Do you find that you’re beginning to get stressed and frantic as the holidays draw closer? This time of year can be such a burden for those of us who were already struggling to create balance in our lives. So today I’m sharing my list of ways for you to  relax and enjoy the holidays.

#7 – Be prepared

“Organizing ahead of time makes the work more enjoyable.” ~ Anne Burrell

Lack of organization can cause a huge amount of stress at any time of the year but a little preparation and a few lists can go a long way toward alleviating your stress. Marla Cilley (aka Fly Lady) has fabulous tips for getting organized in general at and her Holiday control journal is a huge help at this time of year. Rather than re-creating our Christmas card and gift lists each year, I’ve created documents that I use perpetually or as templates that I just have to fill in. I also have a section in our personal cookbook just for our favorite holiday recipes (since I could never seem to remember where they were at the last minute).  Lastly, create reminders in your calendar for the things that need to be done far in advance like booking a photographer for your holiday cards or making travel plans.

*I know some of these ideas would have been really helpful about two months ago, but you can always use them for next year!


#6 – Give yourself permission to say no

“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” ~Josh Billings

This can be so difficult, even for me (and I pride myself in being able to say no). Spending time with your loved ones and creating a magical atmosphere is important but so is your health and sanity. You don’t have to attend every party or help with every charitable opportunity that comes your way. Clear (and loving) boundaries can be crucial to an enjoyable holiday, especially if you have children or your family lives out of town. Consider switching off events every other year or do one holiday with your family and another with your spouse’s family. When our children were babies we decided that having traditions with our little family was vital and that we would not travel if it meant being away from our home on Christmas morning – a decision that I have never regretted.

#5 – Let people help you 

You don’t have to do all of the jobs, it’s okay to let someone else experience the joy of serving others too.

You absolutely do not have to do everything yourself so look at your resources and consider opportunities to outsource things in order to enjoy the holidays. If you’re hosting a party. consider hiring a caterer or ordering some items from your neighborhood grocery store (I could buy an entire dinner from my favorite store if I were so inclined), and when your guests ask what they can bring – TELL them (they want to contribute). Consider hiring a neighborhood teen to help with chores and odd jobs or to spend time with your little blessings so you can get some shopping done. Or maybe you could bring in a professional to clean your house or finish that house project that’s still incomplete so you can be fresh for your holiday get togethers.

#4 – Less materialism

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.” ~ Dr Seuss  

Regardless of the holiday that you celebrate, it’s likely that it’s about more than spending money but so many of us find ourselves engaging in out of control consumerism year after year. When my kids were little I would just buy any and everything that caught my eye that I thought they might enjoy. I didn’t feel done with Christmas shopping until I fell into bed exhausted on Christmas Eve (literally). We ended up with so much STUFF in our house and very little meaning in our Christmas morning. Then I ran across a wonderful way to make our gift giving more meaningful while providing me  with parameters. Everyone in our home receives ‘three’ gifts (Gold is something valuable or that celebrates a special trait of the recipient, Frankincense is a gift related to spirituality, and Myrrh is a gift for our body); of course Santa still comes and the stockings get filled with fun trinkets but I begin the season with a plan and I know when I have finished shopping – which is an amazing feeling! It’s also important to let your purchases reflect your values, if you’re opposed to violence you might want to re-think that gaming system and if clutter is an issue, you could spend money on things that create memories instead (like season passes to the zoo). While we’re on the subject, you don’t have to have something to wrap for everyone that you know. My dad, for instance, has everything that he could possibly want. I could buy him some trinket just because I feel like I should, but it’s unlikely that anything I bought would be very meaningful. So I prefer consumable or ‘togetherness’ gifts for him (think tickets to see a comedian together versus another tacky tie). An upside to less materialism is that you’re more likely to stick to your budget and less likely to have regrets once the January credit card statements start to come in!

#3 – Slow down

“Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you.” ~ John DePaola

I’d be willing to bet that you will regret spending the entire month of December running around in a tizzy and missing all of the important things. So slow down and experience the wonder of the season. Take breaks and enjoy the scenery when you’re out shopping. Schedule a few hours with your spouse or close friends to just enjoy each other’s company. Turn off the TV and read a book to your children or have a family game night. Sit down for a phone call with a loved one who lives far away. Sit in a circle and take turns opening one gift at a time on Christmas morning instead of having a free for all. Spend time in prayer and meditation. Attend a service at your church. Savor the moments and let the experiences replenish your soul.

#2- Let go of perfection 

“The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time.”  ~ Edwin Bliss

We all know that perfection is an impossibility, yet so many of us still strive for it – especially during the holidays.  What if, instead of perfection you focused on having fun and making memories with the people you love? It’s unlikely that your family even notices some of the more subtle touches in your holiday preparations. I had an epiphany along those lines while putting out decorations this year; I always put a string of silver icicles along the shower and window curtains in our guest bathroom but they were so twisted and tangled this year that I was getting frustrated so I PUT THEM BACK IN THE BOX and played a game with my kids! It was so liberating to decide that I could let this one thing go and I don’t even miss it.

#1 – Take care of yourself

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” ~Etty Hillesum

This is often the most obvious and the most easily overlooked. They say that you can’t take care of others properly if you aren’t taking care of yourself and this time of year in particular it’s too easy to put our own needs on the back burner.  Schedule time for yourself (a bubble bath or manicure can remarkably affect your energy), eat properly, do your minute movement exercises, and get plenty of sleep (bedtime isn’t just for the kiddos).