BEAT THE HOLIDAY STRESS! (PUBLISHED AT CAREPILOT.COM NOVEMBER 2013)
From watching a loved one open a thoughtful present to decorating every corner of my home, the holidays still awash me with a magical joy. While this elation does bring me back to my childhood, the merriment isn’t quite the same. And no, it is not because I discovered Santa’s secret. It is because the holidays are now clouded with a heavy stress.
Will I be able to buy everyone presents? Are my presents good enough? How can I find the time to throw this holiday party? Will my kids be disappointed? How come I can’t just stop after one cookie?
…and, unfortunately, the list goes on. Even for a deck-the-halls diehard like myself, the holiday stress can be suffocating. But not this year. I’ve devised a fool proof plan to keep our merriment high and our stress levels low this season!
1. Gift Giving. Contrary to what the department stores want us to believe, the emphasis does not have to be on buying the most lavish presents for your loved ones. Start with a budget, and then stick to it. Evaluate who you would like to exchange presents with and how much you are willing to spend. Have a conversation with these people early (I recommend at Thanksgiving), and ask them to please not go over x amount if they are going to reciprocate with a gift. I have found that lessening the number of people I exchange with, or just making a bunch of homemade simple gifts (like painted mason jars with a candle, or a homemade ornament) has really worked for me. Also, bowing out of gift swap parties and simply attending without playing the game can still be quite a lot of fun! Furthermore, you do not need to give overpriced lotion gift sets to everyone in your office or each person in your extended family. A simple card and maybe some chocolate will send the message that you appreciate their friendship just the same. As for the people in your immediate family, there is no reason to outdo yourself each year. Explain to your kids, siblings, parents, and significant others that this year you will be spending a set amount and that they should not expect a mountain of gifts. Ask for suggestions, not a list, and then use your heart to pick out a few presents that you think will really put a smile on their faces.
2. Gift Receiving. Setting pre-existing gift prices really alleviates the anxiety of receiving a gift so expensive that it embarrasses you. With your immediate family, let them know that this year they don’t have to buy you another expensive bathrobe and slipper set that you wont use. Maybe ask for gift cards for an upcoming trip, or suggest something that you would really like, such as a massage gift certificate or some new gardening tools. If you can’t think of anything you really need or want, then ask anyone who was planning on purchasing a present for you to donate to a cause you support. That is truly the gift that keeps on giving!
3. Hosting the Party. There is a little Martha Stewart in all of us, regardless if we are male or female, young or old. It feels rewarding to invite everyone you love into your home and impress them with mouth watering dishes and desserts. But never feel cornered into holding the party if you do not want to! There is no shame in asking someone else to take on the burden this year, or everyone pitching in and renting a function hall. If you would like to host the party, then start planning early! If you are on a budget, tell everyone invited what they can expect for food and ask them to please bring along an accompanying dish and the alcohol of their choice. Having a BYOB party drastically cuts costs and everyone is usually more than happy to oblige. Skip the sit down dinner to save on cash and have a few simple appetizer plates and some cold cuts out for guests to make their own sandwiches. Budget or no budget, prepare all of the food ahead of time so that you can enjoy your company instead of spending the party slaving away in the kitchen.
4. Intention. Acknowledge the stress of the holidays, and start each day with an intention. Decide each morning what your goals are and work to achieve them. Instead of giving yourself a never ending list of to-dos, keep it simple. Today I want to go shopping at this particular store, I want to have a healthy and nutritious meal instead of eating junk, and I want to read a few chapters in my new book. Keep your inner peace, make healthy choices and keep exercising and you will be able to combat the holiday stress with ease.
Remember, the magic of the holidays still resides in each one of us – don’t let it get buried by stress!