I love the Holidays! But I don’t love the stress that comes with them. Christmas is five months away, and now is a great time to do some advance planning. Before the back-to-school shopping kicks in or the end of summer Labor Day parties are here, think about the winter holiday season. So get yourself a cool beverage and take a visit to the Ghost of Christmas Past and perhaps change Christmas Future for the better.
When you take the time to think about what you really want to do at the holidays and make a plan for it, you can enjoy, rather than dread the holidays. The two best tools to help make the holidays stress free are a calendar and a budget. I find that when I overspend my budget and overbook my calendar, I can quickly lose my joy and find my inner Scrooge. Here are several topics to consider:
Make your lists and check them twice!
- Family Traditions
- Time off from work
- Travel arrangements
- Pet care
Start by reviewing what you have done in the past. Check in with family members and ask them to name their favorite part of the holidays. You can also make a list of things that your family does NOT like to do. Maybe this is the year that you don’t do what you have always done. This is also a great time to consider starting a new tradition.
- Who to buy for and how much to spend
- Will gift be purchased or hand-crafted/created (if you are going to make it, has it been started yet?)
- Do any of these gifts need to be shipped? If so, grab that calendar and decide now when they will be sent. This can help save your budget when you can ship at ground rate with plenty of time versus shipping second day air.
Also, it can be a help to make a list of gifts that you would like to receive. It is much better to have an answer when asked, “What would you like for Christmas?”
Is this the year for a family photo on your Christmas cards? Again, grab that calendar and look at scheduling your photo shoot. Tell family members to save the date. Better yet, take a summer family picture and use that for your greeting card.
Does this holiday season involve traveling? If so, pull out that budget and start to rough in those numbers. Will you need airfare, hotels and a rental car? Will you need to budget for fuel for shorter trips? If you have pets, will you take them with or will they need to be boarded? Call and make those kennel reservations now.
If you are planning to take some time off from your job at the holidays, you will want to make sure that you have enough vacation time available. Check in with your supervisor to see how holiday vacation is scheduled. By making plans early, you can make changes to family plans if your work schedule cannot flex.
Food and Décor
The sights, smells and sounds of the holidays are what people truly remember. As you review your traditional holiday foods, think about changes or additions that might be welcome. Do you really need Aunt Edith’s jello salad? Does it actually get eaten or just talked about?
Check out your décor, does it need updating? Is some of it looking sad and worn? Does your front door wreath need replacing? Make a list of things that could be replaced and begin to look for them in the coming months. If you haven’t upgraded to LED lights, this could be the year. The best selection is early in the season.
There are many free Holiday Planning Guides that can keep you on track and inspired. My favorite one is the Holiday Control Journal from www.flylady.net. It is available as a printable or as a Microsoft Word document.
Now, take a deep breath and a drink of something cool and remind yourself that the holidays will come, but the stress is optional. A little planning now and a little time each week will keep you from procrastinating until the last minute. Let this be the year that you truly enjoy your holidays, instead of dreading them.
For more information on reducing stress during the holidays, check out our Health Center article.