family decorating their christmas tree

Cranberries, Cool Whip & Potato Flakes… 8 Ways To Stop Holiday Stress In It’s Tracks

Yes! The holidays are upon us once again.

Time to shop til you drop, decorate the house to the hilt, make the blow out holiday dinner and everything absolutely MUST be perfect… right?

‘I simply must have the latest, greatest new fangled thing-a-ma-bobber… or how will my family and friends know I love them? I must get every person I know and do business with a gift… or I’ll be a holiday failure!

Sure, I’m short on cash right now… And I’m not sure how I’m going to pay the bills. Who cares? Bust out the plastic. I’ll deal with it later.

I have so much to do and I still have to make time to create the perfect holiday… All these expectations are so stressful… It sucks the joy right out of the holidays.’

If this sounds like you, STOP for two shakes and double-check with yourself to remember what the holidays are really all about.

It’s easy to get drawn in by all the hub-bub and noise. Marketers are vying for your attention everywhere… television, radio, billboards, newspapers, magazines, your cell phone, even bathroom stalls (now that’s a captive audience). Now, I’m not against marketing.

It’s just that it gets super crazy over the holidays. Consumerism often overrides the spirit of simply spending quality time with family and friends. It’s easy to believe you must buy, buy buy… then come January, you get the bills and cry, cry, cry.

You stress yourself out to find the perfect gift, put up the perfect decorations and create the perfect meal. And you may believe the secret to the perfect holiday involves a massive amount of spending, even if it’s money you don’t have.

Sure, we all have traditions and we can find ways to honor those traditions without making ourselves crazy.

When I was a kid, I remember the canned cranberry sauce being placed on the holiday table as if to top it off like a crown. It was one of my favorite traditions. I have to admit that I never understood why it was called “sauce” since it was always served in perfectly round, canned shaped slices… yep, we did the canned stuff & served it in slices! I honestly didn’t even know what an actual cranberry was. I just knew I liked the taste of this sweet, sour, jelled red stuff.

Times have changed. I now know what a cranberry is and I appreciate a sauce that actually resembles a sauce. Our “new” tradition is an orange-cranberry sauce that is more of a relish… and it’s way better! Sometimes changing traditions is a good thing.

Cool Whip is tradition for some people. And I couldn’t handle pumpkin pie without it being doused in the stuff. Now I know Cool Whip is not really food, so we do real whipped cream (well, some of us do).

We also do real potatoes… I remember going to my Grandma’s for a holiday dinner once and I noticed she used the instant flakes! I was shocked. She was like, I’m not making real potatoes for all these people!!! Good job Grandma. She was making it easy on herself.

So, how does homemade cranberry sauce, real whipped cream and a giant pile of real potatoes make the holidays easier? Check out number one on the list below and the other 9 ways for less holiday stress.

Here are 8 Ways To Tweak Your Holiday Traditions For Less Stress…

1. Do the traditional holiday meal for only ONE of the holidays.

Thanksgiving is the big family holiday for us, where the kids (niece and nephews) come home, family often comes from out of town and we have the big traditional dinner. We do that up pretty big, yet it’s not a huge deal because we all pitch in and the meal is basically the main event.

So, we make the homemade cranberry sauce, real whipped cream and real potatoes.

2. Have a simpler meal for Christmas (or whatever other holiday you celebrate).

My family got tired of having two practically identical holiday meals within a month of each other. Sometimes we would do turkey at Thanksgiving, then ham at Christmas. Well, now we do turkey and ham at Thanksgiving and something else for Christmas.

We’ve done lasagna in the past, which is always good with me! Now, we usually do an appetizer potluck for Christmas Eve, which is also great. For the past several years, I’ve done a charcuterie, which has been a big hit… and becoming trendy… I did steal the idea from a friend, so I get it 😉

3. Make a new gift giving agreement with adult extended family… and friends.

Our growing family made an amazing agreement over a decade ago… gifts for the kids only. Now we do a white elephant style gift exchange for the adults in the extended family. It’s so much more fun and stress free.

I had become a bit of a Scrooge with all the focus on materialism. At the time I did not realize I had been moving toward minimalism (and still am)… which is quite opposite off the consumerism that accompanies our modern holiday season, so of course I felt conflicted!

So this one was huge for me… the holidays are so much more enjoyable when you don’t feel the pressure of getting the perfect gift for every person you know.

If you feel awkward bringing it up, remember they are probably feeling the same and will most likely be just as happy with a new arrangement.

4. If you really want to give gifts to friends or when you visit someone’s home, make it simple…

I’ve always enjoyed giving a thoughtful, personalized gift over a purely commercial one. Consider the recipient and choose a gift that is meaningful to the person. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. Consumable gifts such as food, music or event tickets are great! Get creative and have fun with it.

My mom makes banana and cranberry bread, which is so yummy. I’ve done pepper jelly when I had a garden. If you’re not into making stuff yourself, you could get a case of your favorite hot sauce and give out bottles (my cousin makes a great one… secret ingredient is peaches… shameless plug for Mandy’s Mood Foods, lol). A bottle of wine is always good too.

5. Even before my revelation of gift giving excess, I managed my holiday season without racking up debt by saving up a little each month to build up a gift giving fund… remember Christmas club accounts at the bank or credit union? Do that or just set up a separate savings account you designate for gifts. As a bonus, you can use this fund for birthdays, weddings and other events throughout the year!

6. Focus on creating an experience, even if it as simple as watching movies and drinking cocoa.

7. Let go of any stressful ideas about what “perfect” is and let whatever is be perfect.

8. Do something for others.

I know people who get the whole family together to feed the homeless or participate in some other charitable event over the holidays. There are lots of people in need. You can create a meaningful experience for your family and others at the same time.

When you get conscious about your holiday habits and how you choose to experience this time, you can enjoy the season more and have less (or zero) stress! Sounds great right?

Let me know what you think of these ideas and if you have any others I didn’t include. I’d love to hear what you do to make the holiday less stressful.

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