1. Keep things simple. Don’t feel like you have to please others by throwing elaborate get-togethers or having a perfectly decorated home. Take some time to think about what would bring you happiness this holiday season, and make it happen. For instance, if you want to have friends and family to visit during the holidays but you aren’t a fan of dinner parties, host a potluck brunch buffet instead. You’d be surprised how many people are receptive to rethinking holiday traditions and may welcome the opportunity to take things down a notch.
2. Create a game plan. Before committing to events or gifts, sit down and do some planning for the holidays. Write important events and gatherings on your household calendar, and make sure that other household members do the same. Make a to-do list for decorating and entertaining, and a list of who you want to send cards to or buy presents for. Develop a holiday spending budget for presents, food, and decorations and write it down to prevent unnecessary spontaneous purchases and overspending. This may seem a bit daunting, but will really help you to feel organized once it’s done.
3. Delegate. Now that you have a clear idea of what you would like to do, buy, or make to prepare for the holidays, divide up these tasks with other family members. Don’t struggle with writing dozens of cards, untangling Christmas lights, or shopping for supplies all by yourself. Kids and spouses can help with these tasks.
4. Make prep work fun. If you don’t live with family, or prefer to have friends help out with your holiday preparations, invite some friends over for an afternoon. You can write cards, make homemade gifts, or wrap presents together while sharing tea and cookies. Have each person bring a different box of Christmas cards or roll of gift wrap, and then you will all have a selection of various wraps and cards to choose from. Challenge friends to include eco-friendly gift wrap ideas—for instance, old silk scarves, fabric remnants, or magazine pages can be used instead of paper wrap.
5.Organize meals ahead of time. Whenever possible, plan foods for entertaining that you can make the night before, and then just pop in the oven the next day—a healthy casserole is great for this. Even if you don’t plan to have people over, some pre-made soups or casseroles are good to make ahead and freeze so that you don’t need to worry about what to make for dinner if you’re having a busy day. Chop up some veggies and keep them in the fridge for kids to snack on, so that they always have healthy choices on hand as well as the usual baked goods and candy canes that abound at this time of year.
6. Buy a few backup presents. Sometimes a neighbor unexpectedly gives you a present, or you forget to buy for someone on your list. To prevent feeling bad or rushing out to buy a last-minute gift, simply stock up on a few generic presents to keep on hand. Gift cards are great, and they don’t take much storage space—ones for coffee shops or bookstores work well for almost anyone. Buy small boxes of fair-trade chocolate to give away, or some high-quality handmade soaps or bath salts. If you don’t use these presents during the holiday season, they will still make good birthday gifts for friends in the months to come.
7. Lessen the (gift) load. While we’re on the subject of gifts, take time to think about ways to simplify your present-buying this year. Combine with other family members to buy collective bigger-ticket items for loved ones—it makes for less time shopping. Or perhaps cut down on your gift exchanges. Many families or friends now follow a draw system: each person draws one name from a hat and buys a present for just that one individual, rather than buying a gift for everyone.
8. Remember the meaning of the season. Donate some money—or better yet, your time—to a local shelter or good cause. Stressed about how to find a great party dress for your holiday party, or where to find the perfect gift for your significant other? Spending time with others who are concerned with issues such as feeding their families or getting their child one toy can be very humbling, and remind you of the real concerns many people face. Organize a clothing, toy, or food drive at your workplace or neighborhood, or offer to help out at a local food bank or charity. They can always use the extra hands during this busy time.
9. Treat yourself. Sometimes it seems like a perpetual cycle of shopping for others, cooking for others, or cleaning for others during the holidays, as we buy presents for loved ones and prepare for house guests. Make sure to take some time to relax. Treat yourself to a small present—you always see something that you want when you’re out shopping for others! Or settle down for some quiet time with a cup of hot chocolate and a favorite holiday movie. Go for a snowy moonlight walk to admire the Christmas lights. Whatever recharges you, make some time for it.
10. Take care of your body. With all of the disruptions to our regular routine that can happen at this time of year, many people don’t get enough sleep, exercise, or healthy food. Schedule regular workouts for yourself and make healthy meals ahead of time, and try to make a good night’s sleep a priority. Your body will thank you for it.
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