Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Holidays and stress seem to go hand-in-hand, often leaving us exhausted, frustrated and depleted by the time friends and family rip the pretty wrapping paper from the gifts we've carefully selected for them.It needn't be this way.

Reclaim the joy and fun of the season — and reward yourself in the process — by taking a few steps to avoid becoming overwhelmed by shopping, planning and other activities that can make holidays less than jolly.

Your Holiday Mindset

First, keep things in perspective and remember the purpose of the holiday. Is it really about giving and receiving bigger and more expensive "stuff," or about spending time with friends or loved ones, observing religious traditions and soaking in the sights, sounds, scents and tastes of the season?

No matter what you and your family may have emphasized in the past, decide what's important to you now, how you envision a happy holiday, and consider how you can achieve it without going into debt and scrambling for weeks — and without punishing yourself (or anyone else) if reality doesn't perfectly match the dream.

Giving of Yourself

Few things can lift your spirits like remembering, and helping, those in physical, spiritual, medical or financial need.

Whether it's spending time with an older neighbor and helping with a few household tasks, volunteering at a holiday celebration at a children's hospital or senior center, helping visitors at a food pantry, or donating clothing to a community closet, setting aside even a couple of hours to show kindness to others can enhance your world as much as theirs.

Shopping Alternatives

While the little children in your world may not appreciate any intangible gift as a substitute for something they can hold in their hands, teens and adults may see things differently.

Rather than spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on physical things that may soon gather dust — and lugging yourself to multiple shopping centers, enduring frenzied Black Friday scrums or spending days comparing prices online — consider alternatives such as gift cards, experiences and an old-fashioned check or cash presented in a festive card.

Has someone been longing to see a certain play? Is there a film buff or hockey fan on your gift list? Movie passes and show or game tickets may be perfect choices. Perhaps you could offer a night or two of babysitting to new parents in the family.

Consider, also, gifts made with your own hands, whether you knit, sew, paint, carve, bake, make dolls or prepare your own preserves.

These are memorable gifts that don't require you to drive to a crowded mall or big-box store.

If you have a big family of grown-up siblings, perhaps the adults could agree that rather than trying to figure out what to buy for each other, you can apply those funds to a family weekend getaway or something else fun and meaningful.

Wish Lists

If store-bought gifts are a must, wish lists can make the giving and receiving easier for everyone. Of course, young children put crayons to paper to prepare their wish lists, but grown-ups can do the same on the internet.

Ask family and friends if they have holiday wish lists online, or conduct your own search to see if they keep an active list and surprise them with something they're likely to appreciate. You can make your own wish list too, but don't give friends or relatives the idea that you expect them to use it. Mention the list if they ask, but good manners require that you don't announce or send your wish list unprompted.

Pinterest is a great platform for expressing your interests, tastes and desires, and there's no shortage of personal wish lists there. Create a board, identify it as your wish list, or as your family wish list, and fill it with images of items from your mental Santa letter.

Online retailers such as Amazon and Target.com offer shoppers the option to build wish lists that relatives can use to make direct purchases for you, and giftster provides a website and app that allows families and friends to share wish lists.

If you make a list, be sure to include items that loved ones on a modest budget can afford.

Take, and Give, a Break

No matter what you or loved ones may expect of holiday celebrations, give yourself a break if you need it.

Even if you have 20 gifts to purchase and holiday travel to arrange, take time to stop and treat yourself to a long lunch or coffee with a friend, or to meditate, visit a spa or take in a yoga class or concert.

If you're hosting dinner and trying to do it all yourself, ask others to relieve some of the burden in some way. If you can, hire someone to help you clean the house and prepare for guests.

If you're overwhelmed, consider ordering all or part of the holiday meal rather than trying to make it all yourself. And if you're always the host, year after year, and simply don't want to do it this time, give yourself permission to bow out this year.

Remember to slow down and indulge in fun holiday pastimes, whether you enjoy the music, the baking, trimming the tree or other seasonal activities.

Focus on the real rewards of the season — sharing and spending time with others — and on the warm memories they'll create.