7 ways to eliminate stress from the holidays

7 ways to eliminate stress from the holidays

I skipped Black Friday this year. That was big for me because I’m a sucker for sales. I usually try to get all my Christmas shopping done before December so I can enjoy the Christmas season. Instead, I decided this year to enjoy the peace and thankfulness of Thanksgiving and boycott Black Friday madness. Maybe I’m just getting old. I don’t know.

My shopping’s not done, but I’m not worried because have I really simplified it this year. In fact, I’ve simplified everything because instead of trying to suck all the Hallmark moments out of the season, I’ve decided to sit back and just notice them around me. Turns out, when you boycott commercialism, the whole season gets happier.

I’m eliminating all the stress and all the crazy from my holiday season. And I believe I can do that without being a Scrooge.

Here are some suggestions to make your holidays less stressful:

  1. Focus your decorating to a few favorite things. This keeps you from stressing over the stuff you haven’t put out, don’t have, or need to replace. Not to mention the Christmas clutter (which in my opinion, causes stress). I’ve focused my decorating on my favorite things (trees, pillows, wreaths, table runners), and I put them all out in one day. No running to stores over and over to get lights or more Christmas paraphernalia for that empty corner. While I was decorating, I also threw out old decorations I never use–another way to de-stress. I’ve tossed out the old garland, window swags, knick-knacks, and tacky ornaments. I decorated 2 theme trees (one has our kids’ pictures and ornaments from all our vacations and mission trips; the other has my mom and grandmother’s ornaments). Then I put out a few little trees, which I keep stored with the decorations on them, so it’s easy-peasy. I suggest Home Goods or Target for cute Christmas decor that doesn’t cost a fortune.
  2. Add music. I’m playing Christmas music everywhere. I found the Hallmark Christmas station on XM radio, which I play in the car (they have 16 Christmas music channels!). I loaded Christmas music onto my phone. I brought out my Christmas CDs. If I don’t play them this year, they’re getting tossed. I like to see a Christmas show or concert, too. Makes me feel festive and happy.
  3. Be selective with your food preparation. We all love to eat, but sometimes the family cook misses out on a peaceful holiday because providing perfect dishes takes over. I’m not big on making fancy meals, but I love to bake cookies and bread. It doesn’t stress me—it relaxes me. I give away to the neighbors and we eat a lot. But if you don’t like baking and feel stressed about baking for people, don’t do it. That’s what grocery stores are for. But maybe be careful about those tins of shortbread cookies, the cookie platters from Wal-Mart, and the boxes of candy canes nobody ever finishes. Some food isn’t worth the investment.
  4. Only give the gifts you want to give. That should be obvious, but I suspect we do a lot of guilt/obligation giving. Try saying “no” to expectations of gifts and find an alternative. This means if giving to teachers, mailmen, neighbors, co-workers, and everybody else you know stresses you out, then don’t do it. It’s not the law. It doesn’t make you a bad person not to bake bread for neighbors or buy candles for teachers. You can be generous and kind in other ways. Not everyone has gift-giving as a love language. (You know who you are. I happily free you from this burden.)
  5. Reduce your shopping. I’m giving restaurant vouchers or Target cards to people who don’t need more stuff. I’m looking for plays and concerts to attend in lieu of gifts. I might buy a sheep for someone in Romania or chickens for someone in Cuba. Christmas is about an experience, not a package that gets broken, thrown away, re-gifted, or forgotten. And by all means, use gift bags. Wrapping gifts is over-rated and time-consuming. (Unless that’s your thing; then have at it.) It might be obvious, but buying less also reduces stress over credit card debt and the need to work extra hours to pay for Christmas. (“39% will use credit cards to cover the cost of Christmas.”) Reduction is a good idea.
  6. Entertain simply. Except for the china, silver, and crystal I’ll hand-wash on Christmas Day (using these makes me happy—it’s a grandmother/mom thing for me), my entertaining moments will be simple and unimpressive. Potluck. Christmas paper plates. Stouffer’s lasagna. Cheescake Factory cheesecake. Spiral ham. Seriously, I can’t enjoy myself if I’m meal-prepping the whole season. But if roasting a leg of lamb or a duck makes your holiday festive, then by all means, do it. (I’m not even sure if roasting is the right word for these. I mostly bake things.) Entertain in a way that enhances your holiday spirit, not drain it.
  7. Cut something out of your Christmas routine. I’m cutting the pressures and activities that stress me and I’m keeping the things that don’t. Outside lights? Might not happen. Candles in the windows? Maybe not. Homemade candy and chocolates? Hmm. Taste good, but I don’t need the calories. Family videos? Yes. Candlelight Christmas Eve service? Absolutely. Tacky Light Tour? Maybe this year–I skipped it the last few years. Everything doesn’t have to happen every year.
  8. Communicate with friends and family in the easiest way possible. My Christmas cards and letter are already done, but I’m a writer, and I like to communicate. I do simple: pictures from my I-phone. Shutterfly. U.S. Mail. Done. However, if sending Christmas cards and writing letters stress you out, then don’t send them. It’s not a crime. One year, my non-Christmas card friend sent out cards at Easter instead of Christmas. Last year, I sent New Year’s cards. As far as I know, nobody hated me. Or you could post a message on social media and call it a day. Or say nothing. It’s just not that important.

Christmas should inspire, refresh, rejuvenate, and reorient. There’s no room for pressure to buy for everyone you’ve ever liked and impress everyone you’ve ever met.

Christmas is peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

You might not think about it like this, but peace is intentional. You must sacrifice it into being. That, in itself, ushers goodwill into the world. Peace paves the way for belonging and contentment. Peace negates the need for things, for show, for glitz. Peace settles into Christmas pillows and reads a Christmas letter without envy or guilt, and it enjoys the life we’re living.

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