Ideally, the holidays should be a time of fun, enjoyment and rest, but during the hustle-bustle of the season, it's easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of details and activities that leave you feeling even more stressed than usual.
Luckily, there are many things you can do to help calm the storm of holiday chaos. With that in mind, here are four simple ideas to help you enjoy peace and quiet this year. Are you ready to approach the holidays in a less-stressed manner?
1. Prepare ahead of time
In the days leading up to the holiday, work your way through a checklist of the details that you know will need attention before the big day. For instance, if you know there will be holiday meal leftovers (especially true at Thanksgiving), consider cleaning out and preparing space in the refrigerator in advance, making room for all the dishes that will soon need that space. If you're planning to travel for the holiday, take care of details like car repairs/maintenance, pet care arrangements, and packing well in advance of departure day.
Other holiday details—like mailing Christmas cards, writing shopping lists (for both food and gifts), and guest-room cleaning/preparation—can all be done weeks in advance, freeing up helpful time during the actual holiday.
2. Try new traditions
For many people, long-held traditions are one of the highlights of the holiday season, and there's no doubt that these can be a great source fun and joy. But sometimes traditions can wear out their welcome and become more burdensome—particularly when life circumstances change. Kids grow up, family members move away, and new jobs take up more time than old ones, so it's only natural that some traditions need to meet the changing needs of the people involved.
So if the kids are outgrowing the family Thanksgiving Day round of Go Fish, realize that it's perfectly okay to let that tradition go and swap it out for something else—a movie, a local attraction, or just quiet family conversation. Try borrowing a tradition from your cultural heritage—like the charming Icelandic tradition of jolabokaflod ("book flood").
Likewise, keep in mind that mealtime traditions can also be adjusted. Do you always go out to eat for the holiday? Why not suggest an evening at home? Need a break from the annual prep of a huge meal? Consider serving something simple like pizza, a dish everyone enjoys yet still limits the workload. Or consider swapping the more complicated holiday main dishes for easier or prepared dishes like lasagna or rotisserie chicken.
3. Simplify decorating
First of all, decorating should be fun. It shouldn't feel like a house-beautification competition with the neighbors, and you shouldn't feel as if your guests will be judging you on the quality of the job or how elaborate it is.
Instead, you can choose to aim for a more laid-back attitude. Let everyone join in and bring their own artistic flair to the task. This helps keep everyone entertained, plus it lowers your own workload.
Choose decorations that ease up on the work instead of adding to it. Think artificial Christmas trees and wreaths that are ready to go and don't require maintenance, then go one step further and choose a pre-lit tree to save additional time—and the bother of sorting out which strands of lights still work and which have problems.
If time is at a premium, don't feel pressured to decorate everything. Is outdoor decorating on the porch or walkway not in the cards this year? Then focus what time and energy you do have on making the indoors look spectacular. No time to get the whole house done? Just decorate a main room or two—perhaps the entryway (so arriving guests receive that “holiday" feel) and living room. Even a well-placed pumpkin in the guest bedroom or some Christmas lights in the hall can quickly add a holiday look while requiring only minimal time.
4. Take it slow and easy
Non-stop activity can wear everyone out, making the holiday season an exhausting one. This year, why not include some rest and relaxation into the holiday itinerary? There's nothing wrong with foregoing the local holiday events, crowds, and chaos in exchange for a little family TV time, quiet board games, or even a group reading session near the fireplace. Unwinding without a particular “goal" is sometimes a wonderful thing. Put on an extra log (or just light a nice candle!) and let the holiday feeling soak in.