We all have too much to do during the holidays. So much that, for many, a time that’s supposed to be filled with fun, friends, and laughter ends up being filled with tension, anger, and resentment – maybe even stress-induced illnesses. I remember my mom being sick on many a Christmas. Now I know that it was probably stress-induced – she has fibromyalgia, so would be even more susceptible to this than most people.
So how can we reduce the stress, while still having fun and making things meaningful for our loved ones? I touched on a couple of ways in my ROW80 update post, last Sunday. Here are a few other tricks I’ve tried:
Parties and other time-commitments
For many people, there are simply too many of them! Sometimes, they even conflict, forcing us to choose – and possibly disappoint someone. I can’t speak to that situation – it will be unique depending on you, and the others involved. But sometimes there are simply too many commitments and they’re keeping you from doing other important things – like spending time with your family, doing the job that pays the bills, and oh yeah, that shopping. So do you really need to go to every one of those parties? Ask yourself these questions about each one:
- If I don’t go, will someone be disappointed or hurt?
- Are there people there I care about, who won’t understand why I can’t make it?
- If I don’t go, will it adversely impact me (for example, career or business issues)?
- Are these people who don’t live nearby, and whom I don’t see at other times of the year?
- Do I really want to go? (<- This one’s important!)
If you answered NO to these questions, then skip it!
I am blessed to have my close family nearby, so I’m not as affected by this as many. But I do know if I was, I’d be planning ahead – and doing all I could to avoid the post office. There are never fewer than ten people in line at mine on any day, and near the holidays, the place is a madhouse! I think I’d almost rather go to the mall; it’s that bad. Of course, the number one key is to plan ahead and get things taken care of early. But aside from that, the good news is (at least for those in the U.S.), most of the time, you CAN avoid the post office! And I don’t mean paying the higher prices at a commercial shipper either. All you need is a computer, a good quality printer, label paper, a credit or debit card, and maybe a postal scale to take advantage of two AWESOME services provided by the US Postal Service: Click ‘n Ship, and Carrier Pickup. Just set up an account at www.usps.com, type in the address info, weight, etc. Enter your credit card, and the system will automatically generate a label with the proper bar codes, tracking info, etc. that you can print on single-sheet labels and stick on those packages. Use the free boxes the USPS provides for Priority Mail and Express Mail – go in and grab some after hours, or even if you brave the parking lot, you can at least skip the line. It gets better – after you print your label, you can schedule a pickup at your home for the day you ship your package – for free! The 13-ounce, must-hand-to-a-postal-employee rule doesn’t apply either: they have your info in their database, so they know you’re OK. You don’t even need to be home for them to pick up your packages. I’ve had them pick up 17 boxes at a time once – no problem! I haven’t been to the PO in months, if not longer; and then it’s only to check my PO box.
Christmas cards are my bane. A lot of people just buy a box of cheapies from Wal-mart or wherever, sign them, and send them off. If you’re one of them, then you’re ahead of the game. The only way to speed up from that is to simply not send any. I do know people who don’t, and I’m envious. Yet I do send them, for a couple reasons. One, they help me keep in touch with people I might otherwise not, but want to; and two, they’re a Big Deal to my husband. Even though I don’t think he ever sent a Christmas card before we met. They are his opportunity to brag, and in years past, I used my Graphic Artist Skillz to design a custom card with our photos on it, print them up in our printer, print the envelopes up…. it was awful! I’m a good designer, but I don’t work fast, so this was a huge time-suck from the get-go. Then they would invariably be a pain in the butt to print, jam the printer every other card, run the printer out of ink or toner… you name it. Last year I said, no more! Instead, I asked my husband and daughter to pick out photos they wanted to include, and I purchased digital licensing for the photo we had taken of our dogs a few weeks ago, a free sitting at the PetWants store grand opening. I uploaded the bunch to Shutterfly, picked out a design, and click! Cards on the way. I got a lovely box of them in four days, and with coupons, they were under $1.00 a card. With the cost of card stock (not to mention the aggravation factor), the ones I did at home probably weren’t any cheaper. Instead of printing the envelopes, which always seem to jam, I’ll print labels. My husband can then sticker and stamp ‘em, and they’ll be good to go. If you really have more money than time, Shutterfly will even address and mail them for you, but this wasn’t available with my coupons, so I’ll do that part myself.
Holiday Newsletters: These are an artifact from a time before email, Facebook, free long distance, and texting. Do most of the people you’d send a newsletter to already keep in touch via the above? Then give yourself permission to Just Say No!
Baking: just say no – or pick up something they’ll really like, like I mentioned in Sunday’s post.
Gift Wrapping: If it’s free at the store where you bought it, and the line is short (or you’ve got time), use it! A lot of malls and specialty stores have Girl Scouts or similar groups offering gift wrapping for a small donation. Another tip is to use gift bags! As Melinda VanLone commented on my Sunday post, they take only a few seconds – and they’re reusable! While I do wrap some presents, especially those that won’t fit well in a gift bag, I also use a lot of gift bags. I hardly ever buy them – almost all of mine once contained gifts to me, my husband, or our daughter. My brother has a weird habit of unwrapping presents by meticulously removing every piece of tape with as little damage to the paper as possible. It takes him at least a half hour to open one present, and it drives everyone nuts. From me, he gets all his presents in gift bags – a double benefit!
Online shopping: Avoid the crowds, lines, and craziness – and save time! Do it online. My favorite store is Amazon.com. In many cases, you’ll also save money – their prices are tough to beat, there’s no sales tax (fair or no), and most things will ship for free if you spend over $25. It takes a little planning ahead, but otherwise, what’s not to like?
The best tip of all? Do as Flylady says: plan ahead, do a little bit every day, and BUDGET your money – that way you won’t be as stressed for the holidays now, and you won’t be stressed when the bills come later!
Got any more holiday stress-busters to share? As much as these make it look like I have a handle on things, there’s always some last minute gift I forgot, commitment I didn’t plan on, and extra stuff to do, so I’m always looking for more ways to make the holidays fun for everyone, and as stress-free as possible!