Updated: 4 January 2020
By Lynda O'D
Even though we have an entire year to prepare for Christmas, it always seems to sneak up on us. No matter how much you love (or hate) the season, it is nearly impossible to avoid the pressure and stress that it brings. Here are my Top Ten Tips to make this season as enjoyable and stress-free as possible!
List of tips.
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1. Make a list; check it twice.
Work out who you need to buy for and what food you need to bring to upcoming events. Can you bulk buy any of it? Bake a double batch of cookies to cover several events? Order several copies of the same book to give to the nieces and nephews?
This forward planning will also help you avoid the stress of buying what you need on the way to an event.
2. Second hand Secret Santa.
You can often end up with several Secret Santa presents to buy within the space of a few weeks. If there's one thing our planet doesn't need, it's more cheap plastic items from novelty stores. So my suggestion is to keep all your Secret Santa gifts you receive this year, put them in a box - and Bam! Next year's Secret Santa gifts are ready to go.
Of course, if there is anything particularly special or personal, keep it for yourself. But if it's a generic/novelty/cheap plastic item, save the planet and regift it next year!
3. Be mentally prepared.
When you go to the mall at this time of year, be mentally prepared for the frustration. Most of our irritation comes from unexpected delays in car parking, long lines at the check out, or busy and understaffed shops. Why not factor these hold ups into your trip?
Expect it to take an extra half hour. Look for a park on the street to avoid the parking building. Smile and be patient with the overwhelmed shop assistant. And avoid shopping at peak times or when you're in a hurry.
4. Be physically prepared.
When I hit the shops anytime in the November or December rush, I do these two things: Wear comfortable shoes and bring a snack! You would be amazed how much difference your physical wellbeing can make to your stress levels.
Wearing comfortable footwear when traipsing round the aisles can greatly increase your patience levels. Munching on a snack when stuck in traffic or waiting in a long queue can quench your irritation as well as your appetite. And if you're a happy shopper, you're making it a better experience for everyone!
5. Order online (early).
If the mention of traffic and long queues is enough to put you off Christmas altogether, consider doing your shopping online. It can be an extremely efficient and enjoyable experience.
One year I decided to purchase all my gifts online. I spent an evening curled up in my armchair, hot coffee in hand, laptop on my knee, and completed nearly all of it in one (very relaxing) night.
Just be aware that this busy season may affect delivery times. High numbers of orders can take time to process, and the stores also have no control over courier companies' delivery times. Try to leave five working days grace or buy earlier in big sales.
6. Check out a church service.
Even if it's the only day a year you step inside a church, check out a service on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. They are usually fairly short, and often family-friendly.
It's a tradition my family does every year, which gets our eyes off the materialism and busyness of the day. Not all churches hold a service on the day, so look around and find one that does.
7. Communicate about expectations.
Discuss gift expectations with family and whoever else you buy for. What money limit can you agree on for presents? Check if you are buying for adults as well as children. Clarify if you are sending gifts if they're out of town.
These may feel like uncomfortable questions to ask, but I find that a little awkwardness now saves disappointment or even offense on the day.
8. Outsource your to-do list.
On top of the day-to-day stuff of work and shopping and cooking, there are often bigger tasks to get done this time of year. Think of ways to outsource these tasks. Pay the teenager next door to mow your lawns. Use the gift wrapping service at the mall. Or even talk to a business like the PA Club to see what they can take off your hands for you.
If you're clearing out junk to make room for guests, try giving it away on Freecycle instead of adding to the landfill.
9. Be generous - but be wise.
Decide how much you can afford to spend on each gift - and stick to it! You do not want Christmas overspending to tarnish your January (and February).
In recent years, with small children and a tight budget, I've had to get creative about my gift giving. One small but thoughtful gift can be more special than spending a lot of money on a large present.
Maybe you could agree to exchange homemade or "upcycled" gifts - This is something we regularly do in our extended family, and it saves the planet as well as our finances. Even consider home baking or offering a night of babysitting as gifts - these are thoughtful gifts that don't cost you anything.
10. Be someone else’s Christmas miracle.
This season is the perfect time to practise random acts of kindness. Combat the stress by choosing to make someone else's day more enjoyable.
It can be as simple as letting someone in ahead of you in line or dropping some money in the homeless person's hat as you pass by. Return someone's trolley for them when they've finished loading their groceries in their car, or simply smile at the parent whose toddler is having a meltdown in the checkout.
If you actively look for ways to make someone else's day a little brighter, you might just feel a little brighter yourself.
Hopefully these tips help you enjoy this festive season. The decorations are going up and the shops are getting busy already. Let's be kind to each other out there and all have a very merry and stress-free Christmas!