How to Make the Holidays Less Hectic

I love the holiday season because it’s a time to reflect on all the things we have to be grateful for. However, it’s a crazy time with all...

I love the holiday season because it’s a time to reflect on all the things we have to be grateful for. However, it’s a crazy time with all the functions, cooking, and shopping we do. Thankfully, there are ways we can manage the emotional stress and hectic aspects of this time of year.  

1. Don't Put It on a Pedestal:
While it's "the most wonderful time of the year," don't forget that it isn't the be all and end all of your life. Evaluate your expectations: are they realistic? You may find you will enjoy the holidays and your friends' and family's company more if you lower your expectations closer to reality and less like a perfect Christmas movie. 

2. Determine the Gifting Plan:
If you have a lot of cousins (like me) or a group of friends, decide ahead of time if you will be exchanging gifts or doing a Secret Santa. Set a price limit and deadline for when everyone must have a wishlist sent out. I love using Draw Names for Secret Santa as it lets you post your links to your desired gifts and makes doing everything anonymously simple. 

3. Schedule a Friend(s) Baking Day: 
Plan a day with a friend to cook or bake together. It's way more fun when you work together and can take breaks with sips of mulled wine or cider. Bake cookies for parties and trade some with one another and freeze them. This also works if you double up your recipes for other holiday dishes and can trade your extras.

4. Drama Free Zone: 
As much as your brother may have upset you discussing politics last time you saw one another, this isn't the best time to hash things out or, worse, bring up an article that supports your opinion of who you voted for. Don’t turn the holidays into a therapy session or pulpit. Deal with your family drama another time.

5. You Don't Have to Do EVERYTHING with Your Family: 
YES! Of course you should spend quality time with your family during the holidays. HOWEVER, that doesn't mean EVERY.SINGLE.MINUTE must be spent all together. Set boundaries and let your family know you'd like to go get coffee by yourself or meet up a with a friend for a certain amount of time. It doesn't mean you love them any less. It's just healthier for your to not feel smothered. As a trade off, I find it helpful to suggest other things we can plan to do to specifically make sure we have quality time (e.g: board game night, movie night, shopping together, etc).

6. You're Not Martha...
We all love Martha Stewart and her perfectly styled dinner table with 8 courses for 35 people in her New England cottage with a uniquely decorated Christmas tree in each room of the house... That's fantastic. I love that she can do that and am inspired! But let's face it. We aren't Martha.
Limit your guest list. Buy store bought desserts or ask for people to bring food if you must. The house doesn't have perfectly decorated to make it a memorable holiday. Just do as much as is fun and special for you.

7. Shop Early (and/or Online):
The title covers this mostly, but don't feel like you must wait until the last two weeks to get presents. The crowds and moods are mostly rotten and everything is a hot mess by that point. Also, don't feel you need to wrap every present to perfection if that's not your thing. Use gift bags or pay for wrapping if that is what makes the most sense for you.

8. Don't Forget the Reason for the Season:
It can be so easy to get wrapped up in the rituals and sparkle of the holidays and forget what it really means to you. If your family is religious I encourage you to read and journal about what this holiday means for your spiritually. Prepare your mind for that celebration. If you don't happen to be religious but still looking for a deeper meaning for this time of year besides the commercial aspect I recommend volunteering your time or gifting to those in need. This can be a lonely and painful time of year for many people. Gifting your time or money to those less fortunate is a beautiful way to celebrate this time of year and remember what it really means to love others.

How do you make your holidays less hectic? 

Photos taken by Nicole Ho for The Abstract Life

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