While everyone seems to talk about “holiday magic” it’s no secret the holidays can be a stressful time too. It’s understandable when you consider there are often gifts to think of and buy, fancy meals to plan and make and of course Santa to see! Not to mention snowy weather might make travel difficult or maybe someone gets sick with the flu? Are you also wondering how to have a stress-free holiday?
Last year after having my second child, I found the holidays to be really stressful. While thinking about the upcoming holiday season, I decided this year would be different. In order to make it less stressful for not just me, but you too, I’ve come up with a list of ideas. Of course, I probably won’t be able to implement all of them, but I definitely plan on doing quite a few.
Why should the holidays only be magical for children? I plan on making them a little magical and less stressful on myself by using this list below!
1. Forgo sending Christmas cards – Sure, I think most people enjoy getting Christmas cards, but the process of doing them takes work! When you add up the time it takes to do the photo(s), create the card, address the envelopes, buy stamps, mail them, etc. it’s a lot. If this stresses you out, skip them. Skipping them one time does not mean that you’ll never send them again, it just means it isn’t happening this year and that’s perfectly fine.
2. Buy a pre-made holiday meal – Almost every grocery store and even some restaurants do these meals now and you know why? People like them! We want to spend the day with family and friends and not in the kitchen! My family has personally done this for several holidays and we love it. If you have a family member who wants to make all of the food, that’s great, but if not… find a place where you can buy a great meal and spend the day as you want.
3. Buy fewer gifts – Do you have a large extended family? What about drawing names to just buy for one person? Or just buying for the kids? My husband’s side of the family decided a few years ago to just buy for the children and it’s been so nice! While I liked showing my love by giving a nice gift, I find that by saying “let’s not buy for one another” is really giving everyone the gift of time, which I find is always appreciated!
4. Buy the same gift for multiple people – Last year I bought four people Starbucks gift cards. I mean, most people love coffee, right? I jazzed them up with a paper Starbucks cup and Hershey kisses, which was super easy to do, yet still looked nice. Plus, with just a few purchases I had four gifts out of the way.
5. Don’t feel the need to do everything – There’s so much to do. If we went to everything we wanted to go to, we’d be running around 24/7 and that’s not how I want to spend the holidays, especially with two small kids. We pick and choose things we think the kids (and also maybe us!) will enjoy and what we have time for without going crazy, which amounts to maybe one to two things each weekend. We have found that planning out our time makes for a stress-free holiday and just works for our family.
6. Learn to say “no” – Once again, there are so many things to do during this season and sometimes we just have to say “no.” I know it’s not the easiest thing to do, but trying to fit it all in is really stressful. The holidays only come once a year…do you want to spend them running around and not actually enjoying this time?
7. Give yourself grace with traditions – Going to the tree lighting in our hometown had been something we’d done every year. However, last year my husband had minor surgery and we had a baby and it just didn’t happen. Was I sad? Yes, a little. However, the day went on and nothing bad happened because we skipped a tradition… oh well, we’ll try again next year!
8. Follow these guidelines for entertaining – I wrote this post last year with some tips for entertaining. Try following at least a few (if not all!) to make any entertaining you’re doing during the season stress-free!
9. Create traditions at home – While I love going out to holiday events, with small children I find it often easier (read “less stressful”) to stay at home. There will be a time when we do that, but for now, staying in and having a hot cocoa movie night or reading Christmas stories by the tree can be easier and also more fun for everyone.
10. Take time away from social media – I like scrolling on social media as much as you, but sometimes it makes me more stressed. Everyone’s posting their handmade teacher gifts, holiday family photos or winter trips to warm weather locations, which makes me feel like I’m not doing enough. At times like this, a social media break can be just what you need.
11. Stay at home – Traveling with small children, at least for me, is not a lot of fun. When you add to the equation how busy the holiday travel season can be, I just say “N-O!” We only take short trips to visit family during the holiday season. I would rather stay close to home than add one more stressor to my plate.
12. Hire help – Having a holiday party at your place? Why not hire someone to do the cleaning? Need appetizers, desserts or a full meal? Hire a caterer or order from a local bakery or restaurant. Need a night out with your spouse? Hire a babysitter. The bottom line, ask for help when you need it. You don’t need to do it all on your own. Asking for help makes it much easier to have a stress free holiday.
13. Ask people what they want – Sure it’s fun to give someone an awesome gift you thought of on your own, but I often flat out ask people what they want. That makes it easier for me and they get exactly what they want. Win-Win for everyone.
14. Start making a “to do” list in October/November – Ok, I love making lists. Do you? They keep me sane. I start early, like in October, to make holiday lists. Where are we going to celebrate each holiday? Who do I need to buy for? What does everyone want? Maybe it’s crazy, but the earlier I start to think about these things, the less stress I feel come December.
15. Use tried and true recipes – I like to bake and cook and tend to do a lot of it come November-December. There are always new recipes I want to try, but when it comes to holidays or cookie baking, I generally use recipes I know will turn out well. No one wants to be scrambling to make something for Christmas tomorrow because your new recipe didn’t turn out right!
16. Drive as little as possible on the actual holiday – Time in the car with kids is not always fun, so we try to drive as little as possible on the holiday. We make trips to family further away either before or after the big day so we can spend fun time with each other on the holiday and not stuck in the car.
17. Forgo any 12 days or 25 days of Christmas activities – I always want to do something fun like this, but I know I would just stress myself out over it. Maybe when they’re a little older, something like this might be a possibility, but right now we’re sticking with just a chocolate advent calendar over here to make this a stress-free holiday!
18. Pick a couple must do holiday activities – If you live in a major city, like Columbus, there are a million and one things to do right now. I would love to do them all, so many sound like a lot of fun! However, fitting them all in spells a recipe for disaster. Pick a few YOU and your family would enjoy and don’t worry about the rest. Forget any fear of FOMO.
19. Spend some time alone – If you’re someone who needs alone time like I do, make sure to plan some for December. In a month that can be so full of running around and spending lots of time with family and friends, alone time can be hard to get. However, if I want to be my best self at the family or work get together, I make sure to let my husband know what my plans are for making alone time a priority!
20. Stock your freezer – Nothing’s better after a long day of Christmas shopping than coming home to dinner already made, right? This is why I try to get some freezer meals stocked for December. You can either make them yourself or get a little help from somewhere like Trader Joe’s or Costco. No matter how you do it, your December self will thank you if you can make this happen in October or November!