With only 13 days left until Christmas, the holiday stress can become very overwhelming. A time of year that should be joyous, can become a difficult time full of never ending tasks like finding gifts for everyone, dinners, parties, and family gatherings. This should be a time of happiness and excitement right? Unfortunately, many times this can be the most stressful time of year for many families. We stretch ourselves too thin and experience huge amounts of stress which can take its toll on our bodies and our minds. Here are some helpful tips to help you and your family stay healthy and happy.

1. Plan for Shopping Early/ Online
I am guilty of waiting until the last minute to do most of my shopping. Every year I wonder, why do I do this to myself? Some have had the great idea of putting little bits of money away each month starting in January. Then when Christmas rolls around, you will have a fund ready to go for presents. I have also heard of people buying a gift card to a store each month, and using the cards for all of their shopping at the end of the year.
Online shopping has made things a lot easier. You can sit in the comfort of your own home and get everyone on your list done. This way you can avoid the crowds and you won’t have to hop from store to store. If you have Amazon Prime, you can even get shipping for free!

2. Have Kids Make Homemade Gifts
Instead of figuring out what to get grandparents this year, have your children make them a gift. People love the thoughtfulness of a homemade gift, and it allows you to finally try all of the Pinterest projects you have been pinning. Another great bonus is that it can save you money as well.
3. What Really Needs to Go on the Calendar? Prioritize
As your calendar quickly starts to fill up this month, take a moment and think about saying no to a few things. Coming from the Queen of Yes, this is really hard for me. Don’t feel guilty. It is okay to say sorry I can’t make it or sorry I won’t be able to help out with that this year. You will thank yourself in the end.

4. Slow Down and Take Time to Create Memories or Traditions

Spending the night making cookies with your kids, decorating the house, or riding around in the car looking at Christmas lights are some of my favorite memories as a kid. Take the night off to relax and enjoy the little moments that you and your kids will never forget.

5. Crockpot meals/Freeze food/Cookies for when you need it as a quick meal

All of your family is coming in town and you do not have time to cook. Easy fix it and forget it meals are your friend. You can put everything in the crockpot in the morning and tada, you have a meal for dinner. Freezing casseroles or cookie dough is great to pop in the oven whenever the need arises.

6. Delegate Tasks-
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We may think we are capable of doing it all, but in the long run it wears us down. Ask family or friends for help. They will be more than happy to take some of the load off.

7. Connect with Nature
Studies show that even a walk outside of fifteen minutes can alleviate stress dramatically. Taking a hike or walking the dog while getting some vitamin D from the sun will not only brighten your mood, but it will help keep you healthy.

8. Getting Enough Sleep
Making sure you are getting enough sleep this time of year is crucial to staying healthy and well. Getting the recommended seven hours of sleep a night will help you tackle the day. Finding ways to wind down before bedtime can really help. Taking a warm bath, drinking warm tea, and turning electronics off at least an hour before bed will help your mind relax.

9. Laugh it Off
It is really sad to think that children laugh an average of 300 times a day while adults only around 20 times a day. Laughter really is the best medicine and it doesn’t cost anything. Allow yourself to be silly with your kids. Play games with them or watch a funny movie to get those giggles going.

10. Helping Others
When we do good, we feel good. Volunteering your time is a wonderful way to boost you and your family’s mood while helping the less fortunate in your community. It will be great for the entire family.

11. Let the Little Things Go and Forget Perfection
Coming from a true perfectionist, sometimes I have to, as Elsa from Frozen would say, Let it Go. It’s ok if your presents look like the dog wrapped them. It’s ok if your Christmas tree leans to one side (true story). Sometimes things are not perfect and that it ok.

12. Go Tech Free
It is pretty amazing how we can access e-mail any time of day anywhere we go. The downside is knowing when to turn it off and take a break. This time of year especially with added work deadlines to get done before the holidays, workloads can pile up quickly. If we are constantly logged in, there is no way for our brains to shut off and relax. Set a time for yourself at home when the e-mail will not be checked. This gives your mind and body the break it needs for the night.

13. Exercise
Trust me, nobody wants to go work out before or after work, in the dark, and in the cold. However, studies show that exercise is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy and relieve stress. It helps me to have a gym bag packed in the car ready to go with snacks. This way I have no excuses. I also have a friend who sleeps in her workout gear. This way she is ready to go workout in the morning with less hassle. Nobody ever regrets a workout after it is done, the key is getting there. If you do not have a gym membership, there are tons of free online workout/ yoga videos you can do in your own home.
14. Relax Through Your Senses-
Use some lavender hand lotion or light a scented candle. Little things like listening to relaxing music or podcasts can really help you feel more relaxed throughout the day. Some relaxing music can be download for free and to listen to in your car. This is especially nice if your commute to and from work involves lots of traffic time.

15. Healthy Eating-

Eating healthy seems near impossible during this time of year. Everywhere you turn there is a plate of cookies, or another party with delicious fattening foods. The key is moderation. You shouldn’t deny yourself the wonderful foods of the season, but not eating everything in sight is where it gets hard. Allow yourself to have some, just not all you want all the time. Your mood and your health will thank you once the New Year rings in.

16. Treat Yourself-
Hey, the holidays are all about giving to others, but don’t forget about treating yourself as well. You deserve it. Go get a massage or a pedicure and do something just for you. After all, when you feel relaxed and stress free, your entire family will too.


Lisa Cholley is a Play Therapy intern within the Stepping Stones program at Step By Step Counseling, LLC.