Marylebone High Street dressed up for the holidays, London, December 2016.

Stress-free holidays

Stress is hard on wellbeing and relationships, and it easily accumulates.

When you have been a little tired and tense and busy for a while, you make less mindful choices on what to eat, what to think, what to say, what to do and what to say no to.

But it all starts with your head.

Why is it, that we often try to be so damn perfect and responsible, that we end up taking more on us that is good for us...

December, in Western cultures, is a good time to remind yourself that you do not have to do everything. Do the essential things, answer the essential emails, you are never going to have it all done, anyway.

Be with the people you want to be with, and do not feel bad about not meeting the people you do not want to meet, or you simply do not have time to meet, right now.

I like the feeling of being in charge of what is going on, so I began my holiday preparations in October.

I have a notebook that contain lists of things that need to be done, things that need to be cleaned, things that need to be bought, and so on.

And I take great pleasure ruling things out in that notebook.

I have no major plans though, but I like giving some gifts and making my home lovely for the holidays, so it feels better to start planning early than the last weekend before Christmas.

Making a clear plan also helps with the silly habit I notice in me, and some holiday miracle-makers I know. If you have not prepared at all, you easily compensate when you do shopping at the very last minute. You buy too much: too many gifts, too much food.

Simple gifts are the best. No one needs anything you cannot really afford to buy them, or you did not have a good time buying. I give people oil and wine, homemade granola, bath salt, candles, books I have read and liked.

I also think it is simply not worth it to spend the last weekends of the year shopping.

Since I know (from my notebook) what I still need to buy, I do most of my holiday shopping a little bit at a time, in my own neighborhood, on weekdays, when I am on my way somewhere. Things I cannot find, I order online.

With the decorations at home, I start by cleaning and organizing. Last week it was closets, and the window cleaner came by, this weekend I will continue my annual bookshelf cleanup, that I started already.

Every now and then I look at my notebook and rule out tasks that are done. The lists get shorter, and most of the time, I am just very happy that the holidays are approaching.

If, however, I find myself getting the least bit tense when scanning my to-do list (you know, the universal stressor, the feeling of too little time, too much to do) I rule out a couple of tasks and decide to do them in January, if even then.