Are you someone who starts celebrating holidays early? Do you resist playing Christmas music until December 1 and wish stores wouldn’t start their Christmas displays before Halloween?!

I feel you!! However, it’s not a bad idea to spend a little time in the fall thinking about and planning ahead for the holidays. While it might be a little early to get the holiday decorations out, still there are a few things we can do now to help make the holidays less stressful and more joyful.

Why do holidays bring stress?

We want to make the holidays special. Nothing wrong with that. But that often means a lot of events get added to the schedule. While they are fun, they can add to the stress level.

The last quarter of the year can be a stressful time for many people at work as well. One article aimed at entrepreneurs quotes survey results indicating that “65 percent of Gen Xers reported feeling stressed during the holidays. Baby Boomers came in second at 62 percent, while 61 percent of Millennials said they felt the weight of the holiday rush.”

Another report says that “65 percent of people surveyed said the financial strain associated with gift purchases is the most stressful part of the holidays.”

In addition to money, other sources of stress might be: feeling overwhelmed and overbooked, family conflict, and feeling sad when everybody else is cheerful. Let’s face it, not everyone is happy during the holidays.

What can we do now to prepare?

How can we get a head start on preparation for the holidays and make the season less stressful? Here are ten things we can do to prepare now:

1. Plan ahead.

CLICK IMAGE TO DOWNLOAD

Sit down with a cup of something and a notebook or your computer and your calendar, and do a mind dump of all the things you usually do or need or want to do during the holidays, starting maybe from mid-October through the New Year’s celebrations. Include it all: family traditions, church or work or community events you need or want to participate in, people you want to give gifts to, food or gifts you want to make, meals you want to serve, parties you plan to host or attend, etc. After you’ve captured it all, take a look and ask yourself:

  • How realistic is your list (keeping in mind daily commitments, stage of life you’re in, etc.)?
  • What can you cut from the list and still have the kind of holiday season you want to have?
  • What can you move around or change now to set yourself up to have the time and energy you need to do the things you actually want to do?

One blogger suggests setting up a holiday planner–either a section of your current planner or a separate planner dedicated to holiday plans. (Her post includes suggests and links to various planners she’s used.)

2. Develop a budget for the holidays.

Think about how much money you’re willing to set aside for each person you want to give a gift to. Having a budget written down now might help you resist the urge to overspend as the holidays get closer.

If the budget is an issue, take steps now to avoid uncomfortable situations during the holidays. Talk to extended family about skipping gifts, or giving gifts only to the children, or drawing names and setting a cap on the amount (so nobody feels embarrassed because somebody else gave a more extravagant gift).

3. Shop ahead.

The steps above will help make it easier for you to get your holiday shopping sooner rather than later. If you have the list of people you want to give gifts to and then brainstorm ideas for gifts for each, you’ll have it top-of-mind when you’re out and can be watching for those perfect gifts and watch for sales on the things you want to give. Also, shopping the smaller local stores and markets is also much easier to do if you plan ahead and start early.

4. Start decluttering.

Cluttered space contributes to anxiety and to a lack of focus. On the other hand, a clean, clutter-free space helps lead to a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind.

In addition to the pleasure that comes from having a peaceful, decluttered home, getting rid of the “extra” stuff will also make space for the new stuff that invariably comes at the holidays.

Starting now you can:

  • Clean out refrigerator and pantry well before it’s time to do holiday cooking; non-perishables that you won’t use could be donated to a food pantry.
  • Declutter kids rooms and find things to discard or donate. This might be a new holiday tradition of choosing gently used toys to donate to a shelter. Get the kids involved.
  • Declutter and refresh bathrooms that might be used by guests during holiday parties (same with guest room).
  • Declutter master bedroom and make it a refuge for you during the busy holiday season.
  • Clean out coat closet and make space for guest coats. (Can you donate any coats that have been outgrown or replaced to a shelter?)
  • Clean out a closet or space for gifts, wrapping paper, etc., as you buy them. If you have the space for it, you could even set up a gift-wrapping station where you have everything you need at hand to wrap gifts.

5. Cook/bake ahead.

If you think about holiday meals ahead of time, are there any dishes or treats you traditionally serve that can be made ahead and frozen? Or things you can have in the freezer and pull out to take to a party or serve unexpected guests?

Baking can be a gift choice as well. Why not do some baking and put together pretty boxes filled with homemade treats? You could start doing some of that now.

6. Make reservations for holiday travel.

Book your travel now! Prices are increasing daily!

7. Plan some fun events for yourself and your family.

Plan some fun holiday activities/outings. Check all the surrounding areas and compile a list of festivals/parades, attractions we can enjoy to really get the most out of the season.

Now might be a great time to start investigating the options for memory-making family activities during the holiday season. What does your community offer? What special sights are available near where you live?

Make a little Christmastime bucket list of fun things you can do or places to go, for example: go to a tree lighting ceremony, go ice skating, watch certain movies, have a sugar cookie decorating night, etc. Schedule the must-dos and leave the rest as a list to refer to when deciding what to do with your down time.

8. Get a jump on your holiday cards or letter.

Take a family photo now; assemble/update addresses and begin addressing cards. Start now!

9. Make it meaningful.

Be intentional about keeping your priorities in mind, and think about what’s important to you and your family. Deciding what is really important, especially as kids get older, is key to a happy season and to creating traditions that will last.

One secret to a joyful, lower-stress holiday season might be giving a little thought now so you can plan to manage expectations. If there is something you’ve always historically done, but you decide not to do it, you can start to let others know you are going to do things a little differently. It’s better to talk about it now than to drop a bomb and not meet expectations.

10. Make personal time and self-care a priority, even during the holiday season.

Include some time for self-care–schedule your holiday-time appointments (hair? nails? massage? brunch with a beloved friend?) now.

Leave some white space on your calendar. Filling up every second of the holiday season with events and activity and go-go-go might result in happy memories . . . or it might result in exhaustion and emotional meltdowns. Focus on what’s most meaningful, and carve out time to relax and rest and savor the season’s most special times.

*Article Source: theproductivewoman.com