It’s the most wonderful–and often stressful–time of the year! Every family faces its own unique set of challenges during the holidays, but maybe you can find some helpful hints in the following list of stress-buster ideas:
Gift-Giving & Receiving
While the last post dealt with a fresh look at gift-giving, and many opt to do away with gifts altogether, giving gifts is usually still a very real part of everyone’s Christmas.
One of the hardest things is family members who give unwanted/an overabundance of gifts to our children. A few ideas:
- Be grateful. Grandparents and other family members have the very best intentions in their exuberance. It’s not worth offending to make a militant proclamation about “what you will and will not allow” concerning someone else’s generosity. But you can enthusiastically suggest ideas beforehand that make it easier on the gift-giver. Things like, “You know, my children would really love _____”. If a gift is given that you would rather your children not have, just politely receive it with gratitude, and then dispose of it later. You may want to tell your children up front of the potential of that action if you know it exists.
- Be practical. If you have a lot of gifts to buy and/or you are at a loss about the receiver’s tastes, consider practical gifts like food baskets, consumable household items, etc. We do a lot of homemade gifts and have found they are usually received quite well, and save us money too. Here is a picture of the most recent cabinet doors we converted into gifts (sorry for all my relatives reading who will be getting these for Christmas ;-):
(There are some other homemade and practical gift ideas in my ebook, “Easy Homemade Gifts”, which is only $2 right now!!!)
- Drawing names within large/extended families can greatly relieve the pressure and decision-making process.
- Gift Game. One gift-giving tradition called “White Elephant” involves wrapping an item you already own and then exchanging it in a game. While this may sound tacky, most of us have some nice things (even newish?) that we are tired of that others may love.
A few other ideas we’ve implemented over the years:
- Fill a round, wooden cheese box (or other container) with wrapped baked goods and snacks. You could also include movies, popcorn, music, etc.
- “Homemade” butters (made my mixing fruit or honey with butter), homemade flavored coffees, homemade cocoas and spiced drinks make nice gifts, especially for neighbors.
- Deeply discounted restaurant coupons from restaurant.com
- Carefully selected NEW items from a thrift store.
Whether you are hosting friends and family or taking food to other places, preparing food can cause major holiday stress. Tips:
- Think ahead, bake ahead. Though this isn’t possible with everything, try to choose menus/dishes/baked goods that can be prepared ahead and frozen until you need them. This can save lots of time and stress.
- Consider a non-traditional meal. With Christmas on the heels of Thanksgiving, many are relived to enjoy a different menu than the traditional. Our family often makes a huge batch of seafood gumbo, creating our own Christmas tradition, not to mention, a soup meal is much easier to pull off.
- Trade food items with a friend. Are you great at making one thing and she is great at another? Consider making a double batch and have her do the same, then trade one with each other. It’s generally less stressful to make more of one thing than multiple items.
- Decorate simply. Some of you no doubt break out in hives just reading that. But Christmas is equally beautiful with a little garland, some candle light and a tree. Browse the internet for simple inspiration and let go of your “Winter Wonderland” this year 😉
- Simple Snacks. Keep some hot cider and simple snacks on the counter if you have guests coming and going. It helps facilitate the social aspect of things and buys needed time in the kitchen.
Other random tips:
- Create meaningful traditions if you wish, but don’t hold onto stressful ones just for tradition’s sake. Many people have a check list of “what has to be done” to consider it a real Christmas. A certain extent of decorating, certain shows or events, Christmas cards, gifts for the entire church–things they like to do but can really cause extra stress. Evaluate your season of life and if you find the holidays stressful, consider what could be cut out and then take a deep breath and do it! (I’m trying to talk myself out of Christmas cards this year…I’ll let you know how that goes ;-))
- Make a list and check it twice. A gift list, keeping up with what you have bought, what you are planning to buy and how much you’ve spent is a must. A food list, an event list and any other reminders need to be kept in a place you can remember and refer to.
- Say “No”. Parties can be fun but if you’re running around trying to make them all, it’s not so much fun anymore. Pare down your family’s events to one or two really meaningful ones and let the rest go. Life will go on, I promise.
I think the whole post on relieving Christmas stress could be summed up with “SIMPLIFY”. Don’t let the expectations of others (or yourself) ruin what should be a delightful, joyful time of the year. Purpose to relax and enjoy this season with the people you love!