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Holiday Guide

4 Strategies to Tackle Holiday Stress

November 17, 2016

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but for many, it’s the season of stress. From finding the perfect gifts to hosting a houseful of extended family—not to mention juggling a crazy schedule of school events, social gatherings, and work functions—all these to-dos and activities can wear you down. How can you get through it all with a joyful spirit intact? Try these four realistic strategies to keep you calm, organized, and toasting your way to the New Year.

Start Early (We Mean It)

Before the eye roll begins, remember that every year you vow to not leave the [insert holiday task here] to the last minute. But somehow, you find yourself thanking the FedEx gods yet again for getting [insert holiday necessity] to you in time. “I never wanted to do Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving,” says Sarah Stewart Holland, cofounder of Christmas Comes Early, an online course and Facebook group that motivates you to start your holiday to-dos in August (yes, August). “I fought it for so long, but once I started to do it, it really freed me up to actually enjoy the holiday we are all too busy planning for.”  Holland is like your Christmas coach—on the 25th of each month the course, which costs around $15, has you focus on tasks to knock off early, like designing your holiday cards, buying gifts, menu planning. If you prefer the solo route, a great calendar app can keep you on track. Though Holland is an “obsessed” bullet journaler, her pick is the Fantastical 2 calendar app. “It’s the best one out there to match my to-do list with what’s going on in my life.”

Make a List

“I make a serious timeline,” says Christine Malloy, pastry chef and mom of two girls ages 3 and 6. “It usually starts the week before the holiday and includes shopping and cooking tasks.” Graphic designer Bernadette Sheridan loves Wunderlist for hers. “I can keep track of ideas throughout the year, look back if I’ve forgotten what I bought for someone last year, and I can also easily find links I’ve saved to reorder a gift that was particularly appreciated. I can’t get through the holidays without it.” Holland uses Evernote to capture this info, and naturally, she works on it all year long. “What’s even more important than your to-do list is your holiday recap list,” she says. “I note what worked, what didn’t, and then I check the list before the season to better prepare.”

Stay Calm (aka Meditate)

“When you’re feeling anxious, you have a tendency to react to things quickly without thought,” says Patricia Karpas, cofounder of Meditation Studio, one of the most highly rated meditation apps. “Meditation teaches you to pause, take a breath, and respond to things more thoughtfully.” There’s research, according to Karpas, that a meditation practice helps you to be more focused and productive. “When you’re calm, less frenetic, and less anxious, you’ll be a lot more focused on what needs to get done,” says Karpas. Give it a whirl with Karpas’ app, Meditation Studio ($3.99). It has 200 meditations and more than 20 different teachers so you can find the method and instruction that resonates best with you. The step-by-step courses are perfect for newbies and meditation pros alike.  Sample some meditations here.

Soften and Relax: 5-minutes with Ashley Turner

Basic Breath Meditation: 10-minutes with Elisha Goldstein

And remember, don’t judge yourself. “Any time you sit down to meditate or pause, it’s a good thing,” Karpas says.

Other popular meditation apps to check out: Headspace, Calm, and Buddhify.

Be Prepared for Anything

Remember to set realistic expectations. When your calendar is slammed or you’re taking on too much (like DIY holiday cards), find the power to say no and get help. {link to holiday card story}“Stay focused on the big picture instead of getting muddled with the day-to-day minutia,” says Karpas. At high-intensity times, the slightest curveball can skyrocket your stress levels. Your best weapon is to have smart systems in place. First, the Amazon Dash Button will ease your everyday errands. With one click, the wi-fi enabled button orders your favorite product on the spot. Holland has three: one on the diaper changing table, one by the dog food, and one in the laundry room. If she notices she’s running out of any of those products, she clicks the button and the diapers or detergent is on its way—it’s instantly off her mind and to-do list.

Here’s another common scenario: Someone gives you a gift and you don’t have anything in return. For a thoughtful gift you can order fast Holland recommends Pictli. This app lets you upload a photo from your phone, frame it, wrap it, and send with a personal message in “under 90 seconds.” When all else fails and you’re spiraling in seasonal stress, dozens of women recommend this solution: wine. Lots of it. And if you’re dangerously close to the last drop, try a liquor-on-demand app like Minibar.  In about 25 cities across the country, Minibar delivers wine, beer, and liquor to your door in under an hour. ($10 off your first order with the code JOYST.) Now that’s something we can toast to.



Kathleen Murray Harris

Kathleen brings two decades of editorial experience, as the former editor of RealSimple.com, Levo, & The Knot. As a working mom with 3 young kids, Kathleen knows the best tricks to save you time, money, & your sanity.