9 Tips for Low-Stress Holiday Entertaining

Make the season a time for family and fun.

Dec 16, 2016
This holiday season, enjoy the happy, imperfect moments and say goodbye to stress. (Shutterstock)

This holiday season, enjoy the happy, imperfect moments and say goodbye to stress. (Shutterstock)

The holidays are a festive time of year. They are also, however, a time of stress. Many of us stretch ourselves to the limit trying to achieve a high level of perfection on a budget or host a houseful of relatives. Buying and wrapping gifts, decorating, cooking, hosting—the responsibilities are great.

Our advice: Give up on perfection and enjoy the happy, imperfect moments instead. Despite your best efforts to create holiday magic, something decidedly not-so-magical will happen. You’ll forget the tinsel. Your parents will be stranded in Chicago. The dog will get to dessert before the guests. You can almost bet on it.

Here are five ways to keep your chin up and stress down this holiday season.

1. START THE SEASON CHARGED

Holidays are inherently stressful because you add multiple tasks to your already busy schedule. Increase your self-care activities leading up to the holidays. Do the things that recharge you the most, whether it’s lunch with a friend, a walk in the woods, relaxing with a good book or writing in a journal. Spend some time replenishing your mind and body: To feel your best when the holidays arrive, make sure you sleep seven hours nightly, exercise regularly and eat nutritiously. If you already have a healthy routine, don’t start skipping it for the holiday season.

2. DECORATE EARLY

Get a jump start on your planning and reduce stress on the actual holiday by getting your home ready ahead of time. Turn decorating your home into a tradition that involves your whole family (i.e., put the kids to work). Start preparing for Thanksgiving in mid-November. For Christmas or Hanukkah, start making your house festive around December 1. You’ll be so glad you’ve checked something off your list; plus, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying holiday spirit in the house all month long!

3. MAKE HOLIDAY PUNCH BOWLS—ONE FOR THE KIDS AND ONE FOR THE ADULTS

With a quick Google or Pinterest search of “holiday punch recipe,” you can find delicious, festive-themed drink recipes—one for the adults and one for the little ones. Now you won’t have to cater to every person’s individual tastes, and it can add to the ambiance of your gathering. Consider using a small table for pitchers of ice water and glasses, too, so your guests can help themselves while you greet family at the door. The more you set up beforehand, the more you can be in the present moment and enjoy your party once it begins.

Everyone appreciates a nice holiday punch. (Shutterstock)

Everyone appreciates a nice holiday punch. (Shutterstock)

4. GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN

Timing an elaborate dinner with multiple courses is ambitious, and it can keep you in the kitchen when everyone else is enjoying each other and the party. Make it your goal to be out of the kitchen when your guests arrive. One option is to cook nearly everything ahead of time. Another is to go potluck or semi-potluck: Consider making the main dish and having everyone bring an appetizer, side dish or dessert to share. Now your party is a collective effort instead of all on you. Exhale, that’s a lot of responsibility off your shoulders.

5. DON’T CLEAN UP RIGHT AWAY

Even if you like a tidy table or a clean kitchen, stacking dishes and loading the dishwasher can be a message to your friends and family that the party is over. Value your together time over your urge to clean up. Enjoy the conversation and take pleasure in the wonderful meal you just had before you put your kitchen and dining room back in order. Or, consider being upfront with family and guests and tell them you thought you’d serve dessert an hour after dinner. That way everyone knows they are welcome to stay.

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