By Breanna Callahan, Marketing Coordinator
The holiday season can be a merry one. The beautiful decorations. That distinct smell of pine trees in the air. And the music. Who can forget about the music (well some of you probably would be fine without it)? But personally, it’s one of my favorite things about the holidays – the sound of Nat King Cole crooning while snow softly falls.
With all of the good, though, comes a feeling of stress. Stress about the chaos. So many things to do. Christmas programs, parties, shopping, traveling, baking….the list is endless. And we can’t forget the stress about money. It seems like everything we love about the holidays also costs money – new dress for the school Christmas program, the baking supplies, and of course, the gifts.
So what can we do to increase the joy during the holiday season and decrease the amount of stress we feel?
First, make a list of what you love about the holidays and what causes you stress. Some things may end up on both lists (gift giving?). Next, we will offer a few suggestions to help you with common stressors. The goal is to increase the time you are doing what you love and decreasing the time doing (or disdain for) what causes you stress.
Money is at the top of many people’s lists. So what can you do? Figure out a gift-giving budget. A budget that is within your limits and reasonable. And then, of course, stick to the budget. A few tips to reduce costs include:
- Make homemade gifts like crafts, baked goods, coupons for chores or babysitting or your favorite recipes in a book.
- Rather than buying gifts for everyone, draw names or do a white elephant gift exchange. There are lots of gift exchange “game” ideas you can find on the internet.
- Start saving for next year. Figure out your budget, divide it by 12 and set aside that much every month, so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute. When you figure out your budget, don’t forget possible travel expenses, decorating, and any donations you typically make around the holidays.
- Limit the amount of gifts you give. You might have seen it – a child with 20 gifts stacked all around them. So many gifts they get tired of opening by the end! One idea is the “four gift rule.” They receive something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. You can also give them experiences rather than physical gifts. Examples of experiences include trips to museums or amusement parks, the movies, a live show or a sports event.
Next, make a to-do list and keep a schedule for the month of December. Once you have everything on the calendar, see if there is anything that you can remove or any way that you can make sure you are using your time most efficiently. Schedule your holiday prep time too, so you know when you will get things done and aren’t left worrying about so much to do and so little time. Don’t, however, pack activities into every waking minute; there should be some cushion time too.
Don’t forget to schedule ‘me time’! Whether it’s a couple hours every Saturday to unwind with friends, reading a book, or getting a massage. Whatever sounds relaxing to you. Taking time for yourself will help you sit back and reflect, so you don’t get to December 28 and wonder where the month has gone. The time for yourself will also help you keep grounded and give you energy to do all the things when you are not having your ‘me time.’
Speaking of me time, don’t forget to continue your healthy habits. That doesn’t mean you can’t sneak a special Christmas cookie, but continue your exercise routine and make sure you are getting enough rest.
Lastly, have realistic expectations. Sometimes we have such high expectations that even the slightest hiccup (or snowstorm) can feel like a major setback. Try to take things in stride and leave room in your schedule for adjustments. If there is a snowstorm coming in that will prevent you from going shopping, maybe that is a good time to write out your Christmas cards or do some baking!
The holidays can be a very happy, or very sad, time. Often, if we have lost a loved one, it’s the time all the memories come creeping back. That is normal. If you feel hopeless or isolated, though, reach out to a loved one, doctor, or mental health professional.
Hopefully with these tips, you can take some time to step back and prepare, taking your holidays from chaos to the busy but more organized and joyful time you wish it to be.