Pumpkin spice everything. Football. Carving jack-o-lanterns. 10-pound bags of lollipops.
You may be knee-deep in all things autumn as you read this but guess what’s right around the corner? Oh, wait… you already know because the wrapping paper and ornaments are already in the store – right next to those 10-pound bags of lollipops!
The Christmas season seems to creep up closer and closer to fall each year, and yet, somehow, we tend to still feel overwhelmed and rushed as the major December dates grow closer! Perhaps if we take a few moments now, wrapped in a sweater on the patio as the leaves fall, to mentally prepare for the holidays, we can come out on January 1st feeling content and energized for a new year.
If you and your family plan to travel over the holidays, now is the time to secure flights and hotels, if needed. Flights around the holidays will fill up so booking now can save you stress later when seats are limited, and fares have gone up. This is NOT the time of year to hope for last-minute bargains for empty seats!
If you plan to drive over the river and through the woods, map out your routes now and do some research about them. Look for construction or road closures in advance, so you aren’t caught off guard. And of course, just like with flight delays, know that there will inevitably be something you can’t control that might throw a slight wrench in your plans. Leave room in your schedule for that, so you aren’t cutting it too close. In other words, if the drive to Aunt Barb’s is 4 hours and you’re bringing the appetizer, make sure you’ve allowed enough time to arrive early.
You are going to get invited to holiday parties, and they can be the highlight of the season for many people. But they can also be a source of pressure and stress. What to wear, what to bring, how to get to more than one in a night! Pull out the calendar now and decide what nights you are open for a soiree and what nights you want to stay in with hot cocoa and a movie. Put the second option on the calendar just like an official appointment – you’re more likely to stay committed to yourself if you see it confirmed that way. It can be hard but, as the invitations begin to roll in, unless you have an obligation that you just can’t pass on (like the company Christmas party where bonuses are handed out) be prepared to say “no thank you” and feel good about it.
Eating, Drinking & Merry Making
Good food, decadent treats, and beverages go hand-in-hand with the holidays. Unless you hide under a rock for most of November and December, you just can’t avoid this fact. Yet you can get ahead of it now so that partaking later is a breeze.
– Shop the big box, club stores in October for a case or two of your favorite bubbly or wine. Tie some festive ribbon on them and keep them stored in a cool place. All you’ll need to do is grab one as you head out the door to your neighbor’s cookie exchange.
– Decide what is going to be your “signature dish” at potlucks and gatherings. Instead of trying something new for each party and having to run all over town looking for ingredients, stick to one trusty recipe and stock up now on the non-perishables that you will need for it. Spend a few hours poking around in thrift stores for nice china platters, dishes, and bowls that you can serve your treats in without having to worry about getting your favorite dish back.
Oh, the pressure of gift giving! There are hundreds of articles and books about how to manage this iconic stressor of the holiday season. With all that’s been suggested about it, the main focus for making this as painless as possible seems to be planning. Just like Santa, making your lists, checking them twice and shopping early. Whether online, local boutiques and gift shops or – gasp! – the mall, tackling your holiday shopping in advance to alleviate stress later is a no-brainer!
As this year’s holiday season approaches, if you don’t do any of the suggested tasks above and you head into it full force, just be sure to take care of YOU. Carve out time for quiet. A long walk with your dog on a night that you could be at a Dirty Santa gift exchange might only be a few hours of peace, but it could be just the quiet moment of reflection that you need to get energized for the wrapping, packing, decorating, and feasting that fills your calendar.