It’s no secret that the holiday season brings longer to-do lists! With gifts to buy and wrap, parties to attend (and maybe even host!), special events to go to, and extra time with family, it can bring our stress level to a big, bad place. Today I’m sharing ten tips to help you navigate your stress this season and have your healthiest, happiest holidays ever! (And just in case you’re wondering, why yes (!) — I’m writing this post as much for myself as I am for you!) Nothing here is a grand revelation, but I do think these things are worth revisiting and reminding ourselves of at this busy time of year. These are things we all struggle to do. Be encouraged! I’m right there with you, and we’re in it together. 🙂
1. Keep the Reason for the Season Front & Center
Whether your family makes a Birthday cake for Jesus, or you like to reread the beautiful Christmas story in the Bible, it’s important to remember what you’re doing and why. We give gifts to remind ourselves of the inexpressible gift of God for us. If you normally have a daily devotional time in the Word, think about picking up an Advent devotional (sharing my fave) to keep the reason for the season front and center in your mind and heart.
My sweet mentor and friend, Susan, sent me this video, and it is so special. I’ve been playing it on repeat!
2. Make a Plan
I’m all for fancy planners — Emily Ley planners are a fave for many — and she has some great free printables that are helpful for everything from party planning to keeping track of passwords. Hey, I’m all for using tools to stay organized. But during the holidays there is so much going on that I tend to resort to a plain and simple legal pad! The most important thing about whatever tool you use though is to actually, um, use it. Hahahaha! When you decide to do something, make an action plan right away — so you don’t lose momentum — and then write down the specific steps you plan to take to accomplish it.
Remember that old analogy of the woodcutter who saws for several days straight, gradually becoming less and less productive as his blade gets dull. He needed to stop what he was doing and take the time to sharpen the saw. What does sharpening the saw really mean? If you’re overworked and your productivity declines, you may think it means to stop and take a break. But that isn’t sharpening the saw — it’s putting the saw down. When you put down a dull blade for a while, the blade will still be dull when you pick it up again! I think sharpening the saw is actually an activity, just as the analogy suggests. Try sitting down for a moment, getting everything down on paper, and making a plan. I do this every single night before I go to bed! If I don’t, I don’t sleep very well.
3. Keep Gift Buying Simple
One of the reasons I put together the Empty Nest Blessed Holiday Gift Guide is to help you with your holiday stress! As empty nesters, we have a lot of people to give gifts to at the holidays! Lots of us are a part of the “sandwich generation,” meaning we may have senior-aged parents, as well as adult kids, maybe grandkids, and even a pet or two! My gift guide is customized just for empty nesters, with over 500 gift ideas in categories for all of those groups, and more.
Not enough ideas in there for you? Head over to some multi-brand retailers like NORDSTROM, DILLARDS, MACY’S, LORD & TAYLOR, BLOOMINGDALES, NEIMAN MARCUS (Remember when we used to call them “department stores?”!!!), and of course, good old AMAZON. And don’t forget smaller retailers that carry a wide variety of merchandise like ANTHROPOLOGIE, MARK & GRAHAM as well as off-the-beaten-path retailers with really unusual gifts like THE GROMMET and UNCOMMON GOODS.
4. Keep Gift Wrapping Simple
Let’s be real. The gift wrapping itself doesn’t take forever. It’s all the embellishment on top that takes the time! Consider keeping things simple by using tulle ribbon instead of your normal ribbon. I bought this set several years ago, and I’m nowhere near running out of it! Tulle doesn’t wrinkle, and you can even cut it down the center to make it thinner if you want. Other easy and fun ideas include using candy canes to make a heart (as I did above) or bringing in a sprig of holly or a magnolia leaf from your yard to tie up in your bow. My clever mother-in-law picks up inexpensive ornaments at the dollar store to attach to bows.
5. Use Good Hygiene
Wash your hands (And do it correctly). Wash your towels every three days, and change out kitchen towels and dishrags every single day. Keep your hands away from your face. Brush and floss your teeth. Several recent studies (more info here, here, and here) have shown a higher rate of illness and even mortality in people with poor oral hygiene. Most of us brush twice a day, but we might want to up that to three times a day during the holiday season when we’re in close contact with so many people.
6. Keep Exercising
I don’t know about you, but when I feel pushed for time, my daily workout is the first thing I tend to set aside. (Especially since I don’t love to exercise anyway!) But that’s a terrible idea — because exercise is proven to help with stress management. If your typical workout is too time-consuming during the busy holiday season, change it up a bit. (That’s good for your body anyway!) When time is short, I usually opt for one of the free 30-minute workouts on FitnessBlender.com, or I do the 15-minute jumping jack workout I shared with you a couple of months ago.
7. Watch What You Eat
It’s tough to stay focused on healthy eating when holiday parties feature temptations galore! Offer to bring something (like the festive cheese platter above) or take a minute to make a plan about what you will eat at the party. Indulging a little is okay. Don’t deprive yourself, but one or two bites of something tempting will probably suffice — instead of eating the entire thing and regretting it later.
8. Embrace Family Traditions
Do you have some unique family holiday traditions? We have things we did when the kids were little that they still beg for (and now they’re all in their twenties!). There’s a cul-de-sac in our area with exactly twelve houses on it, and every year each consecutive house puts up a display of one of the Twelve Days of Christmas. When the kids were little we started the tradition of driving slowly through that cul-de-sac, singing the song at the top of our lungs. As you can imagine, by the end we were singing so fast and completely off-key, which led to much laughter and hilarity. They still ask to do it every year. 🙂
Whenever we get extended family together, we play the game LCR (stands for left, center, right). The best thing about this game is that it’s a game of chance. (That means there’s no arguing. YAY!) Each player starts the game with three poker chips and takes turns rolling the three dice. For each “L” rolled, they give a chip to the player on their left. For each “R” rolled, they give a chip to the player on their right. For each “C” rolled they put a chip in the middle of the table. For each dot rolled, nothing occurs. The dice are then passed to the next player. When one player has all of the chips, that player wins the game. Instead of poker chips, we give everyone three one-dollar bills. Y’all everyone gets so into it; you’d think they were playing for hundreds of dollars! SO. MUCH. FUN.
What are some of your family traditions? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments!
9. Treat Yo’Self
Whether it’s a holiday bath bomb soak in the tub or a favorite holiday tea, plan something kind for yourself and just a little self-indulgent! I adore this peppermint holiday tea (with caffeine) and this sugar cookie holiday tea (no caffeine but tastes exactly like a cookie with a little Stevia added).
If you live in Dallas, think about ordering up a Cherry mani and/or pedi, right on the Download Cherry app. If you’ve never used them before, use the code EMPTY NEST BLESSED for $10 off your first service. I like to do it with friends or family! Becca and I did one when she was home from college for Thanksgiving, and it was a good time to catch up and hear all of her stories! (Also, mom-to-mom, and just between you and me, her toenails looked terrible pre-pedicure, so I felt it was my responsibility (!) as her mother to send her back to school in a better state than when she arrived home!)
10. Keep Stress in Perspective
We’re taught to avoid stress as much as possible, right? But did you know that conventional thought about avoiding stress in retirement has been debunked by researchers such as Kelly McGonigal, author of The Upside of Stress? Citing research on resilience, McGonigal says that stress is inevitable, and actually has benefits such as helping with focus and energy. She says to chase meaning in life and trust that your body can handle the stress that accompanies it. Doing meaningful things goes along with stress. Embrace it!
I hope you feel encouraged, inspired, and well on your way to healthier, happier holidays!
Y’all, I’m crazy about this Free People red tunic. It is the softest thing, and the drape is so flattering! It’s got this cool, unfinished, reverse style hem. (That’s why it looks like I’m wearing it inside out in the photo above. LOL!) It covers my booty (If you’ve been hanging around here for a while now, you know I’m big on that!) and the longer-on-the-sides cut makes it slimming. I wear it over leggings or with skinny jeans, for a comfortable, cozy feel that still looks pulled together. It runs large, so consider ordering a size down. (I’m wearing an XS but I would have sized down to an XXS if they’d had it.) It comes in multiple colors, but they’re going fast! I’ve linked them below at Nordstrom (and a few at Dillard’s), but if you can’t find them in your size via the image links below, here are links for them at Amazon and Macy’s.
My classic cashmere Burberry scarf was a splurge purchase several years ago, but the price-per-wear has been fantastic because I barely take it off during the holidays! For now, I’m just going to show you the top of this look, but I’ll detail the entire thing in a later post. (Check out my Instagram today to see the whole outfit!)
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Photo by Megan Weaver.