How to Reduce Holiday Stress
Even though we still haven’t gone trick-or-treating, the holidays (and that dreaded holiday stress) seem to be just around the corner! The stores are already packed with Santa and turkey decorations, and we all know this is just the tip of the iceberg.
While it may feel overwhelming, there are actually things you can be doing now to minimize holiday stress in the coming months.
I actually begin prepping for the busyness of November and December during September. And my goal with today’s post is to give you the actionable planning tips you need to make the holidays less stressful — because you deserve to enjoy this time of the year as much as your friends and family do!
Saying Goodbye to the Post-Holiday “Hangover”
Years ago, I remember waking up on December 26th, sneaking downstairs to have my first cup of coffee alone, and looking around at the post-Christmas day carnage in my living room unsure if I had even enjoyed the holidays that year. I almost felt hungover from the exhaustion and stress.
My family definitely had an awesome time, but I was so frazzled and busy that I never had the time or energy to really enjoy myself.
At that moment, I made the decision that next year, I would do things differently. So, I got to work thinking about what I could do to minimize the holiday stress that seems to inevitably run from mid-November to the end of each year.
I realized that while I couldn’t do everything ahead of time, there were definitely some things that could be done early to lessen the exhaustion and hecticness during these months.
And in today’s post, I’m going to focus on three areas that you can start planning for and getting things done early: gift purchasing, scheduling, and food preparation.
Tip #1 to Reduce Holiday Stress: Gift Purchasing
To reduce holiday stress around gift purchasing, start by making a list of everyone you will need a gift for this year. Don’t forget to include coaches, teachers, party hosts, etc. — anyone who you will purchase or even make gifts for.
Second, set a deadline for yourself about when you want to have all of these gifts purchased. This doesn’t have to include last-minute stocking stuffers or white elephant/gag gifts.
However, you do need to pick a date when you want the bulk of your holiday shopping to be completed. For me, this date is usually December 1st.
Then, if I choose to go out and do some late-in-the-season holiday shopping, it's more from a place of enjoying the music and the decorations, and not overwhelming holiday stress.
Once you know how many gifts you need and what your deadline is to buy them, it’s just a matter of simple math to determine how many gifts a week you need to purchase between now and the date you want to be done shopping.
If you want to leverage sales on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you can still plan out what you’re going to buy ahead of time, so it’s just a matter of making the purchase itself. This also keeps you from getting sucked into buying extra things that you really don’t need.
Tip #2 to Reduce Holiday Stress: Scheduling
No matter how well you plan for the holiday season, there are always things that will pop up last minute that you want to enjoy.
So it's really important that we make sure we preserve time on our calendar for the things that we really want to do and that are most important to us.
Naturally, these important things are going to be different for different people. Every family has traditions that matter to them, and it’s crucial you add those events and activities to your schedule ahead of time.
This could be putting up decorations together. This could be taking advantage of fall breaks or Thanksgiving breaks to make gifts with your kids. Whatever matters to you, you need to plan for and prioritize.
Another important thing to schedule early is holiday travel. If you're traveling for the holidays, or if you have people traveling to you, once you have those dates set, make sure that you block the day before and the day after. This will prevent other people from booking your time on those crucial buffer days.
These days will give you time and space to do things like laundry, cleaning, packing, and whatever else needs to be done without feeling rushed and overwhelmed.
Tip #3 to Reduce Holiday Stress: Food Prep
It may seem crazy to think about prepping for meals that are months away, but this doesn’t always look like cooking ahead of time.
There are some things — such as the Thanksgiving turkey or the steaks my husband loves to cook on Christmas — that I can purchase ahead of time and put in the freezer.
That way I’m not searching the stores for these items last minute, and I can also buy them when they’re on sale or before the prices go up for the holiday rush.
Another thing my daughter and I prep ahead of time are holiday cookies. We love participating in our neighborhood cookie exchange, and over the years, I’ve found a few recipes that freeze beautifully, so we start early!
In fact, last summer, we had a Christmas in July day when I put on holiday music and we made a huge batch of our famous Christmas sugar cookies that are now tucked away in the freezer. We will still do baking closer to the holidays too, but now, we can enjoy that time and not feel as much pressure to get it all done at once — making it feel more like FUN and less like work (which is really the whole point of planning ahead for the holidays in the first place!).
For even more tips on planning, productivity, priorities, time management, and organization, check out more blogs or podcast episodes.