By Rebecca Lake
Tis the season to be merry, but if the holidays make you feel like saying,
bah, humbug, it may be time to rethink your routine. Relaxing over the holidays begins with developing the right mindset, so if you're wrapped up in worrying about what gifts to buy, keeping your holiday budget in check, or planning the perfect holiday get-together, it's easy to lose focus on what really matters.
That's what Amy M. Gardner, a certified executive coach and consultant with Chicago-based coaching and consulting firm Apochromatik, did a few years ago. After enduring a hectic holiday season, she and her husband completely revamped their approach to taking on the festivities.
For the last several years, we've had our to-do lists done by mid-December and can leave town for the holidays feeling calm and relaxed, Gardner says. And more importantly,
we spend time with family and friends being engaged and happy, rather than exhausted and frustrated.
If you're ready for a carefree holiday season, try these five tips.
Jennifer McDermott, a communications manager living in New York City, says the holiday season is also the perfect time to practice the art of saying no.
Your health, wallet, and sanity will all suffer if you overextend yourself, McDermott says.
She recommends scheduling time for you amid shopping, travel, or social engagements. Make downtime non-negotiable so you have a chance to slow down and recharge.
Most people know that thinking ahead makes managing any big project easier. But the tasks that can make the holidays most stressful are the last-minute to-dos that are easy to forget or put off. That's why Gardner says she and her husband created a list of all the things that need to be done between the start of the holiday season and New Year's Day.
We use a template that we can update each year, based on what's worked and what hasn't in the past, Gardner says. The list includes the usual holiday chores and must-dos, along with some fun holiday traditions as a reminder to slow down.
If the thought of the Black Friday rush leaves you breathless, avoid the stores and shop online. You can usually find the same or better offers and have items shipped directly to your door. And if you're really starved for time – or patience – don't shop until you know what you plan to buy.
McDermott recommends deciding what you want to buy for each person on your list and setting your budget beforehand. These two moves can drastically cut down on the amount of time it takes to shop, she says, which can keep you from getting distracted and overspending on gifts.
If you're using your credit card to shop, put security first. Stick to online stores you know and only use trusted Internet connections. You may also consider linking your card to a third-party payment processor or to a mobile wallet app for added security.
Holiday spending can be a major source of stress but using a rewards credit card to shop can ease some of your anxiety if it helps you save money.
If you have a rewards credit card where you've earned enough points for redemption, redeem those points for gift cards or merchandise for people on your shopping list.
Gardner says using a single rewards card minimizes hassles.
Decide what card has the rewards you want to focus on and use that card for all your holiday shopping, she says.
It'll make it much easier if you need to return something and it takes the guesswork out of tracking spending.
Remember to be firm about your budget if you're using credit. If you charge only what you can afford to pay in full the next month, you may avoid interest charges – and eliminate dealing with a debt hangover once the holidays end.
With so much to do, it's easy to let your exercise routine or diet slide off track. It's important to leave room in your daily schedule for your health and wellbeing.
Make sure you get enough sleep and include time for exercise, even if it's just a walk around the block. Instead of indulging in all the holiday treats, stick with one of two of your favorites. Even taking five or ten minutes a day to meditate can leave you feeling more relaxed and energized to take on the season.
The holidays should be fun, not frenzied. These tips can help you cut down on the chaos and enjoy the season without feeling overwhelmed.