Do’s and Don’ts for Winning at the Holidays

Welcome to the thick of the holiday season—a time we look forward to and dread in equal measure. Traditions and time with family and friends bring joy, but overloaded schedules and pressures of shopping and hosting can leave us stressed out.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you navigate common holiday stressors and come out on top.

Holiday Shopping

THE CHALLENGE: You want to shower your loved ones with gifts, but you don’t have the time or money to do it all.

DON’T: Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap that the holidays are about material items and that you must run yourself ragged acquiring them.

DO: You can reduce the stress associated with holiday shopping by taking control of your time and money. First, spend cash whenever you are able. The act of physically handing over your hard-earned money can help you make better spending decisions.

Second, if you’re prone to making impulse purchases, institute a time out before you complete your transaction. Place the item on hold or add it to your online shopping cart for a day to see if you still want it. Chances are you may not need that pair of reindeer-shaped oven mitts after all.

Finally, create a plan for yourself before you head to the shops or hit the internet. Are you there to get a specific item for someone on your list? If so, stick to your guns, and don’t get sidetracked by shiny displays or special promotions for items you don’t need or even, if you’re being honest, really want in the long run.

Hosting Houseguests

THE CHALLENGE: You want to be a magazine spread-worthy hostess, with plush towels, a full brunch spread each morning and engaging outings planned every day.

DON’T: Although it’s natural to want to show your guests gracious hospitality, don’t feel like you are responsible for their well-being at every moment. Chances are they wouldn’t mind a little time on their own, and they certainly don’t want to feel like they’re an imposition on you or your household.

DO: Keep it simple. Make sure guests have access to the towels and toiletries they need, but don’t feel like they must be brand new.

Most mornings, set out a simple do-it-yourself spread to appeal to everyone. Think coffee, juice, yogurt and granola, fruit, pastries and other things your guest can enjoy at their own pace—and according to their own morning appetites.

It’s also alright to divide and conquer. Most guests will offer to pitch in with meal preparation, the dishes or planning activities. Let them. They will feel more comfortable and relaxed in your home, and so will you.

Remember, a stressed hostess makes for uncomfortable guests, which isn’t a holiday memory you want to create.

Your Holiday Calendar

THE CHALLENGE: You want to enjoy every party, performance and event the holiday season has to offer—and your calendar gets impossibly booked before the Thanksgiving dishes are even dry.

DON’T: Don’t attend everything at the expense of your bank account—or your sanity.

DO: Be selective about the events you participate in during the holiday season. Before you commit to something, as yourself a few questions. Will the event bring you joy? Do you have time for it? Will attending cause financial strain?

You may end up deciding that it’s OK to see the Nutcracker every two years, that you have to decline the invitation to your neighbor’s open house because you are double-booked that day or that the fancy holiday tea is simply too indulgent during this season of spending.

However you fill your holiday calendar, be sure to pencil in some time for yourself. The extra socializing, shopping, baking, wrapping and nights out that go hand-in-hand with the season can wear us out. Make yourself a priority on your calendar so you can recharge your batteries and be refreshed for what really counts—family and friends.