How to Stay Cool and Still Rule the Holidays

Here it comes- get ready! It’s that time of year again. The relatives are all coming soon, your perfect-gift-giving reputation is at stake, and there’s baking to be done. Decorating! Shopping! Cooking! A whirlwind of activity and a mountain of responsibility and it’s all up to you to make sure every last detail is just right when it comes to the “Big Day”…  um, days actually. Because they just keep coming. It is, after all, the holiday season.

The kids haven’t even finished all their Halloween candy and it’s time to get ready for Thanksgiving. Survive Turkey Day and it’s the countdown to Christmas! (or Hanukkah or Kwanza or …) If you can just hold on until New Year’s Eve it will all be over and you can breathe again. The mad rush to take care of a gazillion holiday chores is enough to drive you nuts! Don’t let the whole gamut of dinner parties, gift giving, holiday decorations and joyful noise give you a nervous breakdown. Here are a few tips on how to keep everything under control and still have a happy holiday:

Tip #1:  Make a list- check it often.

Santa isn’t the only one who needs a list to keep track of things, and you have a lot more to worry about than just who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. You can get an ordinary spiral notebook, clip an ink pen to it and actually lower your blood pressure a few points. Making lists and crossing off completed items eases your mind and uplifts your mood. Put your Gift List on a page, Dinner Menu on another page, then the grocery list for the dishes on the dinner menu… Make a list of people to invite to dinner, a party invitation list, a list of parties you’re invited to, a desserts list, and lots of shopping lists… the list goes on. You can flip back and forth between your lists and happily check off each completed task as you go. You’ll be organized, well-prepared and a lot less flustered by the whole thing.

Tip #2: Delegate.

Come on, even the President doesn’t try to do everything all by himself. You don’t have to take on the entire weight of holiday chores on your own. You have a family, you have friends, a mate, kids, neighbors… draft the neighbors’ kids. Tear out one of those pages in your notebook and give it to your husband. There’s no reason he can’t go to the grocery store for you, just be really specific on that particular list and he can handle it. Really. It’s even okay to let the kids hang all the ornaments on the tree, even if it comes out a little lopsided. You can let someone else help out once in a while, Supergirl!

Tip #3: Do not- repeat, DO NOT break the bank.

Overspending is the number one cause of holiday stress according to the American Psychological Association. Apparently 69% of people worry about paying for presents. It really is not necessary to be extravagant when it comes to gift-giving. If you really can’t afford to buy it then he or she really doesn’t have to have it. Of course you want to see their faces light up when they unwrap their presents, and you are certain to spend more than you would other times of the year. But going into debt over Christmas presents is not smart, nor is it necessary. You can be thrifty and creative and still make people happy, without worrying about how to pay for outrageously expensive and completely frivolous gifts. By making a realistic budget (and sticking to it) you’ll have one huge weight off your shoulders. And by spending money you actually have instead of racking up credit card bills, you’ll also be able to put it all behind you when the season is ended, instead of paying for it over and over. In case you like to throw your purchases on the credit card, you could use your reward points to cover your summer expenses.

Tip #4:  Remember the word “moderation.”

Here’s another major stresser during the holiday season: overindulgence. We all eat too much, drink too much, gain too much weight, spend too much money, travel too much, worry too much and just really get out of hand with all the Christmas joy. You’ll feel a lot better if you hang on to your normal healthy habits during the holidays. Go ahead and exercise regularly, even if you have to get up earlier. Just because you have some cake at the office party doesn’t mean you should give up healthy eating habits altogether. You can still have a salad or some yogurt for lunch, and take your vitamins. You don’t have to “Eat, drink and be merry” yourself sick in order to enjoy the holidays.

Tip #5: Play. Laugh. Smile.

It really is supposed to be the season to be jolly. Don’t get so wrapped up in the hard work of making it all happen that you don’t get to enjoy the fruits of your labors. Sit on the floor with the kids and play that silly board game you bought them. Linger under the mistletoe you hung in the doorway until your husband notices and figures it out – you deserve a kiss! Sit down with your sister and have a nice long chat now that you’ve impressed her with your Holly Homemaker skills.

The most important gift you can give yourself during the hectic holiday season is to keep reminding yourself what really matters. If the turkey you baked comes out a little dry, or the sweater you gave a size too big, if the garland hangs slightly off center and you completely forgot the cranberry sauce, remember the reason for the season- and smile. Give thanks, share, celebrate. All of these special days were established for reasons far and above the minor hustle and bustle we create for ourselves trying to impress someone. If you start to feel overwhelmed, just take a deep breath, let it out, and look for something else to check off your To Do list. Happy Holidays!