It’s been years since I stressed over the holidays, but in my day, believe me, I’ve been a nervous wreck. I’ve overspent, waited until the last minute, went to gatherings I didn’t want to attend, overate and … well, you get my point. However, I’ve learned how to avoid holiday stress and so can you.

Okay, so I’m a grandfather with no little ones under my roof and yes having children at home and wanting the best holiday for them can be a source of stress, but it doesn’t have to be. If you have children at home your path to a stress-free holiday is more complicated than mine, but you can do it, you can learn to avoid holiday stress, here are a few places to start.

Make Gift Buying Easy

I have a friend who asks his children to choose four gifts each. On Christmas morning they decide on two of the gifts. They donate the other gifts to charity. Not only does it make gift buying a simple process, but it adds to the spirit of the season.

I have four grandchildren from 10 years old to 23. I don’t know what they want or need. I could ask them or their parents, but mom and dad usually have those presents covered. So my answer is gift cards. I buy four gift cards, put them in Christmas cards, and then send my love with the card. It takes me less than an hour, and the grandchildren couldn’t be happier.

My wife and I donate to charities in each other’s name. We give each other a few choices and then we each decide. Let’s face it; we have what we want. We buy what we need, and we don’t need to purchase unneeded gifts just to have something to put under the tree, do you?

Have a Plan

My gift buying suggestions might not work for you because you have a gift exchange at Aunt Edna’s, your children asked for a special present from Santa, and your office has a Yankee Swap. You have to go shopping. You need a plan.

Before you head to the mall, stop and ask yourself what can you buy online. It could save you time and money. And if you need to go to the store, check online to see if the product you need is available. Try to go at off peak hours, for example, take an early lunch and shop. Do your homework so you can purchase multiple gifts at one location rather than tromping through 15 stores.

Do not wait until the last minute! There’s no excuse. If you wait until the last possible moment, your priorities are out of line.

Planning shouldn’t stop at gift buying. You need to plan what to cook, decide what you’ll wear to the office Christmas party, who you should send cards to, and who to call.

Set a Budget

It’s too late this year, but I highly recommend saving ahead for the holidays. I began doing this several years ago, and it lifted a weight off my shoulders. Do not go into debt over holiday shopping, stay in budget. One year when my finances weren’t the greatest I painted pictures for my family. I painted a trackside view of my brother’s favorite NASCAR driver, when he visited me in September from St. Louis he mentioned it was on the wall of his den. I gave it to him 20 Christmases ago.  What arts and crafts talents do you have?

Just Say No

This was a hard one for me, but it makes a huge difference. It’s okay to turn down invitations, to say you’re busy. You don’t have to attend every work, family, club, school, church and friend event.

Be Prepared for Aunt Sue and Uncle Billy

If a family event, which you’d rather not attend, is unavoidable come prepared. If Uncle Billy is going to talk politics and you don’t want to be a part of it walk away and if he insists tell him you’re here to celebrate the season with family, not debate politics. If Aunt Sue is going to ask you for the umpteenth time when you’re going to settle down and give your mother grandbabies tell her you’re not ready but when you are your mom will be the first to know, and Aunt Sue will be next.

Take Some You Time

I love walking in the snow, for you, it might be time at the gym, or just sitting around a fire with your pets. Whatever it is that helps you relieve stress plan for it. Put it on your schedule, make it part of your to-do list, plan time for you.

Celebrate with Those You Love

My wife is my best friend. There is no one in this world I’d rather spend time with, unless it’s my wife and my daughters and grandchildren together. However, there were too many years where both my wife and I had too many holiday commitments on our plate and spent too much precious holiday time away from each other. Not anymore, we know our priorities.

Catch the Spirit

My youngest daughter watches every Hallmark Holiday movie, I have my favorites movies too, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Christmas Vacation to name three. Every year I read The Christmas Carol, Skipping Christmas, and the Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I have more than 50 Christmas music CD’S (Yes I still play CD’S), and most years I attend Holiday performances such as the Nutcracker. Immerse yourself in the season; the spirit will catch you.

Don’t Set Unrealistic Expectations

If you channel your inner Clark Griswold and expect everything to go perfectly because it’s the holidays you will be disappointed. Just like any other time of year things will go wrong. Weather will turn bad, your children won’t like the socks and underwear, and your spouse might buy you a vacuum cleaner. It happens. So, rather than expect too much, be realistic, expect the wheels to fall off and be pleasantly surprised when they don’t.

Are Your Ready for a Stress Free Christmas?

You can do this. The key is to understand nothing is perfect, not even the holidays. There will be hiccups and disappointments. So be prepared to avoid overreaching. When things don’t go as you hoped what good comes from stressing over it?  Plan ahead, simplify the holidays, and take deep breaths. Merry Christmas!


Photo Credit: moerschy ID: bb4f3dcd9d294650 Provider: Pixabay