Holiday stress busters

Stop knocking yourself out by overdoing things and be practical

By Barbara Pierce

Most of us love the holidays and Christmas. But, as much as we love this season, we get way too stressed out.

We don’t have enough time to get ready, we’re overwhelmed thinking about what gift to get for whom, we’re running our credit card up to the limit, and we’re exhausted just looking at our to-do list that gets longer each day.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We are bringing it on ourselves. It’s up to us to decide what’s important and worth our time and energy. Could there be some things you can stop doing this holiday season and still celebrate, enjoy, and appreciate the season?

Here are some of the things you might consider eliminating, modifying, or cutting back on:

— Massive decorating. A few favorite decorations, or even none at all, are just fine. Do you really need a huge tree? Consider alternatives like a sweet little tree, a simple wreath on the door, strings of lights draped around the room, or your favorite ornaments here and there.

The appearance of an ornament is less important than its meaning or the memories associated with it.

The holidays should be about what’s in the heart, not what’s all over the house.

— Shopping ’til you drop. The bulk of time and money spent each Christmas revolves around gifts — choosing, buying, and wrapping presents. This year, consider the following:

• Do your shopping online instead. Shopping online is faster and often cheaper. “I do almost all of my shopping online,” Denise Passero of Amsterdam said.

With her full-time job as adjunct professor at Fulton-Montgomery Community College, being a distributor for Young Living Products, a wife and caregiver for her mother, she has no time to waste so appreciates the convenience of online shopping.

As families get larger, the costs of buying gifts can be a financial burden. To reduce costs and the time spent shopping, consider setting a dollar limit for individual gifts.

Making donations instead of buying gifts makes you feel good, and teaches your children the joy of helping those less fortunate. Consider making the holidays brighter for a family in the YWCA shelter through the YWCA’s Adopt-A-Family program.

“We collect wish lists from the families; they assign each family to a family in the community,” said Allison Flanagan, communications specialist. “Choose how many people you wish to adopt, then purchase up to four items for that person. Each item should be no more than $25.”

Emptying the savings

— Spending too much. Make a list ahead of time so you’re not tempted or guilted into overspending. While keeping your spending within limits can be difficult, it’s easier than coping with months of debt repayments next year to buy gifts that may end up being sold on eBay in January.

— Being the perfect hostess: Having friends and family over for a get-together celebration is a cornerstone of the holidays. But with plenty to do at this time of year, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

Make your holiday entertaining less stressful with these simple steps:

• Set the menu weeks in advance, spread your food preparation over several weeks, and freeze.

• Cut yourself some slack; use easy, limited ingredient recipes, like chili, and serve with nothing more than toppings.

• Opt for a drinks-and-appetizer party, with one good holiday punch

Even if you’re a great cook, everything doesn’t have to be made from scratch. Grocery stores and restaurants offer holiday specials where complete meals are available. Or ask others to pitch in, potluck style.

The theme of the holidays is selflessness — giving of oneself to others — but selfishness has a place at the table too. You have the right to enjoy your Christmas as much as any of your guests.

— Doing everything yourself: Delegate and let go of doing everything yourself. Ask others to pitch in to bring a favorite dish, help with shopping, decorate and clean.

— Review your expectations for this holiday season. Are they realistic? Consider what you really can and can’t do. Set your priorities; do you really have to do all you would like to do?

— Say no to activities that aren’t a priority for you.

— Pace yourself. It’s ideal to shop all year and not at the last minute. But if you’ve already missed that boat, try to finish shopping a couple of weeks before.

— Take care of yourself. Get at least seven hours of sleep every night, keep up your exercise routine or at least go for walks. Schedule time just for yourself.

— Focus on what really matters. Spend quality time together with friends and family. Caring and listening has much more value than a perfect gift or meal.

Regarding family concerns, see the “Between You and Me” column on Page 7 for suggestions on dealing with family at the holidays.

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