The last part of the Less Stress Holiday Season Series is here and it’s the one with the tactics. Part 1 was about optimizing internal health for handling stress. Part 2 was about how to manage it when stress does come up. Part 3 is about how to set yourself up for success.
Start with a list of the lists you need to make. I’m only half kidding.
- Shopping list
- Grocery list
- Gift list
- Wish list
- Cleaning list
- Decorations list
- Chores to Do list
I also leave post-it notes for myself around the house. If I need to remember something on the way out the door I’ll leave a post-it on the door to remind me. We print our google calendar out every week and put it up on the outside of a kitchen cabinet.
Having the visual reminders helps both Dan and I manage things throughout the week. He can see what my day looks like and I can see what he’s got going on in the evenings. And we both can see what is on the kid’s schedule.
And our new crock pot helps with this! Reheating a meal made earlier is like a gift to Future Me. Costco runs help make sure there are snacks in the house because a snack tray dinner works well in a pinch.
One of my vegan cookbooks, Deliciously Ella Quick & Easy has a whole section on big batches and a lot of her recipes are also noted as “freezes well”.
I also took a Pinterest Deep Dive into vegan crockpot recipes. I haven’t tried any yet but I promise to update my favorites. Check out my Pinterest SLOW Food board.
Take a Walk
Ever notice that your best ideas come while driving/showering/walking? Me too. I always remember that person I needed to follow up with or that parent teacher conference I needed to sign up for or the towels that are sitting in the washer.
I used to write reminders on my hand and it still happens every so often but works much better is using my notes app and putting reminders into my google calendar.
If I’m driving I’ll ask Siri to create a voice note or use voice to text in the notes app. It usually gets jumbled up with whatever the kids are saying at the same time but a few hours later I’ll remember to check it and will then make a post-it to remind me to fill out the permission form for the field trip that’s happening in four days.
Bonus points if you can take a walk with a friend. The exercise, fresh air and camaraderie will do wonders for your emotional state.
There are studies that show our stress increases with clutter. And while all the decorations are lovely and festive and comforting… they’re also… well… clutter.
Part of me thinks putting everything up the weekend after Thanksgiving, taking it down the next, waiting another week and then putting it all right back up for the lead up to Christmas is the way to go. My efficiency driven husband wouldn’t go for that.
And frankly I wouldn’t like that either. But I can’t deny that all the decorations can become overwhelming and the I can get over stimulated. I don’t have a plan exactly except to say that the flashing twinkle lights that we accidentally bought last year will NOT be on the tree. There will be no noisy decorations (this is my reminder to hide the press-the-button-and-it-sings board book) and things generally speaking will be green which goes with our decor already.
The other thing that has helped with the clutter-related stress is to actually, well, declutter. Clothing that you’d be embarrassed to wearing if you got in a car accident in must go, accessories that you don’t use too. In the kitchen, find your favorite utensil in each category (you know you have a favorite spoon) and put the rest in a box.
You don’t have to donate them just yet, I know a lot of cooking happens this time of year, but see if you can live your regular week without it because chances are it can go. (It really isn’t that hard to wash a spatula between stir fry and cookie dough.)
If you have holiday plates (these are mine) then put your non-holiday items away for the season. We use the Christkindlemarket boots as our coffee mugs all Christmas season so the photo mugs and the anthropologie-too-pretty-not-to-buy-for-$16 mugs get put away.
Christmas cards (and mail in general) can pile up quickly. We open them, stick the card in our hanging card tree (unless it has glitter then we open it over the trash can, say “aww that’s nice” and drop it in… sorry Mom). If I don’t have their address then the envelope goes on my desk where it sits for anywhere from 2-27 days and then gets entered into the spreadsheet.
Catalogs get recycled right away (unless the kids get to them first and then they become bedtime stories) and anything that looks like true junk goes right out. Bills and financial notices get stacked nicely behind our sonos speaker in the kitchen to be dealt with by Future Me when she has a double batch of something she made previously warming up in the oven.
Or let’s be totally honest, for Dan to deal with.
Schedule We Time
Remember how I print our calendar out every week. (Hold on while I actually go and do that now)
On that calendar you will find a weekly date night that Dan and I have had on the calendar for several years. We took a hiatus during lockdown and picked it up slowly again over the course of 2022. We usually end up having dinner in our neighborhood but the break from making the kids dinner and putting them to bed alone is a shot in the arm for marriage!
With Holidays there are work parties and happy hours and friend parties and general merriment. Even with these things on our calendar we keep Thursday date night.
Ask one of your sitters if they have a weeknight they can come every week and then tell them to come every week. Keep the date unless someone in the house is sick. And if a kid is sick ask the sitter if they’re cool with it.
Then all you have to do is have a box of Mac N Cheese at home for the kids, pick a restaurant that will feed yourself and your spouse and stay out past the kids bedtime.
The other We Time to schedule is family time. Read the room though. As much as you might like an afternoon of tea and the nutcracker will the rest of your family? Maybe that’s under “me” time. But on the other hand if taking your kids sledding is going to blow the lid off your anxiety bottle then skip it. They can go with Dad, or Uncle Greg or that other family who does the fun things and always invites your kids.
Schedule Me Time
This can go under the divide and conquer section too. Me time can be whatever you want it to be. For me, it is often running errands on the weekend by myself. There’s just something about knowing the kids are home with Dan that makes errands more enjoyable.
It also looks like a bath. Sometimes in the middle of the day.
And face masks.
And reading in the tub with a face mask.
It could be exercise. Cooking. Baking. Cleaning. Knitting. Watching TV. Talking to a friend on FaceTime. Anything that you can do on a scheduled basis to allow yourself to rest and recharge.
Putting it on the calendar helps you stick to it. Plus you get a cute little reminder 10 minutes before it’s about to start.
Boundaries are important in all of this. Take an extra few minutes in the bathroom at the family party if your Aunt is driving you crazy. Choose not to be mad at your kid for eating cookies before dinner and promptly turning their nose up at the “weird food at Grandma’s house”. Let the last box of misc decorations stay under the basement stairs this year. No one will notice. Or care.
Doesn’t that feel good?