Tis the season to be stressed out, fa la la, la, la la! Men don’t seem to get overly excited during the holiday season, but without being too sexist here, a majority of the preparations for the holidays falls on us women. Our lives are hectic and busy enough but add in preparing several feasts for the entire extended family expected to taste and look like something out of Better Homes and Garden and the pressure is on. Stir in the often impossible quest for purchasing just the right gifts and the stress of trying to pay for all these extras and we now have the makings of a major hormonal melt down. So if you get overwhelmed, cross-eyed and your gut clenches at the mere mention that the holidays are upon us, here’s some simple tips to keep your sanity this year.
Keep it Simple. Lighten up and attempt to simplify the celebrations. Consider making the meals a much simpler affair. For instance, if you typically go all out for both Christmas Eve dinner AND Christmas day, start a new tradition. Go with something delicious but simple on Christmas Eve and go all out on Christmas day or vice versa.
Prepare Ahead. Do you ever feel like you somehow missed the party? You spend 4 – 5 hours getting the meal on the table and fifteen minutes after you’ve served it, it’s gone and now the clean up beckons. And somehow you never even had a chance to catch up with your favorite cousin you only see twice a year. Prepare as much of the meal ahead of time so you can actually enjoy yourself during the meal. Sometimes, we put so much emphasis on the preparations we get ugly with our family during a time we are supposed to be full of joy and good tidings.
Always get the desserts baked or prepared the day before. Most casseroles can be put together, stored in the fridge and just need to be placed in the oven before serving. Attempt to do only that which absolutely has to be done for the day of the meal. You’ll be a calmer, happier and more present hostess at the celebration.
Share the Load. My kids finally figured it out last Christmas. Experience has revealed that mom gets way too stressed over the holidays and as the saying goes, “if mama isn’t happy ain’t nobody happy”. The kids all got involved by taking ownership of some of the meal. The older girls made the pumpkin pies and the younger kids made cut out decorated cookies. The boys pitched in peeling the sweet potatoes and everyone worked on preparing the house for guests. We have a standing law that might also help spread out the preparations more evenly, the cooks never have to do the dishes!
Start Early. As the calendar ticks off the days and every shopping website has the countdown days until Black Friday and Christmas plastered on the front page of their websites, you can feel the tension rising. Start your Christmas shopping right now. If you are out picking up items at Target and see something on the kids list and it happens to be on sale, by all means buy it now and cross it off your to-do-list. Do this before that item that they have to have to make their Christmas dreams come true is sold out.
Shop Online. Avoid the pushing, shoving, and parking trauma at the mall. Sit back, pour yourself a nice cup of spice tea and let your fingers do the shopping. Search for the websites that offer totally free shipping without minimum orders so you not only save on gas but you don’t have the added shipping costs. Shop around and you’ll save money, time and your sanity this year.
I am a big fan of Amazon, there isn’t anything on your list that you can’t find there for less and have it shipped right to your door without every needing to search for a parking spot at the mall. I subscribe to Amazon Prime which gives you free 2-day shipping on most of their items. Amazon offers a 30 day free trial to prime, so consider getting that and using it to complete your shopping during that time!
Keep things in Perspective.
Reason for the Season. No matter what your religious beliefs are focusing on relationships is always going to have you come out ahead. It seems the more materialistic we make the holiday season, the more miserable, let down and uptight we become. Take an inventory of how much quality time, how many deep and meaningful conversations you want to enjoy and what is truly important to you and then keep your focus on these things.
Take care of yourself. Take a hot bath with soft music, drink a glass of wine by the fire and curl up with a good book. When the stress of the holidays is catching up with you, stop and regroup. And keep in mind with all the extra calories we will be consuming, finding time to get some exercise will also have a double bonus of burning calories and reducing stress.