As you get older, does the holiday HO HO HO start to shift to NO NO NO? No, I can’t get all my Christmas shopping done. No, I am not in the spirit because I’m quite stressed. No, there isn’t enough time in a day for me to find balance. I think a lot of the holiday stress can be summed up with one of my favorite quotes, “comparison is the thief of joy.” And I’m not just talking about comparing yourself with others. It also includes comparing yourself to the self you were last year or the year before; The self who’s situation may have changed due to children, a job change or other circumstances beyond your control. Here are my tips to free up time, stay healthy and balanced so the true meaning of Christmas shines though.
Do your shipping ONLINE! Nothing ruins my vibe more than having to stand in line at the post office. God I cringe. Life happens online now and this includes preparing your packages. USPS, UPS and FedEx all have robust websites where you can print labels and track your shipments. You can schedule pick-ups from all three carriers too. Another shipping-themed time & money saver, if you are purchasing a present online then ship right to the recipient’s home. It will be less expensive to choose a $5.00 gift wrap option then to send it to your house to be wrapped by you and sent out again. And if the retailer is smart they will offer free gift wrapping during the holidays. You are investing in their product, the least they can do is offer free gift wrapping.
Keep an Excel Spreadsheet of your Addresses. This is great for multiple reasons. You can use for thank you cards, birthday gift shipping, etc. Also, it can be used to do a mass import of your addresses to a print service such as Minted or Shutterfly so you don’t need to type each address individually if you choose to have the printing service address the envelopes. As a side-note, I highly recommend them addressing the envelopes. It looks polished, saves you time and usually they run specials during the holiday season where the envelope addressing is free with purchase.
Consider Your Card Designs & Dates: Let’s face it, creating a family Christmas card is understandably daunting to some, especially If you don’t have addresses collected or haven’t taken a professional family picture in a while. Everyone wants to show their family in the most incredible and artistically stunning way possible. Pressure. Couple things. First, if the last professional photo you can find is from summer IT IS OK. Just design your card around that color theme. On the beach with pink shirts? Accent your card with rose gold foil press copy. Done! Seriously though, gone are the days when green and red are a must. If you just cannot get the cards done in time to address and mail them before Christmas consider the ample extra creation time you will gain if you choose a New Years card. New Years runs all January, so even if they went out the 3rd week in January you would still be golden. Still too busy for New Year’s cards? Consider Valentines. They aren’t just for grade school parties and lovers. They are also unexpected which is nice.
Do Something Kind for Someone You Don’t Know. It seems like piling one more to do on to your schedule is counter-intuitive to having a more relaxed holiday but this is not the case. Doing something for someone in need takes the focus off of the self and offers priceless perspective of what should really matter. It is centering and gives us a glimpse of the bigger picture. Acts of kindness don’t need to be huge. Some examples are giving a gift from your church’s giving tree, taking a family with a new baby a meal, gathering canned goods for a food drive, or wrapping and delivering presents for charities like Toys for Tots.
Do NOT Abandon Your Workout. Just modify it. If all you can fit in is 15 minutes then do 15 minutes. Do leg lifts or side bends by the coffee pot while it’s brewing. Do ab exercises during commercials or tack on 25 squats, lunges or hip lifts after each present you wrap (guessing this will be a serious glutes workout). My favorite way to get a great workout in in less than 30 minutes is using what I call Pounce & Prep. I use a Gymboss minute timer and do 5 minute sets of high intensity interval training (HIIT) laced throughout my dinner preparation. If you want to learn more on this read my full post here.
Break out the Crockpot. I swear the Crockpot ranks up there with the wheel as one of the greatest inventions of all time. Not only is it easy and delicious, but the healthy meal options are endless. High quality protein + fresh or frozen vegetables + a flavorful seasoning and/or broth = a winning family dinner. The aroma of the slow cooker with the glow of the Christmas tree in the toasty house creates automatic zen. I swear it calms me. For some great recipes check out Ohsodelicioso. Here is the recipe for their Crockpot Mexican Pineapple Chicken.
Bake up Some Semi-Home Made. Everyone knows you are a sexy domestic goddess the rest of the year; that you can whip up a seven course meal from scratch made from organic greens from your raised box gardens. But this is the holiday! It is OK to lean on premixed and prepared as long as it is not filled with additives. You can get ready mixes from some of your favorite organic and healthy markets such as Whole Foods, Healthy Home Market & Trader Joes. To me, the act of making dinner is therapeutic, but not when I’m time crunched. To help with lack of time, do a one dish dinner in your crockpot (see above), such as white bean chicken chili along with a pre-mixed cornbread such as Trader Joe’s Cornbread mix.
Keep Track of Your Spending. It is fun to gift, but the party stops when you get your credit card bill in January. To prevent shock, set a gifting budget and make a list with three columns. 1) Person’s name 2) How much you plan to spend 3) How much you really spent. Use this list to manage your budget. Also consider adding your holiday entertainment, travel and decoration spend. These all add up. By laying it out on paper you can decide what you truly want to spend your money on.
Wishing you a healthy, happy holiday! And to really get you in a festive mood, here is a video of Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire by the incredibly talented women’s a cappella group, Forte Femme. So worth a listen. Their EP, A Very Forte Femme Holiday, is available here.