With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to lose sight of what is of value to you. The never-ending list of things to do, last minute plans, forgetting to pick-up key ingredients at the grocery store, the pressure to find that elusive “perfect gift”, and trying to remember where you stashed your “ugly” sweater from last year is enough to cause many of us to lose our minds.
For once it would be nice to waltz into the holiday season with all of the tinsel on the tree and not on the floor. Unfortunately, life isn’t perfect, we aren’t perfect, and the ones that you think have this holiday thing perfectly figured out, don’t.
With a little planning and foresight, you can make the holidays more relaxing, and when they are over have a sense of accomplishment and not stress.
Start by taking a deep breathe, grab a pencil (because you will put that eraser to good use), and a pad of paper. Define what is important to you this holiday season. Take note of the things that will make you feel the most accomplished this season. Is it making sure you actually get to midnight mass this year? Do you want a sparkly red manicure? What about the relatives that you keep meaning to touch base with? Do you feel compelled to find creative places for that Elf to be each morning?
Once you know what is most important to you this holiday season, grab your calendar and actually schedule the time and tasks in that it will take to complete them. Respect the time that you set aside to accomplish those things as you would any other appointment or meeting.
Take care of yourself. Schedule in some “you” time. Give yourself a spa break, time for a yoga class, permission to have a glass of wine while you sit in front of your tree and reflect, lunch with friends. Go for a walk, clear your head, take a bubble bath, throw a snowball. Find time for the things that will give you a clear mind and a joyful heart.
Make another list. For those of us that find shopping the most daunting and stressful task of the season, do it smart and do it early. Nobody wants to be out shopping on the eve of a major holiday, or stopping on the way to a party to grab a hostess gift. Shop early, shop online (many local stores have websites), and stock up on universal gifts. If you find a great deal on a case of wine, buy it…that’s twelve potential “last minute” gifts, and if you don’t give it all away, you can drink it later. Count up the number of people that you give candy to, and order it online, cross another step off of your list and have it delivered to them directly.
Did you see a “secret santa” tree at a local business last year, but didn’t participate because the thought of going shopping “one more time” was too much? Buy something ahead of time that is sure to fit someone on the tree OR buy something online and have it gift wrapped and delivered.
The Grocery List. If you are hosting a holiday dinner or party this year, plan the menu, make a list of all of the ingredients that you need, cross off what you have in the pantry, and knock the grocery shopping out early and in one trip. If you need to go to the store, try and hit-it mid-day or late at night when it’s not as crowded. Otherwise, give yourself permission to cut corners and use an online grocery delivery service this month…no trip to the grocery store needed.
The Money List. Think ahead. Do you need money for extra holiday tips, donations and gifts this season? The babysitter? Your church? Newspaper delivery guy? hairdresser? a little cash for your nieces and nephews or grandchildren? Write it down, add it up, and make one trip to the ATM instead of five.
If you find yourself feeling lost, helpless, or stressed during the holidays, simply give back. Take care of others. Volunteer.(Make time for this even if you don’t feel lost, helpless, or stressed). Does your elderly neighbor need help stacking their wood? A stranger need a warm jacket or hot cup of coffee? Carve out some time in your schedule or pledge to be cognizant during the holiday season to help others. Making a small difference in someone else’s life will make a huge difference in yours.
Be mindful of your thoughts and actions if you are traveling. It’s not the ticket-agents fault that a flight is delayed or cancelled, there is no need to scream. Arrive at the airport knowing that there may be delays and having an action plan if there is.
Frequent fliers know how to quickly navigate through troubled waters in the event of a flight delay or cancellation, but those that don’t travel the friendly skies that often might be at a total loss. Download your airline’s “app” to your phone so that you can receive instant alerts and make changes to your flight without having to stand in a long line at the airport. If you do get delayed, make sure you have a book that you’ve been dying to read in your carry-on bag, or scout the airport for a spa and take advantage of some “me” time.
Enlist helpers. Is the neighbors teen home from college? Offer up some cash to get some of those tasks done that are looming in front of you…shoveling the snow off your sidewalk, wrapping presents, running errands. Does your mall have a gift wrapping service for the holiday season? Drop off your gifts while you have dinner and catch up with a friend.
Give yourself permission to unplug. The world will not stop turning if you take an extra hour or two before you return a phone call or respond to an email. Turn the phone off, read a book, take a walk through your neighborhood, go look at holiday lights, take a nap. Unplug from the world and detach. Take some time to do absolutely nothing.
Last, remember that when all else fails (and it will) laugh, smile, and be joyous.
Originally published at medium.com