By Ashley Roe, Contributing Writer
Autumn is my favorite season. I love the cool crisp air, pumpkins, apples, warm drinks and the beautiful colors God paints on the trees. I also love that it means the holidays are right around the corner. It’s a time of celebration, gatherings and good food.
However, if I am not careful, the holidays can easily turn from a joyous time of the year to the most stressful. Does this sound familiar to you?
Planning for the holidays can be a struggle but taking just a little bit of time to prepare can make all the difference. If you are careful not to overload yourself, make a plan and allow some time to be still you are on your way to a much less stressful holiday season.
Don’t Overload Yourself
Does the holiday season turn your normally relaxed self into a frazzled mess? We add on more to our already overloaded schedules then try to top it off with harried shopping trips. We spend countless hours rushing around trying to check everything off of our never ending holiday to do list only to find ourselves too exhausted to enjoy anything. It’s no wonder so many of us end up a ball of stress during the holidays.
It’s great to want to do fun activities and get together with friends and family but you may need to choose what’s most important and let go of the rest. That might mean saying no to some things so you can enjoy a quiet evening at home with your family.
Obviously, there are some commitments that you can’t avoid. The holidays are likely to be a little busier and I understand that. The main idea here is that you take time to enjoy the holidays instead of letting them run you ragged. The last thing you want is to go into the new year feeling stressed and overworked.
Make a Plan
As mentioned above, the holidays can easily add on a lot to your schedule so it’s a good to know what’s coming and make a plan. There are a number of ways you can plan for the holidays. Today we are focusing on planning your activities, planning your meals and planning for possible challenges.
The holidays often bring a lot of extra commitments and activities so make a list of everything you will need to do then add specific dates to your calendar. Planning ahead will also give you a better idea of how busy you will be and where you can afford to add in anything else if necessary.
Be purposeful about choosing what’s most important to you and your family and remember not to overload yourself. Include things like special traditions and fun activities. If you always put up Christmas decorations the weekend after Thanksgiving or if you want to have a fun movie night watching Christmas films, add it to your list so you can plan for it.
Hosting a special holiday dinner? Planning holiday meals can be stressful but it doesn’t have to be.
My simple tip for making holiday meal planning easier is to make a list of recipes and the ingredients needed. My husband and I have hosted many holiday dinners since we got married and this is by far the best thing I have done when planning for these big meals.
Once I make my list, I then assign each person contributing to the meal to a specific dish or list of ingredients. This way, it’s all in one place and so everyone is less likely to be confused about what is expected.
I create mine using an excel spreadsheet and save it as a pdf to email to anyone who needs a copy. If that doesn’t work for you then just write it out on a sheet of paper. The important thing is that you have a plan.
If you do want to try a spreadsheet, here is a screenshot of one of my menus to give you a better idea of how I lay it out. There is also a second page with a few more recipes and a list of ingredients needed and next to each is the name of who is providing that ingredient:
Need some recipe inspiration? Here’s some of my favorite holiday recipes:
Planning for Challenges
You may be wondering what this even means so let me give you an example. There is a strong possibility (due to some health concerns) that I will need to be more careful about what I eat this holiday season. Therefore, I may need to be prepared to say no to some beloved sweet treats but if I mentally prepare ahead and give myself an alternative I will be less likely to cave in.
Your challenge might be different. Maybe you are dreading the holidays because it reminds you of a lost loved one or you feel even more lonely than usual. It’s perfectly okay to feel these things but acknowledging the struggle ahead of time can give you time to prepare instead of being caught off guard. Plan to do something you enjoy like getting together with friends or family. If you are missing a loved one, plan to do something special as a way to honor them.
Take Time to Be Still
Taking time to be still during such a busy time is an important way to focus your heart on what is most important. The fun gatherings, events are gifts are all great but they are meaningless if you forget to give thanks and remember the true meaning for the season.
As Thanksgiving approaches, make time to think about what you have to be thankful for, even if the list is small. Make it a regular practice to give thanks and you will notice a change in your heart and attitude. Check out these free give thanks verse cards as a way to guide you.
Once December hits, it can be easy to get caught up in the business that we don’t take time to remember the real reason for the season, the birth of Jesus. Find something that you can use to help you keep your main focus on Him like this Advent devotional and scripture calendar. If reading a daily devotional is too much, that’s fine but be sure that you are taking even a few minutes a day to focus your heart on Him.
It is my prayer that you would have a wonderful holiday season filled with the kind of love, joy and peace that only God can give.