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Tips for a Less Stressful Holiday Season

The holiday season is one of my favorite times of year, but also one of the most stressful.  Despite my love for  preparing feasts, finding that perfect gift, spending time with loved ones, seeing out of town family and friends and let’s not forget the special holiday spirits (I’m thinking spiked eggnog and cider), I always seem to let the stress overtake my holiday cheer.  Therefore, I write this post to provide tips for not only others, but myself.

You can probably all relate to my holiday stress. As our families grow - new babies, relationships, spouses – it feels like the holidays only become more stressful. So many people to see and presents to purchase! So, as we make our way through this holiday season, here are my tips to have a stress-free holiday season…and I’m taking notes too!

1.  Let go of old traditions and embrace new ones.  I would imagine most of us grow up with certain traditions around the holidays.  For me growing up, we always did Christmas Eve at my dad’s parent’s house, woke up Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought and opened gifts from my parents, then off to my mom’s parent’s house at noon on Christmas Day. However, since my siblings and I have grown up, lead separate lives and some have kids, we’ve found that it’s becoming quite difficult to make time to stick to our traditions. For the first time, we’ve canceled our Christmas morning tradition with no plans to reschedule it this year.  It’s unfortunate, but I’ve come to realize the importance of embracing new traditions. After all, the most important thing at Christmas is just to spend time together.  So, we have already started planning for next year and have decided on a new tradition.  Which leads me to #2…

2.  Plan ahead.  It’s easy to get caught up in the moment around the holidays so plan ahead.  Any scheduling conflicts you’ve had this year, make note of them and as soon as the holidays are over, start planning for next year.  This will almost guarantee full attendance, since most people’s calendars aren’t booked that far ahead.  So, if you find a plan that works for the majority, tell everyone to go ahead and put it on their calendar.  Waiting until the last minute leads to cancelations and not much room for compromise.

3.  Draw names!  If you have 15 first cousins, 10 second cousins, and 5 nieces or nephews, not to mention the aunts, uncles and grandparents, it’s time to start drawing names. With such a large family, it’s not feasible to buy decent gifts for everyone anymore.  Therefore, instead of buying small, inexpensive gifts for the sake of giving, consider drawing names and set a spending limit.  This saves lots of stress and guarantees the person whose name you draw will get something they’ll really enjoy.

4.  Make it a team effort.  This one is good for any big holiday that solicits a feast.  A couple years ago, after my great grandmother passed away, we realized that she carried the full weight of preparing all of our holiday meals.  Since she had handled the meal prep for over 30 years, I am not sure any one person in the family was ready or brave enough to take on such a huge feat.  Therefore, my mom, grandmother, sister and I collaborated on the menu.  We each picked out specific dishes we would prepare and did our shopping for those.  Then for the big things like the ham, turkey, dressing (or stuffing), drinks, desserts, and such we make a group shopping trip.  We meet after work at a centrally located grocery store to get the rest of what we need and the person who’s hosting takes it all to their house at the end of the spree.  Then (particularly for Thanksgiving) we come together and prepare the next day’s feast all through the night. It’s also a perfect way to spend some quality time together.

With these ideas in mind, I feel confident my family and I are on our way to a cheerful holiday season.  When things start to get hectic and you feel the chaos is inevitable, remember to be flexible, be safe, give back, and above all be grateful for your situation.  Not everyone is so fortunate to stress the small stuff, so to speak.

May you and your family have a wonderful holiday season and best wishes in the New Year!  


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