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Six Steps To Stress
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 is a consultant, speaker, and author
of five books. She may be contacted at 314-872-8787 or
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