The holidays are supposed to be a time of giving and celebration of new beginnings. But our traditions of decorating, gift giving, card sending, eating and entertaining have become so complicated and stressful that it’s almost impossible to recognize the true meaning of the holidays anymore. Here are a few tips to help you simplify, reduce stress and get back to experiencing the joys of holiday traditions.
FREE GIFT: Listen to my new class from October 2012
on "Designing Stress out of the Holidays - The Agile Way."
• Decorate less. This year, experiment with using only half or maybe even fewer of your decorations. Spending less time displaying decorations will give you more time to enjoy them. As a bonus, you’ll also have less to put away after the holidays.
• Instead of adding holiday decorations, consider replacing current decorations. If you buy a new decoration, consider donating or giving away some of your older ones.
• Design a decorating ritual. Instead of storing like items with like items, and having all your lights in one container, label containers according to the room or location where you display the decorations. For example, a container for the living room, or perhaps one that says, "fireplace" decorations, etc. Perhaps use pictures of last year's decorations as a guide to help you figure out where to put everything more quickly.
• Swap out decorations. When you put holiday decorations out on display, put some of your non-holiday decorations away. Keep those decorations in your holiday storage box until the holidays are over.
• Exercise your letting go muscles. If you have decorations that you don’t really use any more, and you need space for new decorations, try not to keep them out of habit. If they are sentimental, consider taking a photo before letting them go.
Gift Giving Tips
• Set limits. It’s so tempting to give your kids lots of gifts. But when you do, realize that you are inadvertently teaching them to expect that every year. The best gift you can give your kids is to teach them that the true meaning of the holidays is to give of yourself to others, be with people you love, and not about how many gifts you get.
• Make a list and define a flexible budget for holiday spending. One of the biggest sources of holiday stress is overspending on gifts. Make a list of everyone you want to give a gift to and set a budget that allows you to celebrate the holidays without creating a financial hardship.
• Limit the number of shopping trips you make. Where possible integrate shopping with your normal shopping routines. Consider shopping on Mondays early or late to avoid crowds. Shop in smaller stores you enjoy and avoid overstimulating store environments like BJs, Costco or Sam's clubs if you or your kids are highly sensitive.
• Create your gift list based on what you know people really need and use. If you aren’t sure, find out their favorite stores, restaurants, activities or service providers and give them a gift certificate. Include a personal note with what you were thinking of buying them, maybe even include a photo from a catalog or internet site to personalize the gift certificate. See Jeri Dansky's Tips on Giving Gift Cards and Gift Certificates (Here are my "clutter-free holiday gift ideas")
• Avoid shopping just to look for gift ideas. When people shop looking for ideas, they often end up finding too many great gift ideas, can't decide, and then they buy too many gifts.
• Avoid bringing home “possible” gifts thinking you'll return the ones you decide not to give. That almost never happens. And it just causes more stress. The best time to make decisions about what gifts you want to give is BEFORE you go shopping.
• Shop online. Especially for people you have to ship gifts to. Having your gifts wrapped & shipped directly to them can save you a lot of aggravation waiting in line at the post office.
• Instead of spending a lot on gift wrap, make creative gift wraps out of items in your home. For example, use fabric, or maybe even the comic pages of a newspaper. You can even cut strips of fabric to make bows.
Card Sending Tips
• Rethink your card traditions. How many cards do you really need to send out this year? You don't have to cut back, just review to consciously validate your choices rather than pressure yourself to comply with traditions.
• Consider sending e-cards, making phone calls or sending personal emails with photos instead of cards. Imagine how much nicer it would be to actually talk to the college roommate you exchange cards with every year but haven’t seen or spoken to in 20 years.
This year, in lieu of mailing cards, we donated the money we usually spend on cards and stamps etc. ($200) to www.RoomtoRead.org. Instead, we are making our own e-card.
Eating and Entertaining Tips
• Limit how much sugar you eat. Sugar impairs your immune system and causes water retention and mood swings. Much holiday depression is caused by or made worse by eating too much junk.
• Keep a few healthy meals & snacks on hand. Fruit, cut vegetables, nuts, popcorn and cheese are excellent alternatives to sweets.
• If you are having a party, let your guests bring something. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Remember that people usually enjoy contributing.
• Finally, give up the myth of the perfect holiday. It doesn’t exist. What stories are you telling yourself about what people expect of you? Chances are they don’t expect nearly as much as you think they do. The truth is most people don’t care how many decorations you put up or whether or not you send them a card. 90% of our stress is self-inflicted by the stories we tell ourselves about events in our lives. By rethinking the stories you tell yourself about your holiday traditions, you can start getting back to a simpler, happier holiday season.
Wishing you Happy, Healthy & Simpler Holidays!