The holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but they can also be the most stressful.
About 52 percent of New York residents experience high levels of stress--defined as at least 5 on a scale of 10--during the holiday season, according to the Del Monte Holiday Census, which surveys 3,000 Americans about their holiday habits. (The national figure is likely more or less the same.) Meal preparation can be one of the most demanding tasks this time of year, with New Yorkers spending an average of 6.1 hours preparing food for their relatives.
Here are some tips to wow your family this holiday season without creating too much extra work for yourself:
1. Take simple steps to make decorations and dishes look fancy.
Spicing up your holiday decor and dishes doesn't have to involve a lot of work. For instance, lining plates with condiments such as lemon leaves and clusters of rosemary sprigs can be a way to make a dish look classy with minimal effort on your part. A little bit of color also goes a long way. Instead of slaving over traditional holiday dishes that can be difficult to prepare, capture your guests' eyes and stomachs with brightly colored foods such as vegetables and casseroles.
2. Mix up old traditions.
Throwing a twist into your traditional holiday recipes can reinvent classic dishes without creating additional tasks. Add bacon to a casserole, honey to glaze turkey, or crispy bacon to green beans to easily spice up the taste of old favorites. Similarly, spice up traditions that put undue pressure on you. If you're stressed out from hosting the family every year, ask if a sibling can take the reins this time.
3. Don't go overboard.
Know your limits. Instead of staying at a holiday party all night, plan to drop by for a few hours. Map out a budget for gift shopping this season and stick to it. And try not to put too much pressure on yourself for family gatherings to go perfectly.
4. Create schedules and lists.
The holidays are a season of excess, especially in terms of extra tasks and social gatherings. Divide and conquer everything on your to-do list with the help of family and friends. Creating a calendar will remind your loved ones of parties and gatherings, eliminating one thing you have to do each day.