Today I'm sharing a few tips that are helping me feel less overwhelmed about the upcoming holiday season - because we've all been there and felt all the holiday stress things!
It's November 1st, and here's where I find myself today: I just got back from a weekend trip to VA that filled with fun fall and Halloween activities. Ryan and I had a great time, but before we even started to make the trip home, I started to feel overwhelmed about the holiday season coming up. Have you started to feel this way yet? We don't have kids or pets, so I can imagine that those of you who do probably feel the overwhelm 10x more than I do. But at the same time, we all feel stress and anxiety for different reasons, and I certainly have my share of those feelings!
When it comes to strategies that help to prevent holiday overwhelm, I find the most helpful information to be practical, realistic, and given in small digestible chunks. That's why I'm keeping this post simple and only sharing 5 tips today! While I'm FAR from having the perfect strategy for combating pesky old holiday overwhelm, there are a few practices/intentions that I've found to helpful over the years! And honestly, just thinking about doing these things is helping me feel better already! So here it goes:
Set aside one day for a brain dump and nothing else.
I literally did this yesterday on Halloween. I bullet journaled, updated calendars, and made lots of lists. Then I took a brain break and folded laundry while watching A Very Wicked Halloween. Ryan and I kept things simple at night by doing some yoga, eating leftovers from the freezer for dinner, and watching something Halloween-y - which meant no dressing up or passing out candy! Here are some of the things I focused on during my brain dump:
- Prayer and gratitude - the end of the year is approaching so quickly, and I know that if I'm not careful I'll get swept up into all of the holiday expectations and completely neglect reflecting on all that God has done for me and my family this year. I'm planning to spend 5 minutes a day each month just writing down things I'm thankful for, and am so excited to look back on the lists when the New Year comes around. I'm so comforted by the reminder that the only expectation that really matters is God's call for me to love Him and love others. I know that if I focus on those two tasks above all else, the holiday season could be the most meaningful and fulfilling one I've ever had!
- Breaking the calendar into chunks - once I had filled in all of the dates where we have obligations (be it for work, traveling, parties, blog deadlines), I broke it up into small chunks of about 4-5 days at a time. This keeps me from looking too far ahead so that I stay focused and live "in the moment." I learned this in my dietetic internship when my dear friend and internship director, Mama Rose, warned us not to look at the rigorous schedule for more than two weeks at a time! Her advice has helped me tremendously through the years!
- Menu planning - in the midst of holiday gatherings and cooking lots of yummy things for posting on the blog, I wanted to make a list of easy meals I could make over the next few months that are no-brainer easy, super healthy, and affordable. This will help us balance the calorie and dollar cost of holiday food over the next 2 months! Some of the items on my list include this 5-Ingredient Kale and Cannellini Bean Soup, Easy Tuna Melt, Tuna Superfood Power Salad, and White Bean Tuna Salad....can you see a theme here?? LOL!
- Scheduling rest time - it's so easy for me to fill any free time Ryan and I have with video filming for the blog, chores, home projects, and errands. But it's so important for us to enjoy rest time and have our own holiday experiences between the two of us! We LOVE to relax with a good board game, so we have ordered two new ones (Carcassone and Villainous) to enjoy over the holidays. I've also set aside 2 days over the next month for planning something fun!
Clean out your freezer, fridge, and pantry.
I'm sure family members that know me well are rolling there eyes at this one. There have been many a time when I have forced myself and a trash bag into their kitchens for an impromptu cleanse! But seriously, this is so practical and WORTH IT. We all can benefit from extra space in the freezer for things we'd like to prep ahead for the holidays. You know you'll be thanking yourself when you have a clean fridge for all those yummy Thanksgiving leftovers. And who wants to dig back in their pantry for the baking ingredients they use once a year, only to find they are expired, dried up, or spoiled??? NOT ME. So join me in ditching the tailgate this weekend and taking part in a glorious kitchen purge:
- Throw out anything that's expired or rotten.
- If you have multiples of one item, combine them to save space.
- Incorporate what you already have into your menus over the next few weeks - this will save $$ AND free up space.
- Wipe down and sanitize drawers, shelves, and cabinets while listening to Christmas music. You will feel amazing when it's over!
If you haven't already, get acquainted with online grocery pickup/delivery.
For me this a no-brainer. But I know many people have yet to try it (ahem....MOM). Take my word for it though that once you do, it's life-changing. NO ONE actually wants to go into Walmart anytime between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve....and even though we all enjoy a trip to Target, our wallets don't, and will thank us come 2019.
I'm not talking about letting the grocery stores pick out your meat and produce. I'd still like to be involved in that and can handle it once a week. But for the last-minute things and items I'd rather not troll the aisles for, I'll happily fill an online cart and trust someone else with getting it off the grocery Some of the items I stock up on with before the holidays include:
- Chicken, Beef, and Veggie Stock
- Canned beans and tomato products
- Dried goods - rice, pasta, cereals
- Baking ingredients - flours, sugars, syrups, extracts, baking powder and soda, spices, chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit, sprinkles, food coloring, muffin tin liners, oils, cooking spray, canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce
- Butter, coffee creamer, half and half, milk products
- Everything I need for multiple batches of SPICED TEA (!!!)
- Party crackers and chips
- Diet Canada Dry Cranberry Ginger Ale (OBSESSED)
- CHEESE - all the cheese
Check in with your budget.
It's no secret to anyone that the holidays are easily the most expensive time of the year. While Ryan and I keep close track of our expense with a monthly finance meeting, we try to spend a little more time in November forecasting what we will need to spend over the holidays that are outside of our typical monthly expenses. This helps SO MUCH in making sure we are both on the same page about what we can spend, and we both get the chance to brainstorm about how we can cut back in other areas to offset holiday costs. We try to plan all of our shopping around holiday sales and promotions, and I'll also organize any coupons we have to make sure they are used before the expiration date. One practice that we tried this year was having a Frugal February, which helped a lot with getting us back on the savings track post-holidays and will likely be repeated in 2019!
Convince your family to do Secret Santa name draw.
Speaking of budgets, it is HUGE help if your family decided to do a name draw for your gift exchange. Ryan and I spend about $700 per year over the holidays traveling to see both of our families - which is an expense that only the two of us have since they all live close to each other in TX and VA! We so appreciate that both sides of our families alleviate additional expenses by letting us do a name draw instead of buying a small something for each person. And it can be REALLY fun - see this post for how we've been doing our family Secret Santa over the years!
Now I'd like to hear YOUR thoughts! What strategies, tips,or intentions have helped you get organized or avoid holiday overwhelm? I'd love to hear your thoughts - I may even compile them to send out to my newsletter so others can benefit! Thank you for reading!