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Thanksgiving is just a few days away and already everywhere we go there are signs of Christmas. Inside you may be screaming NO we haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving and yet stores are brimming with gifts, decorations, and food. Stress begins to rear it’s ugly head. Expectations are high and we tend to put more on our plates than we normally would. We buy more gifts and schedule more activities. We feel that if we just do a bit more, give more, and be more that the holidays will be perfect. It’s tiring. The worst part is the expectations we have are ones that we have put on ourselves.
In the last couple of years Mr Homestead and I have tried to focus less on the expectations of the holidays and more and more on what we feel is important. This has helped immensely with the overwhelming stress factor. We’ve cut back on the amount of gifts we give and activities we participate in. We’ve implemented strategies to help reduce stress. While every family should determine what will work for themselves, the ideas that we implemented are helpful for finding joy and focusing on the important things this season.
Prioritize. Write down on paper what your priorities are for the holidays. Family, friends, church, etc. Figure out what’s important to you and make that your focus this month. If an activity doesn’t fall in line with your priorities don’t feel like you have to say yes.
Keep a calendar. We have a large calendar in our command center and I also have my paper planner that we keep updated with events and goings on. Write down any obligations such as work parties, family get togethers, etc. Keep the calendar updated and check it every day. Make sure and leave plenty of white space on your calendar for family and you time.
Simplify. Do only what’s necessary this month. Don’t have time to deep clean the house? Then don’t. The house won’t fall apart it just needs to be clean enough. Do only what you have to, to get by and don’t sweat the small stuff. Reduce the amount of obligations you have by saying no to things that don’t spark joy for you or your family. Figure out how to keep it simple.
Plan out meals ahead of time. A crockpot is one of the best low stress ways to have a healthy home cooked meal ready at the end of the day without having to put a lot of time and energy into it. We like to assemble crockpot meals ahead of time and put them in the freezer until needed. We pull them out the night before to defrost and then dump and cook. You can find lots of great freezable crockpot meals on Pinterest. Follow me on Pinterest for great ideas.
Make family time a priority. Schedule it on your calendar and take advantage of white space. Spend time watching Christmas Movies, playing games, or going for a walk to look at Christmas lights. Your family may not remember what gifts they got for Christmas but they will remember the time spent doing things together.
Take time for yourself. Make time each day to exercise even if it’s only for 20 minutes. Drink lots of water. Get enough sleep. Take a nap during the day if needed. Spend time alone to read, write, or breathe deeply. Taking care of yourself will go a long way to reducing stress.
Give experiences instead of gifts. Some of our favorite gifts over the years have been memberships or gift certificates to places we love to go. These make great memories and memberships are something that can be used over and over again for the whole year. These gifts are also easy since you can often purchase them online thereby saving time and energy.
Shop online. I haven’t gone to a store to do Christmas shopping (or birthday for that matter) in years. I always go online. *Amazon Prime and I are best friends. I also love Etsy for homemade gifts. You can’t beat shopping at home in your sweatpants with a glass of wine and avoiding the stress, lines and chaos of the stores at Christmastime.
Keep a Christmas Planner. Have printouts to keep track of gifts, plans, budget and receipts, menus and Christmas card contacts. It’s amazing how less stressful it is to have everything in one place. You don’t have to worry about forgetting anyone or anything.
Create stations in your home. Keep everything you need in one area so that you can handle things as they come along. If you have the space set up a gift wrapping station, card station, etc. It’s easier to wrap gifts a little bit at a time instead of letting them pile up and having to spend hours in a single night to do it. With a card station keep extra cards, pens, and stamps so that as cards come in that weren’t on your card list you can send off a quick card. Keep the address for next year.
Donate. This is the perfect time of year to take items that are no longer needed to local charities. You can also make donations to local food banks that are always running low this time of year. Don’t have anything to donate then send a monetary donation or adopt an angel off the angel tree at the store.
Have a baking night. Get the whole family together and bake the night away. Not only is it a good way to get all those cookies and goodies made but the memories will last a lifetime.
Establish family traditions. Things like baking night, game nights, Christmas movie marathons establish traditions and memories that last a lifetime. I still to this day remember rocking out to my parents Christmas records and decorating the Christmas tree. I love those memories and having family traditions with my family will establish those warm fuzzy feelings of happiness for my kids.
Acts of kindness. Volunteer or spend time doing things that benefit others. It’s an incredible feeling to know that you’ve made someone else’s day. Pay for the person behind you in the drive through. Give water or a warm drink to the bell ringers at the stores. Take Christmas treats to the neighbors or shovel sidewalks. There are so many ways to give back.
Relax and enjoy the season. I don’t know about you but it goes by faster and faster for me each year. I want to enjoy every minute of it. I want to kick my heels up and watch it all unfold before me. Minimizing and prioritizing helps me to focus on what’s truly important instead of drowning in things that really aren’t.
What are some ways that you reduce stress around the holidays? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
** This post was originally written and posted on a previously owned website. It has been updated and posted here.