It’s not even December yet, and already many of us are feeling the pressure of the holidays. Everyday life topped up with holiday parties, shopping, gift wrapping, keeping up with traditions, and let’s not forget the stress of family drama. It’s often so much that by the time we get to Christmas dinner, we’re too exhausted to enjoy it.
But fear not! It doesn’t have to be that way this year, because I’m here to help. In case you didn’t know, I am the queen of organization – it’s my superpower. And over the years, I’ve mastered the art of stress free holidays. So even if you just follow a few of my easy tips, I guarantee you more ease this holiday season. So let’s unwrap this…
1. Ditch the Elf on the Shelf
Ah, the Elf on the Shelf – that pint-sized troublemaker who’s meant to sprinkle holiday magic. It starts as a fun idea, but after day 10, keeping up with that little guy – the daily panic of “Where’s that elf hiding tonight?” – can feel like a stressful part-time job.
So here’s a revolutionary thought: Let’s give ourselves a pass! Bid adieu to Mr. Elf or pass the baton to your older kids. I give you permission to just say no-more! Santa’s not going to put you on the naughty list, I promise.
Instead embrace some new holiday traditions that add ease and a little meaning. Like an advent calendar, or a gratitude tree. This one’s my personal favourite and it’s so easy – pre-cut construction paper ornaments, poke a hole, add some string and every day someone in the family writes down something they’re grateful for and adds the ornament to the tree.
No nightly shenanigans, no panic about missed moves, just delightful moments leading up to the big day. Now doesn’t that sound amazing?
2. Christmas (Shopping) in July
I know it might sound crazy, but I actually start my holiday shopping in the summer. I can’t tell you how much pressure this takes off my schedule, and more importantly, my wallet. Starting early not only lets me leisurely browse through options, it also gives me the upper hand on scoring discounts and avoiding last-minute splurges.
Wait, what about Black Friday sales, you ask? Sure there’s a lot of hype around these deals, but are they really that good? And the truth is that sales happen all year round… even in the summer.
Plus, as the festive season creeps closer, those highly sought-after gifts (remember the Tickle-Me-Elmo craze?) become increasingly harder to get. If your kids are obsessed with something in August, chances are they are still going to be begging for it on Christmas morning.
And I don’t want to blow your mind, but if you really want to get ahead… shop the Boxing Day sales for great deals on next year’s holiday decorations.
3. Ho Ho Ho-liday Budget
Everything is so expensive these days. Add in the holiday spending and many of us will still be struggling to pay off credit card bills in the spring. How stressful is that?
So this year, try a simple holiday budget to help keep your spending in check. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Divide your expenses into categories: gifts, decorations, travel, entertainment, and the festive feast. Then assign specific amounts to each category based on your priorities.
If you can start early, I recommend putting aside a little money every month in a separate bank account for your holiday fund. That way the money’s there when you need it.
And remember, creating a budget is just the beginning. It’s even more important to track your spending using an app, spreadsheet or notebook to make sure you stay on course and don’t blow your budget.
Holiday Hack – I know I just told you to shop early, but always budget a little money for those last minute ‘must-have’ gifts. And then make the most of Black Friday to grab those gems without overspending.
4.Your Holiday Haven
Before the holiday frenzy kicks in, take a minute to declutter your home. Clear out the old to make room for the holiday cheer and all those gifts that are heading your way.
To make it less daunting, I always tackle one room at a time. I dedicate a few weekend hours in early November to sort through all the stuff that’s piled up since the summer. It’s a great time to donate what you’ve outgrown – recycling or repurposing where possible.
Having your space organized isn’t just about aesthetics. It’s about creating a clutter-free, calming oasis. A haven , if you will, amidst the bustling season.
5. Festive Limits
If your schedule is like mine, come mid-November the holiday season is knocking at the door like an overly enthusiastic guest. If you’re not careful, all of this festive cheer quickly becomes an overwhelming avalanche of activities and obligations.
To keep your sanity, it’s essential to maintain a sense of balance. Know that it’s okay to hit pause and assess what’s worthy of your limited time and energy.
Consider starting a new tradition this year – gracefully saying no. Don’t feel guilty about declining four holiday party invitations in one day. Or gently letting your Mother-in-Law that the croquembouche won’t be on your menu this year.
It’s about prioritizing your mental and emotional well-being during this crazy, festive season.
6. Secret Santa
A great way to simplify gift-giving and rein in expenses is implementing a Secret Santa or group gifting game. Particularly if you’ve got a large family or big social circles. Not only does this ease the financial strain, but it also injects a delightful element of surprise into holiday exchanges.
In my family, Secret Santa turned our gift-giving into an exhilarating game. Christmas Eve became a thrilling pursuit to dodge cousin Tom’s gift while vying for Aunt Ellen’s. That woman had an uncanny knack for choosing the perfect presents!
To double the fun, why not pair this approach with potluck-style gatherings for your holiday feast? Sharing the joy – and the stress and expense —of preparing a meal brings everyone closer together. And this way you’re not stuck in the kitchen, slaving over a hot stove, while everyone else is enjoying the festive cheer.
7. The Joy Of Giving
For my family, kindness is a treasured holiday tradition. Every year, we adopt a family in the community, donating gifts and a warm meal, to help brighten their holidays.
And if your wallet’s already feeling the pinch, remember that generosity doesn’t need to cost a thing. Volunteering at a local charity or even helping out neighbors is a great way to spread the joy. It can be as easy as shovelling a driveway, free babysitting, or maybe a little wifi tech support. These gestures spark happiness and connection, triggering a ripple effect of goodwill.
There’s even scientific benefits to support your generosity. Your acts of service release ‘feel-good’ chemicals in your brain, like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. These chemicals help to heighten happiness and can even help to battle the holiday stress.
So, this holiday season, spread some kindness and embrace the joy of giving.
8. Silent Nights
In the whirlwind of the holidays, taking moments for yourself becomes a necessity akin to securing your own oxygen mask before aiding others. Essential!
Make sure you block off moments for yourself. Whether it’s a few stolen minutes in the morning for meditation, a leisurely afternoon walk, or a cozy night curled up with a book. These pockets of peace are not indulgences; they’re vital to our self-care and mental health.
Practicing gratitude is another simple yet powerful form of self-care. Dedicate a few moments each day to reflect on what you’re grateful for – the warmth of a cozy blanket, a heartfelt conversation, or the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Whether through journaling or quietly acknowledging the positives, cultivating gratitude can ground you, offering a sense of calm amidst the seasonal storm.
Should the holiday frenzy begin to overwhelm you, take a moment to reset. Step out of the chaos, breathe in some fresh air, and take a minute to reconnect with yourself.
9. Avoid the Holiday Hangover
Ah, the infamous holiday hangover. I’m not talking about the one from too much champagne on New Year’s Eve, but the aftermath of all those festive treats. As the holidays wind down, our systems struggle to deal with the excessive sugar, alcohol, and rich indulgences.
We’re left feeling anything but merry. Our energy levels plummet, our waistlines expand, and overall we feel sluggishness, sad and anxious.
This is especially true for women in perimenopause. All these sugary treats, alcohol, and rich foods disrupt the delicate balance of our hormones, sending our body’s stress signals into a tailspin. This amps up the cortisol surging through our bodies, causing inflammation, bloating and feelings of anxiety.
A great way to counter this is to try and get a little physical activity in throughout the holiday. You don’t have to spend hours on your new Peloton, although you’re probably pretty excited to do just that. Physical activity can be as simple as sledding with the kids, building a snowman, or a quiet walk after dinner with the dog. The key is to get off the couch and get yourself moving.
10. Take Stock(ings)
As the holiday season draws to a close, it’s a perfect time to reflect on this year’s festivities:
- What went smoothly? What caused you stress?
- Did you manage to navigate the family drama?
- We’re you so burnt out by social commitments mid-way through December, that you were too drained to enjoy Christmas dinner?
- Were you able to set a budget and stick to it?
Take stock of what worked and what didn’t. Make notes, or journal if that’s your thing. But be really honest about how the holidays felt this year.
And now the secret sauce – start planning for next year.
Set a reminder in your calendar for November 1. Mine says, “Michelle – It’s ok to say no to holiday invites. Book some quiet time. Keep ‘Party Michelle’ in check.” And this little reminder has made all the difference.
By keeping my schedule lighter, I get more sleep, stay more organized and have more energy. Where once I could be found frazzled (and a little tipsy) wrapping gifts at 2am on Christmas morning. Now I’m all snug in my bed with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.
So there you have it. My 10 Easy Tips for a Stress Free Holiday.
I hope you’ll try a few this year, even if it’s just thoughtful planning, setting boundaries and embracing self-care. And I hope they help you avoid the dreaded holiday hangover so you can step gracefully into the new year with your heart overflowing with gratitude, joy, and energy.
To you and yours, Happy Holidays. I wish you season full of love, laughter, and a sprinkle of magic.