. Aim to have all of your online shopping done a few weeks before Christmas or Hannukah.
Make a budget and stick to it.Worrying about how much you’re spending can add to holiday stress. Make a list of what you need and set a budget for those items. Staying within your budget will take some stress out of your holiday shopping. “Shopping ahead helps here too because doing things in advance gives you more opportunity to shop for the best deals,” Wagner says. If you’re shopping on Christmas Eve, Piscatella says, you’re at the mercy of the store.
Be a snoop to shop smarter.Not knowing what to buy your daughter-in-law or two-year-old nephew can add to holiday stress. So take your daughter-in-law to the mall before the holidays and pay attention to what she admires. “If you go out shopping together and wander through the stores, you can get a sense for her taste, and that’s a nice way to tune in to her preferences without being obvious,” Wagner says. If that’s not possible, think of your loved one’s hobbies or goals and which gifts could help complement their lives. Ask your nephew’s mom for some suggestions or check parenting sites for the season’s best toys. But above all, don’t drive yourself crazy by thinking every gift you buy must be perfect. Remember what the holiday season is really all about, Wagner says. What matters isn’t whether everyone gave or received the perfect gift, but that everyone was together to celebrate.
Less is more.Pare down that gift list. You don’t have to go overboard with armfuls of presents for everyone. One or two special gifts can be more meaningful than lots of items the recipients didn’t need or want anyway. And the fewer items you have to buy, the less time you have to devote to shopping.
Go for a gift card.A gift card to a favorite store, the local mall, or a beauty salon will be much appreciated, Wagner says. If you can’t sniff out the right merchant, opt for an American Express or Visa gift card that can be used almost anywhere. Gift cards that come with their own envelope can double as a holiday card — and one less that you have to send out.
Make gift wrapping a fun event.If gift wrapping isn’t your strong suit, inviting people over to help you wrap can turn a chore into something fun and social. For a quick alternative, go the gift bag route. Look for inexpensive packs of bags, tags, and tissue paper at your local dollar store.
Holiday Checklist: Prepping for Guests
Whether you’re opening your home to overnight guests or planning a special holiday party, these ideas will streamline your to-do list and help lower your stress level:
Set realistic home-holiday projects.Don’t feel compelled to decorate every last corner of your house or have the most elaborate table settings. “Your family and guests won’t miss those extra touches, but if you push yourself over the edge, they’ll remember that,” Wagner says.
Forget “white glove” housecleaning.You can put a lot of holiday stress on yourself by worrying about a little coating of dust on a side table or polishing every wood shelf to a gleam. But no one is really going to notice if your home isn’t as neat as Army barracks before inspection. “Guests are going to be focused on the company, the spirit, and the energy of your home,” Wagner says. “It sounds cliche, but don’t sweat the small stuff. Think about when you go to someone else’s home: Do you not have a good time because there were crumbs on the floor, or do you remember that everyone was so happy and relaxed that you had a great time?”
Hire help.Can’t do it all? You don’t have to. You might have a happier holiday if you put part of your budget toward a service to do the cooking or cleaning. Look for special offers for first-time clients or call friends with college students home on break who will work for less than professionals charge. You can also turn to the little helpers in your own home. Split holiday chores among family members and find ways for everyone to chip in.
Share the cooking.Some hosts are perfectionists and want to prepare every dish and even set the table themselves because they worry that others won't do it as well. But trying to be Martha Stewart and do it all yourself only adds to your stress, Piscatella says. It probably won’t hurt your Thanksgiving dinner if a friend brings the pumpkin pie, and it probably won't spoil your Christmas buffet if your cousin comes with an antipasto plate. With a little help, everyone can have a good time, including you.
Holiday Checklist: Put Yourself on the List
Make the time to take care of yourself over the holidays. “Do the things you would normally do for a balanced life and managing the stress that’s in your life,” Piscatella says. “Whether you’re a five-minute-a-day deep-breathing person, you lock the door and take a hot bath and listen to music, or go out for an hour-long walk — if you skip your favorite activities that help you de-stress, you’ll feel even more frantic and find it hard to enjoy the holiday celebrations.” So take a break from your holiday preparations and treat yourself, like by watching your favorite holiday movie.
If you plan and prepare, you'll accomplish what really needs to be done and then be able to enjoy the holiday season with everyone on your list.
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