Can we all agree that holidays are stressful? The calendar fills up, there are more tugs on our time and wallets, and at the end we find ourselves in January, weighing 5 pounds more than we did in October, not speaking to at least one relative or friend, and wondering how we are going to find the money to pay the credit card bill. Here are 13 tips to keep your sanity during the next month.
1. Keep your bedtime firm.
Don't shortchange yourself of precious sleep. If you are generally tucked under the covers with your jammies by 10 p.m., don't stay at the holiday party until midnight. If you do, you will drag, your work will suffer and you will make bad food choices all the next day. Sleep trumps all.
2. Squeeze in some exercise.
With all the rushing around, the first thing that many of us let slide is exercise. Look for the gaps in your schedule and start walking. Lunch breaks are a good time. Park the car at the far end of the mall when you shop and keep a spare pair of tennis shoes in it. While you are waiting in line, do some toe stretches -- especially if what you really want to do is practice your elbow jabs on the guy invading your personal space.
3. Keep the calendar current.
Whether your calendar is paper or electronic, for it to be effective, it requires your input. Don't just write things things like "office party;" add the time, the address, and any notes you will need about where to park, getting a gift for the exchange, etc. Make it complete the first time and you'll save time later.
4. Learn to say no.
This is the season of obligations. You really don't have to accept every party invitation or buy your grandchild every item on the list your daughter provided. Choose wisely and stick to your guns -- and budget. Every team, club, classroom, office and church group will plan something festive for the holidays. You really don't need to attend every one of them. Give yourself permission to decline the ones you really don't want to go to.
5. Be flexible.
As families change and grow, traditions often change as well. Be open to creating new rituals. This may be the first year that your adult children don't all come home. Or maybe they want to move the holiday celebration to their homes. Go with the flow.
6. Initiate some new rituals yourself.
How about a baking day with the grandkids in early December? Or a New Year's Day brunch? Take the grandkids to see the big holiday movie or head out to snow country for a sledding outing? We know a family who a few years ago discovered that what they really most enjoyed was taking an island vacation over the holidays.
7. On super-busy days, take a nap.
Take a break from rushing around cleaning the house when company is coming over, and spend a quality 30 minutes on the couch. Around a third of American adults take regular naps, LiveScience reported -- and for good reason: A short snooze boosts your alertness and productivity.
8. Make things fun.
Expect to enjoy yourself; after all, why would you go through all this effort to be miserable? But fun is different for different people. And some of us need time to recharge. If that's you, build it in to the calendar. Don't commit to more than one event a day and then worry how you can rush home in between obligations to let the dog out.
9. If you don't like to dress up, then don't.
Remember, you were the one invited -- not your uncomfortable shoes. As a rule of thumb: The only thing you really must wear is a smile. No one was ever turned away from the door because their definition of "party attire" differed from the host's.
10. If you don't like to cook, make reservations.
We know plenty of hostesses who love to entertain but don't love to cook. For years, one friend picked up her "famous" lasagna at a local eatery that has a catering service. She switches the food to her fancy China serving platters and no one was the wiser. People are coming to see you, and they'd rather see you in good humor than stressed out over the burned roast in the oven. The "buy, don't make" rule is also applicable for the office potluck and the book club cookie exchange.
11. If you hate crowds, avoid stores.
If your idea of hell involves standing in a crowded line to pay for purchases while holiday jingles play so loudly you can't hear the clerk say "next customer, please," then just do your shopping online. No driving around in circles looking for a parking spot, no lines and lugging shopping bags. Just you and your computer spending some quality time together.
12. Buy in quantity.
There are always last-minute invitations and people who give you gifts unexpectedly that send you scrambling. Instead, buy a case of wine and some pretty bags and you're covered. We know a woman who buys quantities of pretty soaps for the same reason.
13. Give to charity instead.
If you are looking for a special gift for the hard-to-please, consider making a charitable donation in his or her name. In most cases, the charity sends a holiday card to the person letting them know of your contribution. Frankly, this beats a gift card for teachers, tutors and coaches.