Bring out the decorations, dust off the mantel, and gather your calendars — the holiday season has officially started.

Every year, the holiday period creeps up on us faster and faster – and what might be considered a time to celebrate with family and friends can leave many feeling stressed or even anxious about all the upcoming planning that has to go into making this another memorable holiday.

While the actual holiday season might only be a short week near the end of the year, for some families, the festivities begin halfway through November already. For some people, these few weeks leading up to the holiday season can often feel more stressful than it should be.

There are plenty of reasons why some of us might feel the pressure of the season weighing down on our shoulders. From having family and social obligations, travel planning, shopping for gifts, avoiding family tension, and financial concerns, to not forgetting about the office holiday party you still need to attend. This list never seems to end.

Just thinking about all of the things that still need to be arranged and planned for can leave any person feeling that they’re drowning themselves under a mountain of responsibilities. That’s no wonder why nearly 44 percent of women and 31 percent of men said that they experience an increase in stress levels during the holiday season.

The lack of time, a shortage of hands to help out around the house, and a tight budget are only a few of the constraints.

Practical Tips For A More Organized Holiday Season

Regardless of which days you might be celebrating this holiday season, for many of us, a bit of planning and structure can help us feel more at ease about everything that still needs to get done before the family arrives and guests come knocking on the door.

Let’s dive right into some practical ways you can plan a stress-free holiday season this year.

Accept the busyness

One of the most practical things to do, long before the holiday season even starts, regardless of when that might be for you, is to accept the busyness you are about to encounter.

By aligning your mind in the right direction, and knowing that this time of the year can become a little too chaotic, you can embrace all of your duties and responsibilities with an open mind, while still leaving enough time for yourself to relax.

Welcoming the busyness can put people into overdrive, allowing them to seamlessly work through their to-do list without feeling stressed or even burnt out. We tend to forget that while we may feel governed by a calendar or other holiday-related duties, we’re still in control. When one thing doesn’t go according to plan, we can look past that and find a more reasonable alternative.

By embracing the busyness right from the get-go, you actively change your entire attitude regarding the holiday season. Make a mind-shift early on into the festive season, and when you feel like you’re losing control over everything, take a few steps back and center yourself again before taking on the next item on your list.

Plan your budget

This year, many families will feel the financial pinch of higher prices for holiday items due to rising costs experienced throughout the year. Financial concerns are one of the main drivers of stress for many people during this time of the year.

Research by the American Psychiatric Association, 39 percent of consumers are worried about affording meals; 50 percent about the cost of buying gifts, and 37 percent are stressed about finding the perfect gift for a family member or friend.

Compared to other things, such as planning for relatives to come visit, or finding a place for everyone to stay comfortable, financial concerns are perhaps the most significant stress element of the holiday period.

To help mitigate this stress and reduce any unnecessary spending along the way, plan your holiday budget. While it’s good to have a budget running month to month, having a holiday budget will give you a bird’s eye view of how much you will be spending on things like meals, gifts, transportation, and other necessary expenses.

On top of this, be sure to plan for your ordinary expenses, such as utility bills, which might be slightly higher if you have more guests staying with you. Other things like tickets to holiday shows or buying yourself a takeaway coffee while doing the necessary holiday shopping.

By giving yourself a blueprint of how much money you have to work with, you will know exactly where every dollar and penny is going. Ultimately, this could help put you at ease, knowing that although you might have to make some cutbacks here and there, it’s still possible to have a memorable holiday season.

Use a digital calendar

You could go the traditional way by planning every important date or event using an ordinary calendar, but we often forget to check on these or make necessary changes along the way. Instead, make use of a digital calendar that can be synced to all your electronic devices, such as your smartphone, smartwatch, or computer.

By using a digital calendar, you can create as many tasks or events on any single day, or you can easily change things when needed. More than this, you can share this calendar with everyone in your household or family to help keep them updated about everything that’s happening or when guests arrive or leave.

Digital calendars have become one of the best ways to keep track of everything. The interface is easier to use, and you can receive notifications about upcoming events, digitally check off any items on your to-do list, and easily move things around to suit your needs.

Give yourself deadlines

This might seem out of the ordinary, seeing that the holiday period is mostly about leaving work-related responsibilities and deadlines in the past and being present at the moment. However, for those of us who might have already had a full and busy schedule, set deadlines for specific things on your to-do list.

Don’t try to squeeze everything into one week unless you feel like that works for you. Instead, plan ahead, and assign days to complete specific tasks, such as doing all the grocery shopping over the weekend and buying gifts during the week, or only on a specific day.

Cooking, baking, and preparing meals can be arranged for the day before or even two days ahead of time. If you’re planning to travel, assign laundry and packing days to ensure no one leaves anything important behind. By giving yourself a target date, you will often feel more motivated to complete those responsibilities before the day arrives.

Leave space to be flexible

Let’s be real: not every holiday season, even our family dinner, will go as planned. Guests arrive late, people’s plans change at the last minute, grocery stores run out of their favorite ingredients, and packages are delayed due to an increase in holiday demand.

That’s why it’s important to leave enough space on your schedule to be flexible. By having at least an extra day in the week, or even an entire weekend that allows you a bit of grace, you will feel less overwhelmed or even stressed to complete all your to-dos before important days.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to “go with the flow” however, it rather means that you give yourself some time to think of a possible solution that works for your schedule, your budget, and most importantly, for you.

Share responsibilities

This year, instead of trying to do everything yourself and prove that you can host the most spectacular holiday season, try and split some of the responsibilities with other people in your house.

Right from the start, set clear boundaries about what you will be doing while handing over some responsibilities to your partner. While one of you is busy cooking up a storm in the kitchen, the other could be doing some last-minute grocery shopping, collecting packages, or even getting the house ready for your guests.

For those households that might have family staying over for the holiday season, try to delegate some tasks to them. There’s nothing wrong with asking your parents for a bit of help around the house, even if it’s taking the kids out to the park for a few hours a day or even entertaining other guests while you’re finalizing some last things.

Sharing responsibilities already helps to clear up your schedule. It gives you at least a few extra hours a day to relax, spend some time with friends or family, or sneak off to get some alone time.

Avoid overshopping unnecessarily

By creating a shopping list of everything you need to buy beforehand, you can avoid making multiple trips to the store. It’s essential to set up a list of the items you need to buy before heading out to the store, as this will help you from overshopping and, perhaps most importantly, overspending.

Part of this is to create a holiday menu, as this will give you a clear indication of the ingredients you need to buy and which things you can leave out. You’ll maybe have a few guests over, and each one brings a small dish or even a dessert. This leaves one less thing you need to stress about or have to pay for.

This is also important in terms of buying gifts for friends and family members. Decide whether you plan on buying a gift for every person in your life this holiday season. If your budget does allow for this, keep spending to a minimum. On the other hand, if you notice that your paycheck might be stretched too thin, avoid buying gifts for people who don’t necessarily need anything right now. Remember that a card can go a long way.

Maintain healthy holiday habits

During this time of the year, we often forget to look after ourselves, especially in terms of our physical health and mental well-being. By using a digital calendar, you can schedule in a few days or even a couple of hours, which allows you to tend to yourself.

If you already have a training or exercise routine, don’t let the holiday season throw you off. Keep to this schedule as much as possible, as exercise and any other physical activity can help clear your mind while at the same time staying in shape and looking after your well-being.

For those of us who don’t routinely exercise, try to take a break every now and again. Between all the chaos, running errands, meal planning, and attending to everyone’s needs, make sure to schedule in a bit of “you time.” Whether you decide to take a walk in a park, sleep in a bit later on certain mornings, or maybe treat yourself to lunch by yourself, remember to make time for yourself.

Remember that your healthy habits can only continue for as long as you stay motivated or create the time to attend to these habits. By giving yourself a bit of grace every now and again, you automatically create balance without having to overindulge or not tend to your personal needs.

Set realistic expectations

As mentioned already, not every holiday season will go according to plan. Whether you’re planning to host a few guests or even traveling to visit family and friends, make sure that you set realistic expectations before the time.

By setting realistic expectations, you avoid feeling disappointed if something doesn’t happen as you hope it would. During this time of the year, we often feel that we have to get everything done to ensure we have a memorable time. However, often, it’s more important to simply be present in the moment and realize that if something doesn’t go as planned, it shouldn’t derail your entire holiday.

For those significant events, such as traveling or awaiting guests, make sure that you at least have a contingency plan on hand. By doing this, you at least know that you have a backup plan and a workable solution that fits your schedule and budget.

Learn to say no

This might be a bit harder for some people. However, it’s important to remember that while we often feel overwhelmed and pressured to accommodate everyone, you can decline as needed.

You might find yourself in a seemingly uncomfortable situation now and again by saying no. Still, you can see it as setting boundaries with your family, friends, or guests.

Even at work, you might be required to take on more duties and responsibilities, while already having a full schedule. Clearly communicate these matters with a colleague, or talk to your manager to create a more manageable plan that suits both your needs.

By saying no, you’re not directly opposing someone’s ideas; you’re being upfront and clear about how you feel about a certain idea or plan. At least try to approach the situation with an open mind before declining, as this gives you some opportunity to discuss possible alternative options, and you can both voice your intentions.

Need some more tips? Here’s a few extra pointers that will help you plan a more relaxing holiday season:

Make time for yourself: Learn to spend time by yourself, whether early in the morning, during the day, or even at night after everyone has gone off to sleep. Remember that the holiday season is also a time for you to relax.

Set boundaries: Be clear about your intentions, especially with those in your household and any guests visiting. Having clear boundaries is a healthy mechanism, and you need to understand where you need to draw the line with others.

Avoid perfectionism: Being a perfectionist has its benefits; however, it does have some drawbacks, and you might find that spending too much time trying to perfect a simple thing will eat away your time.

Plan for the big things: Not every minute of each day needs to be planned. This could only lead to you feeling more overwhelmed about getting everything checked on your to-do list. Instead, plan for the big things, and make sure you get this done beforehand.

Focus on the essential things: Simultaneously, make sure you focus on the more important things and can attend to them. By focusing on the more important things, whether catching a flight or spending more time with family, you will clear your schedule of irrelevant things.

Minimize travel: If you’re planning to leave for a trip, ensure you have everything sorted well in advance. For those who are spending the holidays at home, minimize the hassles of having to travel around unnecessarily; it not only cuts into your holiday time but can burn into your budget.

Do something new: Instead of following a mundane ritual or routine each holiday, incorporate something different or new into your planning. This way, you get to break away from the ordinary while enjoying something different and getting a fresh perspective on things.

Final Take

While the holiday season can be a fun-filled time, preparing for everything that still needs to get done leading up to these big days will help create some structure in your schedule. Additionally, you will feel less stressed and anxious about getting everything checked on your to-do list.

Remember that at the end of the day, you must also enjoy everything you do for everyone else. Take some time to relax and embrace the holiday season. Missing a few necessary steps along the way won’t change anything unless you forget your passport at home while traveling. Make the best of your holiday season, and focus on what’s important to you without losing sight of the bigger picture.

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