Between parties, errands, gift swaps, and family dinners, you’re bound to feel overwhelmed during the holiday season. But with a little preparation and smart planning, you can avoid holiday stress and go straight to enjoying yourself.

Follow these simple strategies below to combat stress and bring more peace to your celebrations. Need more help? The American Psychological Association provides a wealth of resources on the topic.

1. Create a Master List of Gifts to Buy.

To make your shopping trips less overwhelming and more efficient, plan out what you’re going to buy before you hit the stores. Include the item, the quantity, and the person it’s for. If you’re stumped, jot down a few general gift ideas so you’re not wandering around a crowded store in total confusion.

2. Avoid Peak Hours

Leslie Gail, M.Ed. and owner of Declare Order Professional Organizing, says it’s crucial to plan your shopping trips outside of peak store visiting hours and to shop early on in the season if you can.

3. Schedule Tasks on Your Calendar.

Mark your calendar with every appointment, event, and meeting you have during the holiday season. Once you have a clear idea of your work and social obligations, schedule in things you need to accomplish, like shopping, baking, or ordering holiday cards. Planning ahead is key to staying organized and limiting stress.

4. Set a Spending Budget.

Before you start loading random items into your Amazon cart or buying mass quantities of wrapping paper just because it’s on sale, take some time to set a realistic spending budget for the holiday season. It’s crucial to review your finances so you can determine the areas where you can afford to splurge and the areas where you have to be more cautious.

5. Designate a Spot to Store Things You Buy Ahead of Time.

Don’t wait until you bring home several shopping bags full of presents and baking ingredients to get organized.

“Clear out space in a convenient closet, set-up a few bins and shelves, empty a cabinet — anything you can do to make space for these items in transition,” says Gail.

6. Do Mindless Tasks While Watching TV.

Use your downtime to make progress on any easy, monotonous tasks you need to accomplish. Wrap gifts, address envelopes, or arrange table centerpieces while you watch TV or listen to a podcast.

7. Clear the Clutter Before You Bring New Things In.

To avoid the stress of finding a spot for new stuff when your space is limited, declutter your home ahead of time. Tackle the big areas like your kitchen, closet, and living room, making sure to toss or donate anything that you no longer love or use with regularity.

8. Buy One Generic Gift in Bulk.

Don’t worry about buying individualized presents for coworkers, neighbors, relatives, and party hosts.

“Figure out a generic, thoughtful gift for teachers and other special people that can be bought in a large quantity,” says Gail.

Consider easy gifts like gloves, cozy socks, chocolate bark, fancy tea, or candles.

9. Simplify Your Decor.

Decorating your home for the holidays should be fun, not overwhelming. Gail advises keeping things simple by sticking to a single color palette (like white) for your decorating purposes.

And don’t worry about switching out your year-round decor or filling every open space or shelf with a holiday knickknack — a few basic items like garland, pine cones, potpourri, or twinkle lights are enough to make a space feel cozy and festive.

10. Relax Your Expectations.

“Before you run to the store after 9pm to make something ‘perfect,’ consider ‘good enough’ options,” says Gail.

Understand that the holidays are about spending quality time with loved ones, not chasing down the ideal gift or losing sleep over your store-bought cookies.  

If things don’t go exactly how you imagined, that’s all right. Do your best to relax and enjoy things for what they are.

11. Take a Moment to Meditate and Release Holiday Stress

A few minutes of mindfulness meditation can do wonders to release anxieties and fears created by holiday stress. Close your eyes and focus on just your breathing for 5 to 10 minutes. You can do this anytime  and you start to feel overwhelmed by negative emotions, even in the car before you step into your in-laws house.

Paige Smith