5 Tips to Prevent Holiday Stress

Gus’ first Thanksgiving last year at my parents’ house.

Gus’ first Thanksgiving last year at my parents’ house.

Holidays are a rough time of year. To be quite honest, I was a long time hater of Christmas until a couple years ago. It seems like a lot of pressure to put on one day, it’s physically exhausting, and emotionally draining. I’m here to tell you my (likely unpopular, likely considered sacrilegious) advice on how to prevent stressful holidays. It probably won’t affect this year, but maybe if I plant the seed, this year when you’re driving to your eighth Christmas celebration in 24 hours, you might think, “Okay, that’s it, we’re really not doing this again next year.”

1) Just because things have been one way doesn’t mean they have to stay that way.

People move, they get married, they get divorced, they get deployed, they have kids, things change.

Each year, you get to choose how you want to celebrate the holidays. That’s right. It’s your choice.

If you would rather eat vegan Thai food than turkey and mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving—order that Thai food. If you are happier at home in pajamas watching movies and making cookies than going to a holiday party that triggers your social anxiety, so you can tell your extended family that your boyfriend broke up with you to go backpacking in Europe and you’re not sure what you’re doing after graduation—stay at home.

2) If you don’t get joy from cooking a turkey, don’t cook a turkey. (Think Bob from Bob’s Burgers levels of Thanksgiving joy.)

My dad loves cooking turkeys. He does all the things you can do with a turkey for Thanksgiving—beer cans, spatchcocking (what?), stuffing, you name it.

I’m not that person. I had pancakes that didn’t turn out this weekend.

You can order Thanksgiving food from a restaurant--I know FarmBloomington does this if you are a Bloomington resident--or get something else that you like. I’ve heard of families ordering Chinese takeout and watching movies on Thanksgiving. It doesn’t matter that it’s not turkey; if you do something multiple times, it becomes tradition. That sounds so much better to me than spending a day frustrated in the kitchen just to eat something for fifteen minutes.

3) Start holidays early.

I declared this year that we will be starting Halloween festivities in September next year. There were so many things I wanted to do with Gus that we didn’t get to. By the time Halloween rolled around, I was exhausted, and Gus and I ended up sleeping through trick-or-treating.

If you celebrate Christmas, it’s an especially stressful holiday. By getting the time consuming parts out of the way early on, you won’t have to spend the week before Christmas running around like a chicken without a head looking for gifts, wrapping gifts, getting food, etc.

Make your shopping list before Black Friday so you’re prepared, purchase all your gifts before December starts, and wrap them or ship them (if necessary) the first week of December. That frees up the rest of the month for hot chocolate, watching movies, making gingerbread houses competitively, and spending time with loved ones.

4) Set a budget for your gifting.

Figure out how much you can afford for each recipient. If your budget is tight, don’t buy anything for anyone.

What? Did I just say that? Yes, I did!

If I think about Christmas and my memories, I have one memory of getting a present—my first American Girl Doll—and that’s it. Christmas is more about making memories with people than giving them gifts. If you want to explain you don’t have money to give gifts this year, go ahead. People understand. Ries and I haven’t given gifts four out of five years we’ve been married due to being low on funds. If anyone has been upset, we haven’t heard anything about it.

5) Make a list of the things you want to do this season and share it with your friends and family.

Try to space things out so there’s not so much pressure on one day. If you’ve moved to a new area, are on your own for the first time, or trying to combine holidays with a new spouse, check out the events going on in the surrounding area. We have a calendar of exciting events we want to hit between now and the end of the year.

Hope that helps! Have a great week guys!