Plan Now for Less Stressful Holidays

Plan Now for Less Stressful Holidays
I know, I know: Halloween was barely over before stores started putting out their Christmas decorations and cranking up the holiday tunes on the sound system. There's a Christmas tree lot springing up at the end of my street, though the spring-like weather here--not to mention the fact that it's still mid-November--makes the thought of hauling home an evergreen a hard one to come to grips with. Tough as it may be to believe, the end-of-year holidays are fast approaching, and for many of us, this means a combination of excitement, anticipation, and unrivaled stress.

This year, I challenge you to do what you can to banish stress from that list. To assist in that effort, I'll be devoting the next several weeks' articles to ideas, practices, and strategies for squeezing as much fun and togetherness out of the holidays while steering clear of the frustrations and the excesses.

For starters, I recommend taking some time this week (when Christmas and Hanukkah are still a relatively leisurely stroll away on the calendar) to do some general planning for the holiday celebrations ahead. I'm not talking guest lists and menus, but rather overall parameters for what you want from this holiday season. As always, I encourage you to aim for quality over quantity and substance over fluff. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind as you plan.

  • Focus on what matters most to you this season. Do you want the holidays to be time spent with friends and family? Do you prefer one large, elaborate celebration or several smaller, more casual ones? What are your favorite holiday traditions? Keep these holiday priorities in mind as you start to prepare for the weeks ahead.
  • Take finances into consideration. It's been a hard year economically for many, and you wouldn't be alone if you felt the urge to splurge after weeks or months of pinching pennies. Before you give in and go wild on the gifts, the parties, and the food, though, think about the hangover--in terms of finances, clutter, and your health--you'll be faced with come January. There are plenty of ways to celebrate that won't empty your wallet. Start thinking now about how you might keep your holidays within your budget without having to sacrifice any of the season's festivity.
  • Do your holiday prep a little at a time. If you've ever left all of your holiday planning for the last minute, you know that there's no better way to send your stress level skyrocketing. (Alas, I speak from experience here!) By organizing your seasonal tasks and spreading them out over the next several weeks, you'll give yourself plenty of time to get everything done without driving yourself nuts. Here are a few tasks to tackle this week:
    * Make holiday travel plans if you haven't already. (Even if you're not traveling by plane, a bit of advance planning is a good idea.)
    * Establish a holiday budget.
    * Start to talk with family members about how they can help with your holiday celebrations. Getting others involved takes some of the responsibility off your shoulders and lets others feel a sense of ownership and involvement.
    * If you'll be using professionals during the holidays (such a caterer or bartender for a Christmas party), choose and book them now.

Here's to the first week of your most enjoyable, least stressful holiday season to date!

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