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The holiday season is upon us. A time of seeing family near and far, enjoying holiday get-togethers, feasting on delicious foods, and collapsing into exhaustion over holiday stress. Wait! That last one wasn’t right. That’s not how the holidays are supposed to be!
Let’s face it. Holidays can be joyful and stressful at the same time. We know we can’t do everything, but that still doesn’t stop us from doing too much sometimes. If you’d like to avoid holiday burnout this season or turning into your family’s personal Grinch the name of the game is simplify, simplify, simplify.
1. Simplify the Season
The end of the year offers so many holidays to celebrate! One way to reduce stress is to only “go big” for one holiday. Maybe this means that December is jam-packed with goodies, parties galore, and an event every weekend, but Halloween and Thanksgiving are slower paced and more immediate-family focused.
If three months of potential holiday celebrations are pared down to one month, that’s only 1 month out of the year… and that season will be over before you know it. Take a deep breath and work through the temporary stress of this now shorter season.
2. Simplify the Schedule
There are countless activities available to families during the holiday season: train rides, sleigh rides, and carriage rides…. neighborhood lights, Main Street lights, and zoo lights…. family parties, school parties, and work parties…. It’s enough to make any parent’s head spin.
Choose activities carefully. It’s okay to say no to good activities if it means leaving more space in your schedule and your sanity for the best activities for you and your family.
If saying no to certain activities is not an option, try these ideas:
- Separate activities. Balance the stress of over-scheduling by leaving at least a day or maybe several between big activities.
- Combine activities. Conversely, combining as many activities as possible into one day, rather than spreading it out may be easier to handle.
- Shorten activities. Leave functions early or arrive late especially if the timing might interrupt that all important nap or bedtime routine. Just be sure to inform your host ahead of time.
3. Simplify Family Time
We all want to see our family during the holiday season, even more so on the actual holidays. Just remember: you are your own family. Whether it’s you, your spouse and 5 children, just you and your spouse, or just you as an empty-nester… trying to zoom around town or the country to see everyone can be exhausting.
When my husband and I started having children, we knew that splitting our time between relatives would be a headache. We decided that Christmas morning would always be in our own home, with our little family. This has kept things simple for many years. – Stefani
Try visiting family on non-holiday days. Or, turn lesser celebrated holidays into family party days. For example, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day aren’t the only Christmas holidays: St. Nicholas Day is on December 6, and Russian Christmas is on January 7.
Not seeing people ON the actual holiday day might lead to hurt feelings, but remember, it’s your life, your time, and your sanity on the line. Sometimes especially when it’s your kids and your travel time it might be time for someone ELSE to be understanding.
4. Simplify Meals
By now, you probably already know how to use freezer meals and slow cooker meals to simplify your day-to-day meal planning, but holiday cooking and baking takes kitchen work to a whole new level. But here’s a secret: just because Aunt so and so makes everything from scratch, doesn’t mean that you have to. Don’t let family recipes and tradition overly complicate your life. You can choose between cook some favorites from scratch and buy pre-made or partially pre-made versions of other items.
5. Simplify Activities
There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying pre-made activities for holiday themed crafts. Oriental Trading always has great craft ideas with all the necessary items bundled together to keep you from running all over town (and keep you from waiting in long lines at the craft store).
Instead of decorating from-scratch cookies, grab some pre-made dough from your grocery store’s refrigerated section. Or cut your prep time even further with pre-made cookies or pre-assembled gingerbread houses. Or, skip the sweets and make a paper or foam version of a gingerbread house for less mess and less sugar.
6. Simplify Gift Giving
Gift giving has to be one of the most stressful undertakings during the holiday season. Here are a list of ways to help simplify gift giving:
- Spend less. Most kids have enough stuff already, and let’s be honest, so do adults.
- Buy fewer presents. If you want to keep the budget the same, buying fewer, larger, more expensive presents is often easier than sourcing a larger number of small toys.
- Keep a budget. Nothing is more stressful than getting a ridiculous credit card bill come January. Use a spreadsheet program to keep track of gifts bought and amounts spent. As an added bonus, it will be harder to forget anyone on your gift giving list.
- Give activity-based gifts. This means less stuff to organize and maintain after the holidays, too.
- Give group gifts. For example, museum memberships make great gifts… no clutter and it covers a whole family!
- Give gift cards. While it may be less personal, it’s a definite time saver and it may be more appreciated than you think.
- Forgo gifts for quality time. Plan future activities and involve your kids in the decision making.
7. Simplify Yourself
One of the most important things you can do during the busy holiday season is to take proper care of yourself. You need adequate time to rest and recharge so don’t skimp on your sleep!
Also, taking proper care of yourself means giving your body the healthy fuel it needs to operate. We aren’t saying December is the time to start a new diet, but indulge in moderation. Whether food or drink, decide ahead of time what constitutes enough you know that first handful of mint M&Ms tastes really good, but by the third handful, it’s a different story. Also, eating a full meal before attending a party with lots of goodies leaves less room for all those sweets.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle the commercialization and consumerism of holiday seasons but that’s not what it’s all about. Holidays are about family, togetherness, being thankful, and religious worship and significance. Take a deep breath and focus on the reason for the season.
Check out our Stress-Free Holiday Planning Guide (Day by Day).
Photo Credits: Stefani, Kristen Lee Douglas, Hi-Rise Outside by Didriks (CC BY 2.0), iittala Vase full of Cranberries by Didriks (CC BY 2.0), Ashley Sisk Photography, iittala Toikka Ruby Red Bird & Simon Pearce Evergreens by Didriks (CC BY 2.0)