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Six Steps To Stress Less Holidays

Are you a, "make the holidays wonderful for everyone" person? I used to be. One year, after an all day, fight the crowds to buy just the right gifts bout at the mall, I was practically in tears. Working full time, trying to be a good mom, and fulfilling the required holiday rituals was overwhelming. Whose idea was this anyway? What was I doing to myself? I vowed to change my ways.

For a few weeks each year, we seem to live in a fantasy world, enhanced by department store displays, television specials and advertising. An outpouring of once-a-year love-thy-neighborness occurs. Frenetic baking, gluttonous eating, and stressing our wallets and patience buying loads of unnecessary and often useless gifts, is the norm. And, of course, we decorate, decorate, decorate!

This group psychosis and overdone merriment can stress you to the limit financially, physically, and emotionally. You can slow the pace and ease the strain on your wallet and psyche. Most stress is caused by feeling out of control. Get a grip! Itís your life. You have a choice. These are my tips for taking control and having stress less holidays. (If you want to go for sympathy, you can always appear frantic anyway.)

1. Take care of yourself first.

This isnít selfish. Value your time and energy. Avoid the superwoman/superman syndrome. Donít make unrealistic demands on yourself or allow anyone else to either. Do what you enjoy, delegate, and ask for help without feeling guilt. Despite what you may have been raised to believe, you are not responsible for other peopleís happiness.

2. Keep it simple.

There is no "right way." Just because it has always been done that way doesnít mean you canít try something different. When it doubt, simplify. Ask yourself, ďis it really necessary to do this?

Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side write the things that are most important to you and your family for the holidays. On the right side, list the things you do, or feel guilty about not doing, which have less meaning for you.

Review the important to dos and ask yourself, "is there an easier, faster or more stress free way to accomplish this?" Eliminate the right column, at least most of it.

Sending Cards

When I first married, my mother-in-law gave me a long list of people, half of whom I didnít know, who should receive holiday cards. Added to my own list, it was a staggering job. Now I send less than 24 cards to people I wonít see during the holidays, but want to contact. Why send cards to relatives or friends you will see anyway or people you donít know well? They just feel obligated to send one to you. Itís a vicious cycle. Someone has to end it. It wonít be Hallmark.

If you send cards to business acquaintances, hereís my special tip. I send Thanksgiving cards to my clients. Theyíre mailed by the second week of November, theyíre probably more appreciated because they donít arrive in the holiday deluge, and it reduces the time crunch for me.

Cookies

Those special family recipes are delicious and often resurface fond memories. But does the shopping and baking fit into your schedule? My personal two-step solution is; step one, I get the car keys, and step two, I go to the local bakery which will provide me with a wonderful mixed box of better-than -I- could- bake cookies. As one of my friends always says, "I bought them myself."

If youíre inclined to bake but time is short, try this. Pick your favorite recipe, bake a triple or quadruple batch, have four to six friends do the same, and share. Youíll have a home-baked variety, less cost, and time to enjoy a refreshing break with your friends.

To be prepared for extra company or the last minute cookies for school or work, keep slice-and-bake varieties in the fridge. Your hours of laboring in the kitchen on complex recipes is soon forgotten, if ever noticed. Donít obsess. No stress.

Decorations

If you have a closet full of must have pieces or you like to make the electric company smile, go to it. Remember, though, itís your home not a department store showroom.

I collect ornaments. The branches of my artificial tree, (I put it up Thanksgiving weekend), hold my childrenís creations, ornaments given to me by students, clients, and friends, and those I have collected in my travels. A wreath on the wall and assorted candles complete my simple decorations.

The tree is for me. Visitors enjoy it, too, but for me, the pleasure is in thinking about the person who gave me the ornament or the place of purchase as I hang each one on a branch. It is a time of quiet reflection.

3. Change your gift giving habits.

Are you giving gifts to every niece, nephew and cousin? If you have unlimited funds and love to shop, have fun. Otherwise, discuss gift giving patterns with relatives. They may feel over obligated, too. How about a lovely gift for the entire family rather than individuals? A basket of goodies (not necessarily made by you) with bakery items, cheese, jams, pasta, or candy and a few inexpensive toys would do nicely.

Make your own gifts.

A friend was having a difficult year financially. Here is her solution to gift giving. She collected pretty bottles and followed a simple recipe to make gourmet herb vinegars. Youíve seen them in specialty stores ranging from $8 to $20 a bottle. Hers were beautiful. Total cost for 10 gifts was only $12 including tops, wrapping, and bows. Her time investment was two hours.

Another friend has terrific recipes for caramel and cheese corn. She buys a variety of interesting containers, pottery, glass and tins, fills them, puts a bow on top and her gifts are complete. And, yummy!

Shop from home.

Mail order catalogues and the internet provide easy gift shopping. Avoid the malls and you avoid the temptation to spend money on those cute thing-a-ma-jigs in the center aisles. Remember the ones from last year?

For most people books are a wonderful gift. There are a few that are great for everyone. I buy these in quantity, store them in a closet, and wrap them as needed.

4. Do something special for someone.

This may seem like extra work, but the rewards are great. Instead of giving gifts at your office, make food baskets for the poor or buy toys for children in need. Give a party with treats and toys for underprivileged children. Adopt a family and help make their holidays brighter with clothes, food, and small gifts.

One of my friends spends Christmas day working in a soup kitchen feeding the homeless. His children are grown and he lives alone. Instead of staying home, feeling lonely and depressed he has a wonderful day.

Offer to take an elderly person for a drive to see the light displays. Help someone with their shopping or gift wrapping. This is a season for giving and sharing, not frenzied activity. Love and time shared with someone who needs them increases your self esteem and reduces your stress.

5. Donít expect to do everything perfectly.

Itís OK to do something poorly. I know this is not what your parents or teachers said, but itís true. Iím the worst gift wrapper you can imagine. I could pay big bucks to get it done, but usually I just do my best. There are no complaints. Beautiful wrappings are wonderful, but itís whatís inside that counts. Thatís true of gifts and people.

6. Keep things in perspective.

The holiday season celebrates, Christmas, Hanukkah, and the winter solstice. Whatever your personal beliefs, all three represent renewal, hope and light.

This is a time for reflection and new beginnings. Concentrate on what is important to you to make this a time of renewal and joy for yourself, your family and friends. Let the rest go. Happy Holidays!


©Linda Nash
Linda Nash is a consultant, speaker, and author of five books. She may be contacted at 314-872-8787 or Linda@lindanash.com

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Linda Nash
1010 Thoreau Court, Suite 310
St. Louis, MO  63146
Ph: 314.872.8787  |  800.701.9782
linda@lindanash.com | www.LindaNash.com 

Copyright 2000 by Linda Nash. All rights reserved. You may not reproduce this material without explicit prior written permission.