Win $500 Cash! The Holiday Desserts recipe contest is on now. LAST CHANCE TO ENTER →

There’s something so dazzling about the holiday season, the smell of the Christmas tree, the jewel-colored ruby red and emerald green adornments, the shiny metallic golds and slivers, and the delightful holiday music that stirs up the festive spirit. But there’s also a rather stressful element to the holidays, decorating, shopping, family, to name a few, that might be cause for feeling less jolly. A little bit of stress is inevitable but it isn’t a requirement; no one puts “stress” on their list to Santa Claus. In the interest of bringing more joy and peace to the holidays, consider these suggestions for how to make the holidays less stressful.

Less is more
There’s something about the holidays that makes us want to implement outrageous holiday decor and tablescapes, glistening roasts, elaborate cocktails, and elegantly decorated cookies. Those shiny magazine pages that tempt us to achieve a picture-perfect Christmas often lead to extra stress and extra expense; it’s not cheap to be perfect at Christmas!

I love the beautiful decor and delicious food as much as the next person, and if putting up perfect decorations and hosting a grand, elaborate holiday meal gives you joy, then, by all means, do it. We don’t need Instagram-worthy holiday homes in order to validate our joy. Reduce holiday clutter – in your home, kitchen, and mind – by paring down the holiday hullabaloo and choosing something a little less elaborate, but no less filled with peace, joy, and a festive holiday spirit.

Stay healthy
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend starting a whole new fitness routine right during the holiday season; ideally, this is something that is regularly implemented in your life routine. It’s easy to break away from our good habits during the holidays, but this is not the time! While the schedule might mean cutting back workout frequency, it’s so healthy – physically and mentally – to keep fitness in your holiday routine. If the holidays mean a little bit of travel, there are some great online workouts that you can do in the comfort of a hotel or guest room – 20 minutes is an ideal time, especially when we’re busy.

To that end, it’s also – weather permitting – so good to get outside and get some fresh air. Put on your raincoat or snow gear and get out into the open air. This will do wonders for our spirits and is probably the least expensive Christmas gift you can give yourself.

Let’s not forget to stay hydrated! There’s going to be a lot of good food and drink, sweets and treats along the way, and a well-hydrated body will fare well against these indulgences. A glass of water after a drink or a sugary dessert, before a big meal, and throughout the day, will help you feel refreshed.

Shop Local and Give Back
Current supply chain struggles will make it harder to get some of the gifts on Santa’s list, but this is a great opportunity to look a little closer to home for some (or most) of your Christmas shopping. Especially if you’re traveling, take some time to visit the local small businesses to give them a nice holiday boost. There are some very unique gifts in these local stores, and you won’t have to worry about whether or not the gift will arrive on time.

Many of these small businesses, or perhaps your local food bank or your own church, will have a Giving Tree. On the Giving Tree, you will find small gift ideas for local families in need, and this is a wonderful way to give back to the community. Many families struggle during the holiday season, and Christmas is one big reminder of how important it is to give to families in need.

Pare down Santa’s list
Opening gifts on Christmas day is often like watching a fireworks show. We all ooh and aah with delight, squeal and squeak and gleefully bask in the glory of unwrapping our wish list. But then the show is over, far more quickly than all of the time, effort, and money it took to make all of this Christmas magic happen. What we’re left with is the shreds of wrapping paper, boxes, and maybe a little sense of the anticlimactic as the anticipation and excitement inevitably wanes.

One way to healthily manage the Christmas hangover is to pare down the list of Christmas expectations. A dear friend of mine uses a great mantra for her kids as they create their annual list for Santa: want, need, wear, read. These guidelines help to keep the kids thinking about their wish list. Another suggestion: add “give” to that list. Where would your kiddo like to “give” – maybe Toys for Tots or some canned and dry goods dropped off at the local food bank.

Embrace Joy, Hope, and Peace
Christmas and the holiday season, no matter how you celebrate, is meant to be a time of joy, hope, and peace. That can be difficult to hold on to in these times. And that’s the other challenge too, to not limit our celebration of joy, hope, and peace to just the Christmas season. The holidays are a reminder to practice gratitude, even for the smallest of things. When we practice gratitude, no matter how small, we may just find more joy, hope, and peace.

Subscribe to 12 Tomatoes