As the holiday season swiftly approaches, it ushers in a time of joy, warmth, and treasured moments shared with loved ones. Yet, amidst this festive atmosphere, the season has an uncanny ability to transform into a whirlwind of stress and a deluge of overwhelming commitments, shifting your mood from Cindy Lou Who to the Grinch in the blink of an eye. Fear not, for we stand ready to bestow upon you three invaluable strategies, crafted to steer you towards a more tranquil, intentional and enjoyable holiday experience.
1. Commitments: Prioritize What Truly Matters
The first step to a meaningful holiday is to sit down with your family or household members and create a wish list. Ask everyone the number one activity that makes the holidays special for them. It could be baking cookies, decorating the tree, or watching classic holiday movies together. Focus on making those experiences happen, knowing that they are the most important and memorable for your loved ones.
Next, take some time for self-reflection. What activities or commitments not listed are adding more stress than joy? It's important to recognize that you can't do everything. Give yourself permission to say no to some of those obligations this year with these suggestions:
- Share A Calendar with Your Partner: Keep a shared calendar with your partner to manage your commitments together. This way, you can coordinate and avoid overloading your schedule.
- Book All Tickets Now: Whether it's for ice skating, holiday teas, a holiday train ride, brunch, or dinners, book your tickets in advance. This commitment will ensure you carve out time for the experiences you genuinely look forward to.
- Prepare A Response: If an event comes up that you need to say no to, be prepared with an answer so you can reply immediately. Keep it short and honest even if your reason for missing involves taking a day to unwind and reset. Remember, saying no is not a rejection of the holiday spirit; it's a way to protect your well-being and enjoy the season more fully.
Here are three ways to help you say "no" gracefully:
- No - Sometimes ‘no’ can be a complete answer.
- If you do want to participate, but can’t on the day/time suggested, say “I can’t do that right now, but could on X date.” It’s okay to suggest a date in the new year. Sometimes it’s enough for people to know that they’re on your schedule at some point.
- If you want to see them, but don’t enjoy the suggested activity, say “I can’t do that, but I can [suggest alternative].” If you revel in the season’s coziness, but avoid the cold at all costs, you don’t have to go ice skating.
2. Gift List: Set Boundaries and Embrace Thoughtfulness
Gift-giving can be a source of stress and financial strain during the holidays. This year, consider where your gift list should stop. Don't feel obligated to reciprocate with everyone who gives you a gift. Instead, focus on genuine appreciation and thoughtfulness.
Set boundaries in advance by creating a budget. Start by grouping those on your list into categories such as family, friends, neighbors and set a price limit for each. If siblings or friend groups are willing, swap names or go in on a shared gift as a group to reduce your list and spend. Lastly, consider giving consumable items or experiences instead of physical gifts, which can lead to clutter. Concert tickets, gourmet treats and annual memberships are a few of our favorites.
Managing the mental effects of gift-receiving, such as guilt or overwhelm, is also crucial. Keep a receipt envelope for easy returns, and prepare for the influx of new gifts by editing, donating, or touching-up systems in advance.
3. Meal Planning: Simplify and Enjoy the Season
Holiday meals are a highlight of the season, but they can also be a source of stress. To make life easier for yourself, consider splurging on some pre-made or prepared items to save time in the kitchen. Provide different meal options, but don't be afraid to keep it simple.
If you're not confident in your cooking skills, ordering from a local restaurant in advance or using a meal service is a great alternative to the work and clean up that comes with a homemade recipe. And, if you're hosting a gathering, think about catering or organizing a potluck to share the workload and create a more relaxed atmosphere.
The holiday season should be a time of joy, not anxiety. By prioritizing what truly matters, setting gift boundaries, and simplifying your meal planning, you can create a more meaningful and enjoyable holiday experience. The NEAT team is here to support you on your journey to a calmer, more joyful holiday season.
Wishing you a season filled with love, laughter, and cherished memories.
the NEAT Team