Last year I tried to finish my holiday shopping early on and found myself stressed out and annoyed. I soon realized that I was mismanaging my holiday season to-do list, and I needed to change a few things pronto before I spazzed out, leaving my friends and family with no choice but to give me the side eye.

Once I made those changes, the to-do list was a lot more manageable and life was a whole lot sweeter. I truly do believe that the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but I also believe that we tend too put way too much pressure on ourselves, resulting in a season that is stressful and less than cheerful.

Here are a few things I figured out last year that definitely served me well. I hope they help you have a joyful, peaceful holiday season.

1.  Don’t run any errands on an empty stomach.

I have no idea what I was thinking, but last year I would leave bright and early to run errands without even eating or drinking coffee or tea. Crazy, right?  Dealing with holiday tasks on an empty stomach was just stupid. Even if you aren’t hungry, throw a snack in your bag and grab your favorite warm drink to keep you going.

2. Order holiday cards now if you can. 

Try to place orders for your holiday cards now. Tons of sites have great sales going on and it will be nice to just get it out of the way and throw them in the mail the first week of December. And if you ignore my awesome advice, spare yourself the stress and just send out Happy New Year cards.

3. Don’t feel obligated to get anyone a gift.  

Christmas is about having a giving spirit, so doing anything out of obligation defeats the purpose. If you are unable to purchase gifts for everyone because your budget is tight this year, or you just aren’t moved to buy gifts for certain people, it’s totally okay. Really, it is.

4. Shop Online.

Brick and mortar is for suckers! Just kidding–kinda. You still have plenty of time for free shipping opportunities. Just leave the stores alone to avoid crowds, and if you have to go, go first thing in the morning. Even if you have work, it is honestly worth using a few vacation hours to get it done in the morning and avoid the rush that occurs later in the day and on weekends.

5. Focus more on traditions and less on stuff.

We buy so much during the holidays. but our families benefit a lot more from creating new family traditions that often don’t cost a thing. I am currently figuring out a few new traditions I want to start in my home.

6. Think small.  

If you want to get a gift for co-workers or people who are a part of a particular group with you, consider something like a $5 Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks gift card. I have received these from colleagues and it honesty means a lot.

7. Give your time.

If you get wrapped up in your own life and all the “stuff” you have to do, consider giving a few hours to help those who are less fortunate.  It’s a great way to serve, you will feel better, and it will help you put everything else in perspective.

With less than 2 weeks till Thanksgiving and about 5 weeks until Christmas, take the time to breathe, relax and enjoy this season.  It’s not about the stress. It’s about time with the ones you love most.

What are your tips for having a stress-free (or less stressful) holiday season?