Stress is a topic that I haven’t really blogged about, but around the holidays I tend to over-analyze and over-think EVERYTHING, which leads to an increase in my stress levels and a decrease in my sanity levels. After talking to friends and family, I have found that this is extremely common this time of year. I wanted to create a post to address the stress that the holidays can bring and how I, personally have been able to handle it. Hopefully this will help you too!
This year especially the holidays have totally crept up on me… Thanksgiving is only 3 days away… WHAT?! This also means Black Friday is 4 days away, which is when most people knock out their Christmas shopping. (Don’t worry, I will post a guide to Black Friday later this week). My biggest stress-or this time of year is money and budgeting for gifts. The retail industry has been capitalizing off the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays for years. They put so much pressure on finding the “perfect” gifts and making the “perfect” food for your “perfect” parties where you will wear the “perfect” outfit (I’ll make sure you are covered there). It can be extremely overwhelming! In the past, I have found myself falling into these standards, putting so much pressure on myself (and my budget), but this year I have decided to beat the stress and here’s how:
1. Start Early
Depending on your schedule and how busy you are, it helps to plan out certain days for shopping, baking, family visits, etc. If you are hosting a party or a get together, plan your menu and make a shopping list ahead of time. This helps with last minute trips to the grocery –and trust me, you do not want to be caught in the grocery a day or two before Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. You can also ask a close friend or family for help with party prep. It depends how many people you are entertaining, but an extra set of hands is never a bad thing!
I also know a lot of people who LOVE to procrastinate (I used to be guilty of this myself). However, I have found that planning ahead and starting your holiday lists early, really does make a huge difference. Specifically, when it comes to shopping, getting your gifts ahead of time helps with that last minute scramble. There is NOTHING more stressful than fighting mall shoppers and traffic the week before Christmas. Not to mention, they may not have something in stock and then it will be too late to order anything. Just ask my dad… I will never forget the year he decided to buy my mom a watch for Christmas on December 23! If you know my dad, he does NOT do crowds, or traffic and he HATES spending money. It was about a 5-hour affair and I could totally feel the stress. Needless to say, I think he learned his lesson!
Before you do your gift shopping, determine how much money you can afford to spend, and make sure you stick to it. The number of gifts you give, doesn’t matter –it’s the thought and the effort behind them. One thing I started doing a few years ago, was making homemade gifts, such as sign paintings/crafts. These tend to go over extremely well since you clearly put a lot of thought and time into them. Here is an article I found with some good homemade gift ideas.
Also, there is nothing more stressful than over-buying or over-extending your budget and watching your bank account dwindle. It’s really not worth it to buy extra expensive gifts if you’re going to sacrifice your peace of mind. That’s why it’s super important to determine your budget ahead of time, and to not stray from it. I also like to track my spending to make sure I am staying within that budget. It also helps to buy over time so you aren’t buying a ton of things at once. For more advice on setting a budget, this is a great article!
3. Make a list, check it twice
Make a list for who you want to buy for and what you are thinking of buying them. I use the notes app on my iPhone to list everyone I am buying for and gift ideas for them. This also helps tremendously when it comes to planning your budget. As I start getting gift ideas and seeing different promotions, I add them to that person on my list. To stay organized, I make lists for just about everything. This tip sort of goes hand-in-hand with planning ahead (tip #1). I make a list for what dishes I want to cook/bake, and the items I need to get from the store.
It also helps me to keep a calendar of holiday events to make sure I am not over-extending myself and that my commitments don’t overlap. There are so many times that I make plans and completely forget about them when I don’t write it down. This can add to your stress when you feel like you have too many plans and not enough time. This leads to my next tip…
4. Learn to say no
You don’t have to say “yes” to everything! In fact, it’s likely impossible. If you agree to something when you probably shouldn’t or don’t have the time, you will become extremely overwhelmed, which sometimes leads to feelings of resentment.
Friends SHOULD understand that the holidays are a busy time, and that you can’t attend or participate in everything. If it’s not possible to say no to something, i.e. a work commitment, try to remove something else from your calendar to make up for lost time.
5. Decide what really matters
Ultimately, around the holidays it’s important to remember what matters. Whenever I start to feel myself getting stressed, whether it’s about buying gifts, traveling, etc. I try to remind myself about the important things, like family and all of us being together for Christmas. So when you start to feel yourself getting worked up over broken cookies or spilled hot cocoa, remember the true meaning of Christmas, which is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Something else that can help you realize what truly matters, is volunteering at a local soup kitchen or donating gifts/food to a family in need. There are so many different organizations that give you the opportunity to donate during the season. This can really open your eyes to the struggles of people in your community and give you a new perspective. Any stress or anxiety stemming from buying gifts and cooking/entertaining seems insignificant when you realize how blessed and fortunate you really are.
6. use the internet
The internet is a powerful tool to have in the palm of your hand! If you hate shopping and hate crowds, it’s usually easier to shop online. Plus, you avoid the awful holiday traffic. Most stores have free shipping for the holidays and/or run some sort of special. If you decide to shop in store, I have found it helpful to Google coupons. A lot of times I have found that stores are offering huge savings online that they aren’t always advertised in store.
Also, if I find something online (or in store) I will Google that item to see if another store is offering it at a lower price. A lot of companies will price match competitors so you will purchase from their store. There are also a ton of articles and blogs with gift ideas that can help.
7. Stick to a routine
It’s easy to let the holidays become a “free-for all.” However, if you usually live a healthy lifestyle, overindulgence and abandoning healthy habits will only add to your stress and leave you feeling guilty. To stay on track, try creating a schedule where you plan ahead some time for yourself. Whether your routine is working out, reading, blogging, etc. it’s important to make sure you stick to it. The longer you go without doing something, the easier it is to put it off altogether. This also makes coming back to reality after the holidays that much more difficult.
Some things that help keep me on track are making sure I get plenty of sleep, having a healthy snack/small meal before going to parties, and doing some type of physical activity daily.
Make sure to carve out some time for yourself to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends. It’s easier said than done, but I think this is extremely important in maintaining your sanity. Even if it’s just 15 minutes to clear your mind, you can feel refreshed to accomplish everything you need to do. One thing that helps me, is going to the gym for a quick workout, or reading a few chapters in a book. Whatever it is that calms you and helps clear your mind, make sure you do it!
Outfit Details: Top: Free People, old (similar, similar) | Jeans: Nordstrom, $99 (similar only $25) | Bag: Tory Burch, old (similar) | Earrings: Kendra Scott, $55 (similar) | Shoes: DSW, old (almost identical, similar) | Watch: BP, old (similar for $17, similar)
Apart from the chaos and packed schedules, this is truly, in my opinion, the most wonderful time of year. However, if you let gift shopping, entertaining and traveling get the best of you, you could end up missing out on it. Hopefully these tips help you minimize your stress and enjoy every magical moment this holiday!