Now that Thanksgiving is over, and the Christmas season is in full swing, you might be feeling a bit more stress than usual. In addition to your typical schedule of work, home and kids, you’ve got more shopping to do, menus to plan, and food to prepare. The good news is, even with all the extra activities and preparations, you can still reduce your holiday stress.

Gold dotted paper with words Collect Moments not things

Here are some proven strategies to help you lessen that last-minute holiday stress. You may find that some are so effective that you’ll choose to use them all year long, not just during the holidays!

Perfectionism is for the movies. The commercials and movies on television during the holidays really miss the mark when it comes to realistic portrayals of family holidays.

  • Accept that you can enjoy some beautiful holiday get-togethers regardless of whether something is spilled or you’re having trouble locating your favorite dinner napkins.
  • Furthermore, most people will hardly notice if the pies were baked a little too long or you forgot the cranberry sauce.

Scale back on holiday plans. It’s natural to want to re-create the good memories of childhood holidays, but this strategy can cause a huge amount of stress. Scaling back your plans may involve letting go of your “perfect dream” for the holidays.

  • Deep down you know you don’t have to repeat that special holiday memory you have in your mind. You don’t have to find the perfect gift, spend the most money or have a room stacked with wrapped packages to show your love to others.
  • Live the theory that “it’s the thought that counts.” Most people will never remember the cool thing you got for them that one year. But they will have warm memories of the time you spent together as a family.

Have a plan for your holidays. Yes, it’s a little late to worry about it now, but can you imagine how much less stressed you’d feel if you had all your gift shopping and wrapping done in October? Last-minute planning never did anything good for your stress levels, so if you do have events you haven’t started planning for… start now!

  • Also, plan your holiday menus well in advance of using them. This way, you’ll have the menu set and the store lists made. As the holidays get closer, review your menus and shopping lists and make any minor adjustments you want.
  • Spreading holiday tasks out over longer periods of time means you’ll have less stress during the holiday season.

Use time-saving shortcuts whenever possible. If you sit down and think about it, you can no doubt come up with easier ways to do things that will provide more time for other holiday tasks and activities.

  • One good example: Rather than doing all the baking yourself, divide it up between family members or order them from a local bake shop.
  • If you’re really not sure what to get someone, don’t be afraid to select gift cards as holiday gifts. The fact is that many people prefer receiving a gift card as they can then choose exactly what they want. Gift cards are easy to shop for, satisfy nearly everyone, and will cost you less in wrapping paper. Basically, gift cards are “no fuss and no muss.”

Be selective when it comes to holiday events. Think about what the holiday season means to you, and then only take in the events that match that meaning. Avoid getting caught up in the commercialism that has taken over the entire holiday season.

  • Some would say “it’s all about the shopping.” However, it’s worth your time to think about what ideas you hope to portray to your friends and loved ones during the holidays.
  • Let go of feeling required to plan and carry out elaborate, lavish celebrations. Maybe you’d really rather have smaller, more intimate gatherings with friends spread out over a month or two, rather than a big whoop-de-doo that makes it difficult to really connect with others.
  • The best way to teach your children that the holidays are about giving to others is to take them to visit local charities or even to serve meals at a church soup kitchen.

It’s not too late to get a handle on your holiday stress. Let go of the need to be perfect, and the last-minute planning habits. Opt for a smaller celebration, take advantages of any shortcuts you can, and you will go a long way to reducing your stress levels.

Most importantly, really think about what you really want the holidays to mean to you and your family. Then, you can let go of expectations based on the past and really enjoy your time together. And ultimately, isn’t that what the holidays are for?

This concludes the Holiday Stress Series for 2013.  If you missed any of the previous articles in the series you can find them here:
Part 1: Seven Ways To Beat Holiday Stress
Part 2: Non-Negotiable Holiday Self-Care Tips
Part 3: Holiday Travel: 5 Tips For Getting There Safely and Peacefully
Part 4: Spending the Holidays Alone? That can be a good thing!

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