This past fall, at the annual Food & Nutrition Conference, Dawn Jackson Blatner gave the most inspiring speech. Lately I keep coming back to one of her main messages, which I've been finding especially inspiring in both work and life. Throughout her presentation, she kept encouraging the audience to 'Use Joy as Your Compass.' Do what brings you joy, what makes you happy.
During the holiday season, joy is a common theme, but how often do we really slow down to enjoy it? Between holiday parties, gift wrapping, and travelling, the stress seems to add up rather quickly for some. Periods of stress can actually have negative effects on our health - from overeating or undereating to increased blood pressure and risk of heart attack.
With my slight Type A/perfectionist tendencies, I can completely understand how the holidays can be a more stressful than enjoyable time of year. If you're one who stresses this time of year, you may find it comforting to know you're not alone. A Healthline study (read more here) surveyed over 2,000 people and found more than 60% were stressed during the holiday season. This year, I hope you're able to slow down and find joy in the holiday season.
Jennifer Scott of SpiritFinder.org, shares her tips for hosting a stress-free holiday party below.
Guest Post By Jennifer Scott
Whether it’s come full circle and it is now your turn again, or you willingly (or unwillingly) volunteered, you’ll be hosting the holiday party this year. Some people enjoy the thrill and excitement of hosting a party, but you break out in a sweat thinking of every possible scenario in which something could go wrong. Before you throw up your hands and decide this year will be pizza and take-out, read the six tips below for a stress-free holiday party.
1. Make a Plan
No matter how organized you are, it is always a good idea to have a plan in place (and stick to it, of course). Start by creating a checklist for each aspect of the party such as a guest list, cleaning list, cooking list, and décor list. If you find it helpful, purchase a planner and set goals and timelines. Not only will this help you stay on track, but it will ensure that you don’t forget something important. If this is your first time hosting, have a friend or family member look over your list to catch anything you might have missed.
2. Ask for Help
Hosting the holiday meal can get pricey, not to mention overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Perhaps you can prepare the main course and you can have each family member bring their favorite side dish. To avoid ending up with three different varieties of mashed potatoes, have a sign-up sheet via a group text or email thread. Remember, the holidays are for spending time with family and friends, not stress, so delegate when necessary and speak up if you are feeling in over your head.
3. Prep Food in Advance
Much to your surprise, there are many things you can prepare in advance to save time the day of. Casseroles are a holiday staple, and can be easily frozen and re-reheated for a fresh-from-the-oven taste. You can even freeze bread, rolls, stuffing, and pie or cookie dough. Keep in mind that there isn’t a rule that says everything must be made from scratch, and no one expects you to and still keep your sanity. To help keep you calm and organized, create a schedule detailing what time each dish needs to go in the oven or on the stove, and create labeled timers on your phone to keep track.
4. Plan for Enough
All this holiday food needs a plate to go on and silverware to be eaten with, so make sure you have enough place settings including plates/dessert plates, silverware, cups/mugs/wine glasses, and serving spoons. Make sure you have a few extra in case there is an unexpected guest. If you don’t have extra place settings and the funds simply aren’t in your budget, mix and match from other family members to symbolize your families coming together.
5. Clean as you go
After you make it through the holiday party in one piece, nothing will dampen that euphoric high like a pile of dirty dishes in the sink and a mysterious sticky substance dried on the floor. In order to relax at the end of the day, periodically clean throughout the party. Ask guests to completely rinse off their dish and place it in the dishwasher, and clean up any spills when they happen. There is no shame in asking for help with cleanup, such as putting the extra chairs back in storage or sweeping the floor.
6. Don’t stress
It might seem silly that one of the tips to a stress-free holiday party is to not stress, but it is the most important step. The holidays will happen no matter what, and at the end of the day, the most important thing is that you were able to spend quality time with family and friends. Sure, people might talk about the burnt turkey a year or two from now, but overall, the holiday memories will be what lasts a lifetime.
Planning and hosting a holiday party doesn’t have to be stressful. By following these steps, you can make it through this holiday season unscathed and ready for next year.
Jennifer Scott is an advocate for opening up about mental health. With SpiritFinder, Ms. Scott offers a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can discuss their experiences.