We all love the holidays and want to them to be a truly enjoyable and rewarding experience.  As a result, we tend to spend a great deal of time and effort engaging in various activities trying to make the time period extra special.  Our desire to have the best holidays possible often delivers a result more ironic than O’Henry’s Gift of the Magi. Instead of enjoying the holiday season, we spend it in stress, worrying about how to make our holidays perfect.

One of the chief causes of holiday stress is that gnawing feeling that the things you must do are going to outstrip your available time. Shopping, cooking, packing, wrapping and decorating suddenly fill what used to be your free time.  Special holiday events and parties may begin to pepper your schedule, too.  You fear being the crazed shopper banging on closed shop doors on Christmas Eve or are certain you will be forced to take the family out for a Chinese dinner because there is simply no way to get everything done!

There are many great resources providing quality hints and tips to reduce holiday stress, and if you feel yourself experiencing a great deal of pressure in December, you should definitely find some of these materials and consider the myriad of great ideas to make your winters easier.  In addition to the many great suggestions these sources provide, there are a few basic steps you can take to make your to-do list seem more manageable and to reduce your stress level.

Adjust Your Expectations

Some may benefit from simply readjusting their expectations of the holidays.  The omnipresent media and advertising industries can lead us to believe that any holiday celebration that doesn’t end up resembling a Currier & Ives print is a failure.  This, of course, is not the case.  It’s fine to strive for a wonderful holiday season, but it’s not necessary to create the Perfect Holiday.  Instead of concerning yourself with every Christmas detail, you can reduce your stress level by focusing on the parts of the holidays that are most meaningful and important to you and placing less emphasis on other aspects of the season.

By readjusting your expectations and goals for the holidays, you can reduce time pressures considerably.  A focus on what matters most to you insures that you will not spend precious hours involving yourself in activities and projects that are really not part of your “core” holiday goals.

Start Early

We often laugh at the fact Christmas decorations tend to go up in shopping malls right after Halloween decorations disappear. Although we don’t necessarily need to take the not-so-subtle message of holiday commercialization to heart, we can learn a little bit something from the early decoration trend.  By starting our holiday preparations early, we can reduce the amount of pressure and stress we experience during the holiday season.

It may seem unusual, but it really is okay to check whether or not the Christmas lights are working before the day you plan on decorating. And there’s no reason you can’t spend a little idle time in November doing a big of holiday shopping.  By doing some of your “required” tasks early, you can avoid the feeling of being in a rush in late December.

Follow Santa’s Lead 

Santa Claus, the song tells us, makes a list and checks it twice.  If he left delivery of millions of toys up to his memory, he would probably be the North Pole’s most stressed resident.  You can learn an important lesson from Santa Claus and can create your own organized list of holiday tasks and chores.

Although you may not want to over-regulate yourself, it is a good idea to make a pretty detailed list of everything you’ll need to do in preparation for the holidays.  If you can produce this list early, you will be able to schedule out events in a reasonable manner, making sure you are not caught up in the hustle and bustle that makes the holidays so frustrating for some people.

The holidays can be a source of great satisfaction and enjoyment.  Unfortunately, they can also become a high-pressure race for those who are not adequately prepared.  By carefully assessing your holiday needs and expectations, starting early on the holidays and keeping an organized to-do list, you can make your holidays a pleasure!

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