November is here, which means the frantic “holiday season” has officially begun. Most department stores already began putting out holiday decorations a few weeks before Halloween. And with Thanksgiving right around the corner, the push to consume your way to the “perfect” holiday season will soon reach fever pitch. Here are a few simple tips to help you avoid the pitfalls of this potentially stressful time of year:
1. Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to cook the perfect holiday meal. Cooking for a crowd can be stressful, even if you love to cook. If you’re planning to have family or friends over for a meal, why not make it a potluck? It will reduce the amount of time you spend in the kitchen, and create a spirit of sharing.
2. While you’re at it, don’t put a pressure on yourself to be perfect at all. There is no such thing as a perfect holiday, period. Once you accept that, you’re free to enjoy your holiday season as it is, warts and all. The kids won’t sit still for that charming family portrait you planned to send on your holiday cards? So what! Send out the one with junior sticking his tongue out. You burnt the turkey? Order Chinese! Years from now, you and your family won’t remember whether all of the details came together perfectly. You’ll remember your time together. Don’t let your season be ruined by things that are out of your control.
3. Take stock. Decide what’s really important to you and your family, and create your own traditions to mirror those values. If a particular tradition you’ve always had no longer resonates for you, ditch it. You’re the only one who can decide what’s meaningful for you and what’s a distraction. Don’t worry about being unconventional. Just as there is no such thing as the “perfect” holiday, there is also no single approved way to celebrate the season.
4. Don’t buy yourself into the poorhouse. Times are tough, and even though gift giving can be a beautiful gesture, it isn’t everything. Keep your gifts simple and personal, and don’t feel the need to buy something for your cousin’s stepbrother’s ex-wife’s best friend’s daughter. Handmade gifts can be especially meaningful, but don’t overdo that, either. Why spend hours making a scarf or pair of mittens your nephew will just toss into the back of his closet? Instead of buying kids dozens of mid-priced gifts, try to choose one or two quality gifts that will have value for them for years to come. All of those battery-powered gizmos will just end up broken or forgotten in a few months’ time. Explain throughout the year that the holidays are about more than just getting presents. In that spirit, don’t create a yearlong anticipation by implying that “maybe Santa Claus will bring” some desperately coveted item a child mentions in March or June. Instead, instill good financial habits by recommending that the child save up his or her allowance for the item, or offer to match their contribution.
5. Take care of yourself. Make sure you get enough exercise and sleep, and that you’re making good nutritional choices. When we feel pressed for time, it can be easy to let go of healthy habits, but doing so only feeds into that feeling of being overwhelmed. In addition to getting eight hours of sleep each night, take some extra time each day to relax and unwind. Read a good book. Take a long bath. Take up yoga or meditation. Go get a massage. Remember, taking time out for yourself isn’t selfish. It’s an important part of making sure you’re well enough to meet your commitments.