The Holidays Are Here! 11 Ways To Stress Less and Enjoy More!

Last year I needed to read this article. Our little family of six went on our first Disney cruise just a few days before Christmas, along with my in-laws, my husband’s brother, his wife and their two girls.

After the cruise, all 12 of us celebrated Christmas at our house. Did I mention TWELVE PEOPLE lived, breathed, celebrated and did whatever it is you do at Christmas time IN OUR HOUSE.

I had never entertained a group that large for that amount of time. Needless to say, I spent most of November and all of December planning, arranging, cleaning and preparing for the cruise and the subsequent visit from our extended family.

I can honestly say that I didn’t enjoy the days leading up to Christmas as much as I normally do - and Christmas is my favorite time of year. I was running around in a vague attempt to foresee requests, fulfill wishes and prevent catastrophic meltdowns.

But… I learned a lot. I now know what it takes to entertain a party of 12 with an age gap spanning over 70 years. I also know my limitations and my incredible strengths - and how to make them work for me, not against me.

Please learn from my “mistakes” and experience, so you will have a stress-free and enjoyable holiday season! You deserve it!

1. Stay in the moment.

When the Christmas tree falls, the turkey burns and your dog throws up on Aunt Jane’s super fancy shoes, stay in the moment. Remember, WHY you are all together and know that this year’s “fail” will be next year’s “fun memories.”

2. Traditions are made to be broken.

Traditions can be a blessing and a curse. While we find comfort in routines and knowing what to expect from situations, it can easily add a stressful element to holiday preparations. When your sweet potato pie tastes nothing like the one your mother-in-law has served the past 37 years of your husband’s life, maybe it’s time for a new recipe!

3. Remember WHY you are together and what you are celebrating. Regardless of which holiday you celebrate, family gatherings and get-togethers with friends are what make up a majority of the holiday memories - and that’s what matters. Try not to get dragged into family drama, age-old arguments or feuds that truly don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Practice forgiveness and turn a deaf ear to negativity - and pour yourself another glass of wine if necessary.

4. Make a list of things to do and things to buy.

Resist the urge to buy just ONE MORE thing or do ONE MORE project before the visitors arrive. Once you have checked everything off your to-do list and all the hard-to-find toys have been secured then STOP. Don’t shop just for the sake of buying more things. Don’t second guess your purchases, the amount of presents or how nicely decorated your house is. Trust that your initial shopping list was spot-on and that your to-do list covered everything.

5. Put people to work.

If your house is THE house for the holidays, don’t be afraid to put out-of-towners to work. It is your holiday too, and guess what, people do love to help, they just need to know what you need. If you don’t want your MIL rearranging your plates and dishes, then steer her attention in another, and more productive direction. This is YOUR house - your domain. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

So what, if your baseboards didn’t get cleaned before Santa arrived! Chances are, he doesn’t care and won’t even notice. IF Santa (or your MIL) notices and cares, hand either of them a rag so they can wipe down the base boards!

7. Take time every day to have fun and connect with your family.

It’s easy to rush around from activity to activity. Instead of doing more, try to do less. It sounds scary, I know. But maybe skip the Nut Cracker performance this year, instead watch a Christmas classic on TV with your kids and a big bowl of popcorn. Chances are your blood pressure will be lower (as long as you don’t load too much salt on the popcorn) and the kids will behave better. Rush less, breathe more.

8. Make plans before plans are made for you.

If your holiday plans are up in the air every year until relatives decide when and where they want to celebrate, take the bull by the horns and make your own plans. It may be a daring move, and some relatives may not like that you are making the plans. Trust me, it is liberating not waiting for someone else to make the first move.

9. Think back on your own childhood. What are the memories you hold dearest? Focus on making THOSE memories with your kids.

Did you bake cookies with your mom or grandma? Did your dad take you for long walks to look at Christmas lights? Some of my fondest memories from growing up in Denmark and celebrating Christmas were the tricky little elves. I loved imagining the gnomes living in the wild among the forest animals and coming in to the cities to play tricks on the kids. THAT is the kind of intrigue I want to share with my kids.

10. Disconnect from the outside world.

Resist the urge to share every detail of your family’s holiday celebration on social media - or at least don’t live stream everything. It is liberating to shut off all the flashing social media notifications and just enjoy the flashing Christmas lights when you go for an evening stroll with your family. The people you went to elementary school don’t need to see your entire Christmas meal in their Facebook feed.

11. Your friends and family need your presence more than presents.

Unsubscribe from retail store emails and recycle magazines as soon as they arrive. More is not better when it comes to presents. Resist the urge to jump on this year’s “latest and greatest fad.” Buy presents for the most important people in your life and then agree with your friends that you will get together after the holidays and THAT will be your gift to each other. With budgets stretched beyond recognition during the holidays, the last thing you need is to feel like you have to buy something for everyone in your life. Give the gift of your time - when you have it - and remember “presence over presents.”

I hope your holidays are filled with wonderful experiences that will make beautiful memories for years to come. You’ve got this! Breathe, enjoy and relax.