It’s been years since I stressed over the holidays, but in my day, believe me, I’ve been a nervous wreck. I’ve overspent, waited until the last minute, went to gatherings I didn’t want to attend, overate and … well, you get my point. However, I’ve learned how to avoid holiday stress, and so can you.

Okay, so I’m a grandfather with no little ones under my roof, and yes, having children at home and wanting the best holiday for them can be a source of stress, but it doesn’t have to be. If you have children at home, your path to a stress-free holiday is more complicated than mine, but you can do it. You can learn to avoid holiday stress. Here are a few places to start.

9 Ways to Avoid Holiday Stress  

Make Gift Buying Easy

I have a friend who asks his children to choose four gifts each. On Christmas morning, they decide on two of the gifts. They donate the others to charity. Not only does it make gift buying a simple process, but it adds to the spirit of the season and teaches a valuable lesson.

I have four grandchildren from 13 years old to 25. I don’t know what they want or need. I could ask them or their parents, but mom and dad usually have those presents covered. So, my answer is gift cards. I buy four gift cards, put them in Christmas cards, and then send my love with a note in the card. It takes me less than an hour, and the grandchildren couldn’t be happier.

My wife and I donate to charities in each other’s name. We give each other a few choices, and then we each decide. Let’s face it; we have what we want. We buy what we need, and we don’t need to purchase unneeded gifts just to have something to put under the tree, do you?

Have a Plan

My gift buying suggestions might not work for you because you have a gift exchange at Aunt Edna’s, your children asked for a special present from Santa, and your office has a Yankee Swap. You have to go shopping. You need a plan.

Before you head to the store, stop, and ask yourself what you can buy online. It could save you time, money, and from catching COVID. If you have to go to the store, check online to see if the product you need is available. Try to go at off-peak hours, for example, when the store first opens. Do your homework so you can purchase multiple gifts at one location rather than tromping through 15 stores. Wear a mask, social distance, and wash your hands.

Do not wait until the last minute! There’s no excuse. If you wait until the last possible moment, you will be stressed.

Planning shouldn’t stop at gift buying. It would help if you planned what to cook, who you should send cards to, who to call, and who to zoom.

Set a Budget and Stick to it

It’s too late this year, but I highly recommend saving ahead for the holidays. I began doing this several years ago, and it lifted a weight off my shoulders. Do not go into debt over holiday shopping. Stay within budget. One year when my finances weren’t the greatest, I painted pictures for my family. I painted a trackside view of my brother’s favorite NASCAR driver. When he visited me last year from St. Louis, he mentioned it was still hanging in his den. I gave it to him 20 Christmases ago. Last year he made a butcher block cutting board and gave it to me as a present. What arts and crafts talents do you have?

Just Say No

Especially this year. Stay home. Stay in. Schedule a virtual gathering. Even without the pandemic it’s okay to turn down invitations. Say thank you, but you’re too busy. You don’t have to attend every work, family, club, school, church, and friend event. This was a hard one for me, but it makes a huge difference.

Be Prepared for Aunt Sue and Uncle Billy

Even online events can be contentious, so come prepared. If Uncle Billy is going to talk politics and you don’t want to be a part of it, excuse yourself and walk away, and if he insists, tell him you’re here to celebrate the season with family, not debate politics. If Aunt Sue is going to ask you for the umpteenth time when you’re going to settle down and give your mother grandbabies, tell her you’re not ready, but when you are, your mom will be the first to know, and Aunt Sue will be next.

Take Some You Time

I love walking in the snow. For you, it might be working out or just sitting around a fire with your pets. Whatever it is that helps you relieve stress, plan for it. Put it on your schedule; make it part of your to-do list, plan time for you.

Celebrate with Those You Love

My wife is my best friend. There is no one in this world I’d rather spend time with unless it’s my wife and my daughters and grandchildren together. However, there were too many years, when both my wife and I accepted too many holiday commitments, and spent too much precious holiday time away from each other. Not anymore. We know our priorities.

Catch the Spirit

My youngest daughter watches  Hallmark Holiday movies. I have my favorites movies, too, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Christmas Vacation, to name three. Every year I read The Christmas Carol, Skipping Christmas, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I have more than 50 Christmas music CD’S (Yes, I still play CD’S), and most years, I attend Holiday performances such as The Nutcracker, this year, I watched a Russian Ballet troupe on YouTube. Immerse yourself in the season; the spirit will catch you.

Don’t Set Unrealistic Expectations

If you channel your inner Clark Griswold and expect everything to go perfectly because it’s the holidays, you will be disappointed. Like any other time of year, things will go wrong. The weather will turn sour, your children won’t like the socks and underwear, and your spouse might buy you a vacuum cleaner. It happens. So, rather than expect too much, be realistic, expect the wheels to fall off, and be pleasantly surprised when they don’t.

Are Your Ready for a Stress-Free Christmas?

You can do this. The key is to understand nothing is perfect, not even the holidays. I think it’s easier to imagine in 2020, but even when COVID is history, there will be hiccups and disappointments. So, be prepared to avoid overreaching. When things don’t go as you hoped, what good comes from stressing over it? Plan ahead, simplify the holidays, and take deep breaths. Learn to avoid holiday stress. Merry Christmas!

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Photo by Derek Arguello on Unsplash