It’s that time of year: hustle and bustle and holly and jolly. I bet you’re making a list and checking it twice, thinking of the loved ones on that list.

Include one more person on your gift list this year: yourself.

Although the gifts for ourselves aren’t the kind that requires shopping, you’ll thank yourself later if you take time to do a few things now.

Pick a few things from this list. Ranging from practical to pampering, they might not all seem like “presents” on the surface, but sometimes the best gifts don’t come tied up in ribbons.

Pre-Address Thank You Cards

You probably have a list of the usual holiday suspects who give you and your family gifts. Address those cards of gratitude now so that all you have to do later is write a heartfelt note and pop it in the mail.

Freeze Some Extra Meals

Double or triple some of your normal dinners a few nights a week and bake some double batches of cookies for the freezer. It’s not much extra effort and you'll give yourself the gift of time off in the kitchen during the holidays.

A few resources for freezer cooking:

Start Wrapping

Do you already have some gifts? Start wrapping when you have a quiet evening.

Avoiding the Christmas Eve last-minute rush or frantic tape/bow/paper hunting means you’ll be tucked in your bed before midnight this year.

Stick to a Realistic Budget

I know this one is hard, but it might be the best gift you give yourself this holiday season.

There are a lot of things I regret spending money on. There are very few times I wish I had spent money but didn’t.

Keep Decor Simple

My birthday is a few days before Christmas and this time of year I like going over the top. I love to have a themed tree in every room and every area lit up with lights and baubles (yes, I’m one of those people).

It’s fun and festive if you’re into it.

But some years December feels like the finish line of a difficult year and I can only do the essentials. We put up a simple tree, hang the kids’ stockings, and that's that.

You know what? It’s still fun and festive because we set the tone for our holidays with our attitude.

‌Go Disposable

Paper plates and paper towels aren’t common in my kitchen, but they appear every December and I welcome them with open arms (especially this year, as we are currently without a dishwasher).

Would I want my kitchen to run like this every day? No — but I give myself some grace to help me to stay in a calm mood during the holidays.

Plan a Popcorn + Movie Night

We aren’t normally a big TV viewing family. We don’t have cable and we are pretty screen-free. However, at least once a week during the holidays we get our couch potato on and watch a favorite holiday movie or television special.

If screen-time isn’t your family’s thing, curl up together with a great holiday read-aloud. The gift here is time at home with your family with no rush, no major preparation, no pressure.

Skip to the Good Part

Take shortcuts. I’m giving you permission.

This year I spent November baking cookies and freezing them for December. Do you know what I did last year? I purchased cookies. Yes, I did.  Mrs. Bakes-Her-Own-Bread used pre-made cookies. We got right to the icing and the sprinkles and skipped over the flour-covered kitchen portion of the holiday.

I promise you won’t be on the Naughty List if you cut corners in areas that stress you out.

Give Yourself a Time Out Every Day in December

A cup of peppermint tea and a good book has become a daily December tradition for me. I love this tea and I’m planning to settle in with Tolkien’s Letters From Father Christmas this year.

This kind of ritual is great for kids, too. My thirteen-year-old has been re-reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for about five years.

A “time out” every day with something warm to sip and familiar words to read is a lovely gift.