Keep It Light: 10 Ways to Simplify the Season

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, full of friends, family, and festivities. However, research confirms a different reality—most Americans have elevated stress levels during the holiday season. Instead of being full of good tidings and cheer, families often feel drained of time, energy, and peace. Stressors such as shopping, party planning, financial concerns, and trying to make the holidays perfect, can make the end of the year hectic and overwhelming. These ten tips will simplify the season and make it merry and bright.

1. Focus on your reason for the season.  

Why are you celebrating? Is it for spiritual reasons? Maybe you want to spend time with friends and family or enjoy the spirit of giving during the holidays. Keep what is most important about the holidays at the center of your celebration. Reconsider any task or commitment that takes your time, energy, enjoyment, or finances away from your reason for celebrating.

2. Set firm boundaries around your time.

With all the holiday volunteering, office parties, and family gatherings, it’s easy to overcommit yourself. This year, pick one project you want to volunteer your time to, or pick a variety of simple acts of kindness you can do with your family. Spend time with your friends and loved ones, but don’t feel guilty if you don’t go to every party or gathering.

3. Let go of perfection.

One of the most stress-relieving things you can do during the holidays is set the bar a little lower. Your social media is likely flooded with elegant hosting ideas, but everything doesn’t have to be picture perfect for a beautiful season. Embrace simpler decorations, meals, and gift giving. Try shortcuts or holiday hacks. If you let go of expectations, you may be pleasantly surprised to find yourself content with a celebration you hadn’t even envisioned.

4. Farm out your to-do list.

At the beginning of the season make a to-do list of what you want to accomplish. If you find that it is too long for the amount of time that you have, consider delegating some of the items. Have groceries delivered or buy gifts online to avoid the holiday rush. Grocery stores also have a plethora of pre-packaged holiday foods that make delicious sides, cutting down on your time in the kitchen. Buy desserts from your local bakery and shop at stores that provide wrapping stations. No time to clean the house? Hire a cleaning service just for the holiday season or ask for this service as a gift.

5. Gift others with experiences.

Holiday shopping can be time-consuming and nerve-wracking with crowds and traffic. If you don’t start early, coveted items sell out, leaving you scrambling for another gift. Ask those you give gifts to if there is an experience they would like to have. Tickets to the theatre? Family passes to an amusement park or aquarium? A relaxing day at the spa? Experience gifts are unique and give friends and family the opportunity to make memories and pamper themselves.

6. Set a holiday tea time.

Recent research shows that drinking green and black tea has many health benefits, including promoting relaxation. Herbal teas help with anxiety and stress. In keeping with the holiday spirit, sip some calming peppermint tea, or try chamomile, lemon balm, or passionflower.

7. Take a hike.

One way to tell your stress to take a hike might be to actually take one yourself. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins that trigger a happier, more relaxed mood. Aerobic exercise outdoors away from screens, phones, and to-do lists can clear your mind and help you keep what’s important in perspective. If a hike isn’t possible, try fitting in small walks around the neighborhood with your family.

8. Reconnect with long lost friends and relatives.

Meet with an old friend you haven’t talked to for years, and catch up. Take some time off and visit relatives you miss seeing on a regular basis. Surrounding yourself with people you enjoy is powerful when you want to combat holiday stress.

9. Do something kind for someone else.

You don’t have to overcommit yourself to a charity or fundraiser to be kind. Small random acts of kindness can make someone’s day. Let someone jump in front of you at the supermarket line or let someone drive their car in front of yours in the parking lot. Send an anonymous Christmas card with cash or a gift card to a college student or elderly person that you know is struggling financially. Throw change in Salvation Army buckets when you pass them. Attach quarters in clear storage baggies to parking meters or laundry mat machines with a printed, positive message. Having a kind spirit chases away stress and keeps the season warm and full of hope.

10. Celebrate memories more than material possessions.

Finances can cause a lot of stress at the holidays. There is nothing wrong with downsizing the amount of money spent on gifts. Making gifts or drawing a name out of a hat and buying one gift for that family member can take off the pressure of buying gifts for everyone. A white elephant exchange is an entertaining and inexpensive way to celebrate. Material gifts are nice, but most of us quickly forget gifts we have received in past years. The thing that we remember the most are the memories we make with friends and family. Make some happy memories this holiday season and bid stress good bye.

10 Holiday Hacks to Make the Season Bright

1. If you have an artificial tree, wrap the center pole with a strand of lights before you add the branches. This will make the tree shine brighter from the inside.

2. Use a wastebasket to hold rolls of wrapping paper.

3. Use egg cartons to store small ornaments and ornament hooks. Use wine boxes to store larger, fragile ornaments.

4. Spread a thick layer of whipped cream on a cookie sheet. Freeze it for several hours and remove. Cut hearts out of the whipped cream with a cookie cutter and serve in hot cocoa.

5. Put a ball of sugar cookie dough between two sheets of wax paper. Roll it out between the papers so the dough doesn’t stick to the pin. While it’s still in the wax paper, put the flattened cookie dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to cut cookies out.

6. Store cookies in an air tight tin with flour tortillas between layers to keep cookies from drying out. You can also use a slice of bread.

7. If you don’t want to put nail holes in your fireplace mantel, fit a tension rod in the wood frame and hang your stockings with shower hooks. You can also purchase nail free stocking holder hooks.

8. Hang lightweight ornaments on long ribbons from your light fixture or chandelier to make an elegant holiday decoration.

9. Skip expensive candles and potpourri. Add water and natural ingredients like apples, oranges, cinnamon sticks or cloves to a crockpot and heat. Enjoy holiday scents that aren’t overpowering.

10. To keep Christmas lights from getting tangled, wrap them around a clothes hanger or power cord holder.