Happy Hanukkah! My Dad is Jewish and my mom is Catholic, so I grew up learning about and celebrating both religions and cultures. This week my family is celebrating Hanukkah by lighting the menorah each night, cooking and eating my Grandma’s famous brisket recipe and latkes, and playing dreidel. I am also trying to teach my kids about what Hanukkah means and why we celebrate the festival of lights. My kids are still too young to really understand, but it’s important for me to share this part of my culture because they are exposed to many of the Christian traditions more frequently and prevalently, especially because they attend a Christian preschool. 

Our menorah on the first night of Hanukkah

Like many of you, December is a very busy time for my family. We are celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, and it’s also my birthday month. I have to address and send holiday cards, buy presents, attend Christmas parties, and most importantly, enjoy time with friends and family. I feel like we have had non-stop commitments since Thanksgiving, and it only gets busier from here!

We’re wrapping up the first half of my kids’ school year with their Christmas program performance, and I’m helping plan Christmas parties for each of their classes and gifts for the teachers. This is on top of their normal school schedule, which continues right up to the Friday before Christmas. 

We have something planned almost everyday this month and the holiday stress has started to get to me. I feel like I have too much to do and not enough time. I had a meltdown earlier this week because I was so overwhelmed and unsure how I would get everything done in time. We’ve been trying to squeeze in some fun with decorating the house for the holidays and making a gingerbread house earlier this week. The kid’s joy during these activities never fails to lift my mood and spirits.

My daughter ate more candy than she put on the gingerbread house. How can anyone be stressed when hanging out with these two cuties?

I made the to-do list below of important things I need to get done this month before the holidays (you know how much I love lists). This list is in addition to my normal household chores and responsibilities, which normally are enough to leave me with no free time…and that’s why I’ve been feeling so stressed!

  • Write blog posts for the remainder of the year
  • Address, stamp and send Holiday greeting cards
  • Finish Christmas present shopping
  • Wrap gifts
  • Mail packages
  • Take the kids to meet Santa
  • Help plan and attend kids’ school Christmas parties
  • Attend husband’s work Christmas party
  • Attend friends and family holiday parties
  • Teach kids the importance of giving
  • Bake Christmas cookies
  • So many more things I can’t write them all here…

Instead of continuing to let the stress get to me, going around with general crankiness, and not getting much done as a result, I decided to make a plan to attack my list in a calm and meaningful way. Below are my 7 tips to help manage and reduce the inevitable holiday season stress. It’s my personal plan for tackling my holiday to-do list and I hope these tips will help you stay sane in the busy holiday season too!

  1. Plan out the month’s events on paper

    Already a few times this month I have felt so overwhelmed by the amount of things I need to do. I have been reminding myself to take things one day at a time. I have a large hanging monthly wall calendar that I use for planning our months. I wrote every major and minor event this month on the calendar to help keep things in perspective. This allows me to focus on the day-to-day and not the whole month at once.  For example, the only thing on my calendar tomorrow is Baby Boot Camp, and that’s comforting to know that every day is not overly busy. 

  2. Focus on one major project per day

    I decided to focus on completing just one task per day. I was feeling like I have too much to do and not enough time, so to make my list seem more manageable I’m breaking it down into small daily tasks. Last week I was thinking too much about everything I had on my to-do list, meanwhile nothing was actually getting done.

    Now, I’m focused on completing one item on my list per day, and I feel like I will get through my list on time. Today I am focusing on writing blog posts. Tomorrow I will be focusing on addressing and sending our holiday greeting cards. This weekend I will be finishing our Christmas shopping. I will continue down my list from there as I get things done, one day at a time.  

  3. Let things go

    Not everything is going to get done on the day I planned or go as perfectly as I imagined. This is something I really struggle with, but I am trying to just “let it go”. If I don’t finish my blog posts today, that’s ok, I can continue to work on them tomorrow, or even skip posting for a week or two so other things can get done. This is true for every item on my list. Let things go – this is my mantra this month. I think I need to get my kids hooked on the Frozen soundtrack so I can listen to the “Let it go” song over and over this month. I know you think I’m crazy, but it will be a welcome change from the Moana and Coco soundtracks (which are both excellent, by the way) that are currently on repeat in my house and car.

  4. Do everything with kindness and grace

    I can be especially hard on myself and others when I’m under stress and pressure. I’ve caught myself using negative self-talk and also having a short fuse with my husband and kids. I want to be someone who treats everyone with kindness and give myself and others grace to make mistakes. I am trying a new journalling challenge for myself this month. At the end of the day I am writing down my negative behaviors that day and what I would like to do differently next time I’m in the same situation. I hope this self-reflection will help improve my future behaviors. 

  5. Slow down

    I feel like I’m always rushing around: though the grocery store, dropping the kids off at school, in and out of the gym, trying to get dinner on the table. Each thing seems like a race that I can never win. Earlier today I was weaving around people with my shopping cart at the grocery store, and suddenly I stopped myself and said, “what’s the rush?” I need to take time to enjoy the season, the people, the fun. If I walk a little slower through the grocery story I will see people’s smiling faces, I will see all the fun decorations, foods, and toys that are only on display this time of year.

    When I rush too much to get dinner on the table I end up spilling food on the floor, cutting myself while chopping veggies, burning myself on the stove or oven door, and nothing comes out quite right. When I slow down while cooking, the food tastes better, no one gets hurt, and my kids have more time to play with my husband while I cook! 

  6. Continue normal self-care habits

    Anyone who knows me knows I love to exercise and eat healthy. It’s so easy for me to let those things slip this time of year, but I always feel the impact in my mood when I do. Already in the 5 days that have passed in December I’ve only been able to squeeze in two 30 minute at home workouts and I’ve ate more junk food than I care to admit. And while two workouts are better than nothing, it’s a lot less than what I normally do and I feel my mood suffering as a result. I need to focus on making time to do things for myself, like exercise that I know will improve my mental health, and which will in-turn be good for my whole family. Because when I’m in a good mood everyone in my family is in a good mood too!

  7. Plan early for the holidays

    This is a piece of advice I am tucking away for myself for next year. This year I didn’t even start thinking about shopping for presents until Black Friday, and when Black Friday arrived I didn’t have any lists to help me focus my shopping. I ended up spending way too much money and buying a bunch of stuff (mostly for me) that didn’t really help put a dent in my holiday shopping. See – this is why I need lists!

    Last Saturday, I finally sat down and made lists of who I need to shop for and jotted down ideas for presents for each person. I should have done that over a month ago, because now I’m left with less than 3 weeks until Christmas and I still need to buy gifts for about 2/3 of my list! In reality this means most people will be getting gift cards. I am the crafty-creative-type who prefers to give more personalized gifts, so it’s disappointing for me when I have to fall-back on giving gift cards. I do find comfort in knowing that gift cards are quick, easy, and most people like receiving them.

    I say this every year, but I promise next year I will start making my holiday shopping lists by Halloween, so I can plan better presents next year. 😉

Do you let the stress of the holiday season get to you? What are your tips for getting everything done during this busy time of year? 

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