Mid-September might seem like a strange time to be talking about Christmas. Even the department stores hold off until sometime in October. But when the number one stress factor tied to Christmas is a lack of time, starting your to-do list now could mean the difference between a joyous or a joyless holiday season.
According to a poll from CS Mott Children's Hospital, Christmastime causes stress levels to rise, and moms carry most of the burden.
“While nearly all parents (96%) say that the holidays are generally a happy time for their family, 18% rate their stress level as high during the holiday season. Nearly twice as many mothers as fathers (23% vs. 12%) report high stress levels during this time.
“Parents point to several aspects of the holiday season that are very likely to cause them stress, including extra shopping/holiday tasks (31%), keeping family members healthy (30%), household finances (29%), planning for family gatherings (23%), making special holiday meals (22%), and criticism from family members about holiday plans (14%).”
You can do some small things now to help make your Christmas calm and enjoyable.
Shopping for Gifts
Extra shopping is the number one stressor, according to the Mott poll. So take away the rush by setting up a plan now.
Start writing gift ideas down whenever you have a free moment. The “Christmas List” app is a great way to get yourself organized. Set a budget early, and grab items you know your family will love when they are on sale.
Do you love to make gifts for your family or decorate your home with handmade items? Think about what you may want to make and start working on them now. Most craft stores have Christmas decor and embellishments by the beginning of September, making it simple to get started now instead of waiting until the Christmas mood hits.
If you feel you need to make 14 types of cookies to complete your Christmas, you can start your baking up to 4 months early. Most cookie dough can be frozen and re-thawed without any issues at all. There are plenty of excellent tutorials online for your favorite cookie recipes and how to freeze them.
Decorating for Christmas
While you will probably want to hold off on decorating your Christmas tree in September, there are still things you can do ahead of time to make the process faster.
Go through your Christmas decorations and repair or toss broken items, reshape wreaths, and check strings of lights to make sure they work. Then, see what you are missing and make a list of what you need to buy.
Start planning where you want to put your decorations this year and if you need to make any changes to the room or arrangements. If you are hanging things from the ceiling, put your support hooks in place now so they will be ready when you need them.
Planning Holiday Travel
If you plan on traveling for Christmas, look into flights and hotels now. The earlier you book, the more likely you will get a good deal. Many hotels book up months before Christmas, and you want the best pick of spots.
Reserve a restaurant for Christmas Eve and any touristy things you want to do while you are away. Making reservations will ensure you can do what you wish on arrival.
If you’re driving, start mapping out your route and planning for rest stops. This is also an excellent time to ensure your car is in good shape for a long road trip. Oil changes, tire pressure and standard maintenance can be dealt with closer to the holiday road trip. But getting a tune-up and checking for mechanical issues and needed repairs is something that can be done now to reduce stress later.
Making a Budget
Now is also the time to start planning your Christmas budget. Look at what you spent last year and make adjustments for this year. Don’t let unexpected expenses stress you out. Make sure you plan how much you will spend on gifts, food, and décor.
The more you can think of now, the more likely you will have an accurate budget.
If you are going to be traveling, factor in extra expenses like gas, hotels, and activities.
Preparing Your Home for Guests
If you are planning on having guests for Christmas, start preparing your home. If you need to do any repairs or redecorating, get them done now so you aren’t rushed later.
Clean out guest bedrooms and make sure the beds are comfortable. If you need to buy new bedding or towels, you have time if you start ahead.
Christmas doesn’t have to be a stressful time of year. If you start planning and preparing now, you can avoid the last-minute rush and enjoy a calm and relaxing holiday season.