The holiday season is upon us and with it comes once-a-year fun, lot of extra work, and an atmosphere unlike what we have at any other time of year.

Whether you love it or not, the month of December is one that’s pretty busy. If you are like many other people, you might find yourself saying something along the lines of, “This year I will be more organized . . . get more done . . . not burn the cookies because I am also trying to study for class at the same time. . . not get overwhelmed.”

Do take steps to make this year different if the the holidays are at all stressful for you. But don’t do that by putting more pressure on yourself. Of all times when you need a little extra TLC, this tops the list. Make it easier for yourself this year by lowering your expectations a little and going for ease, not overdrive.

Try out these holiday hacks and let us know if you have any others that work well for you.

1. Make a Dinner Plan

It sounds tedious, but planning menus at least a week in advance can make a huge difference in time, effort, and stress about getting food on the table. And, no, the list does not have to be all homemade. Just plan to have ingredients on hand and dinner can be ready quickly.

You’ll find looking at your to-do list for the day and knowing what’s planned for dinner is a huge relief.

A “not-fancy-but-good-enough-for-now” sample menu can read like this:

  • Sunday – quiche and salad
  • Monday – frozen meatballs in sauce and spaghetti, garlic bread, carrot sticks
  • Tuesday – tacos
  • Wednesday – meatloaf dinners from the supermarket or take-out pizza
  • Thursday – pancakes and eggs, fruit
  • Friday – leftovers
  • Saturday – baked chicken or fish, noodles, salad
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2. Have Hostess Gifts

Do you see a great buy on a nice gift? Buy a couple so you have something on hand to give as a hostess gift or a Yankee swap or to a neighbor who unexpectedly comes by. If you don’t use it for a gift, you might be able to use it for yourself after the holidays.

Look for good deals on

  • candles
  • chocolates, syrups, jams
  • soft mittens or scarves
  • cozy blankets
  • a holiday DVD
  • a beautiful pen and journal
  • something particularly local (apple wine from New England, New Mexican chilies)

3. Sleep Hacks That Work

Take naps. Lie down when you can. Don’t stay up late for no reason. A tired, stressed-out party-goer isn’t going to have any fun at all. And an overly sleepy nurse isn’t going to give the best patient care. Make sleep as essential as eating this holiday season. Your next month will be much better overall if you don’t neglect this important stress buster. 

Just do it.

4. Gift Buying Simplified

Pick a gift theme and plan your gifts around that as much as possible. Gift themes can include general activities, goods, or outings that would appeal to many people, even if it is in different arrangements. Having a theme keeps your budget under control, prevents lots of impulse buying, and cuts down on shopping time.

Depending on your budget your gift theme for the year could include

  • Movies (tickets or a favorite DVD set with a bucket of candy and microwave popcorn)
  • Dinner out (a gift card with a bottle of wine)
  • Home comforts (fleece blankets, foot warmers, heating pads)
  • Personal luxuries (luxurious soaps, lotions, hair care, fancy mascara, pedicure set or gift card)
  • Garden (botanical garden membership, seeds, gloves, books, plants)
  • Sports (choose from any sports equipment or tickets to events)
  • Time together (a gift card for a place to get a quick bite and a time to catch up)
  • Monthly gift delivery (makeup, health foods, spices, cookies, flowers)
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Simplifying for the holidays is sometimes easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. With a few specific changes, you’ll find the season easier and more enjoyable.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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