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Managing Holiday Stress

It's that time of year again. Shopping malls and parking lots everywhere are filled to capacity with hurried shoppers and oversized SUVs, and you're expected to brave the crowds just to ensure your wallet feels the holiday pinch? With the turkey in the refrigerator back home, the cookies yet to be baked, and your hyper-critical mother-in-law on her way, you have neither the time nor the energy to do it all by yourself. Here are some easy strategies to help you get organized and actually enjoy your holiday season.

Scale back a little

  • On the back of your to-do list, have a don't-do list. If you had to spend a lot of time rallying up your kids to hand-make cards for their aunts and uncles last year, skip it this year and consider doing something less time-consuming. Hang lights from the trim of your house, or string them on the bushes in front - you don't have to do both. Cutting back on a few of your to-do's will give you more time for the more important things, like spending time with your family.

  • When family members ask what they can do to help, take them up on their offers. If you have to spend some time wrapping gifts, ask them if they'd rather stuff the turkey or polish the silver. Bored children on Winter break also make great helpers. When they're wandering around with nothing to do, ask them to help you with a few chores, such as setting the dinner table or vacuuming the family room. When they're done, let them in on something a little more fun, like frosting cookies.

Manage your money

  • Parties are a given during the holiday season. To save money when you're doing the entertaining, party pot-luck style. Assign each of your guests a specific type of dish or drink to bring along with their holiday cheer.

  • So you've decided to scale back on the pricey presents you always seem to end up buying for those closest to you, and you're worried it might not go over so well with the kids. Round up the whole family and volunteer at a soup kitchen or the children's wing at your local hospital. Seeing how hard life can be for others, especially during the holidays, will give your family the gift of perspective and will also teach them the importance of helping others.

  • Don't spend an exorbitant amount of money on gifts for your neighbors, your hair stylist, your child's teachers or your co-workers. Dress up inexpensive gifts by wrapping them in your children's artwork. Go to your local dollar store and find small baskets, boxes or other containers to line with shredded brown paper and fill with fruits like apples, pears and figs, and a maybe a few pieces of gourmet chocolate.

  • As for your closest friends and relatives, consider giving more personal gifts this year. Have an old piece of your grandmother's jewelry refurbished for your daughter, or have your grandfather's old arm chair reupholstered for your husband. Give your best friend a hand-made certificate that entitles her to a chore or a favor done by you, such as a car wash or a night of babysitting so she and her husband can enjoy some time alone. Have your kids write letters or draw pictures that reflect how they feel for their aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers. These special gifts are more valuable than a good find at the mall.

Save your energy

  • One of the fastest growing trends during the holiday season is shopping online. You'll save time that would otherwise be spent sitting in traffic, looking for a parking spot, and standing in lines. All you need is Internet access and a credit card. Save even more time and energy by doing lots of your online shopping on one Web site. You can find great gifts for all your family and friends on sites like Amazon.com and Buy.com. What's even more convenient is having your gifts sent to the place everyone is celebrating.

  • When you're in the grocery store for the fifth time in a week stocking up on edible holiday goods, go for the pre-prepared cookie dough, the ready-made cranberry sauce and the pre-washed vegetables. This will help you cut corners and save lots of time in the kitchen.

Stay calm

  • While you'd love to attend every holiday party you're invited to, sometimes it's just not practical to stay at all of them the entire time. It's fine to set a time limit for yourself by setting the alarm on your cell phone - say an hour or two - but don't spend the whole time glancing down at your watch. Tell the host you need to be on your way by saying something like, "Thank you for a lovely time, but I'm expected at another event."

  • Keep relatives staying with you from feeling restless by preparing a list ahead of time of things to do. Suggest a trip to the movies with the kids, a play, or a scenic drive around town, depending on the weather.

  • Avoid family dysfunction to the best of your ability. Be prepared to deal with relatives you don't particularly get along with, and consider your reactions ahead of time. If your mother-in-law criticizes your cooking, suggest that everyone chip in and hire a caterer next year. If your nephew seems less than thrilled about his gift from you, suggest he e-mail you a list of his favorite stores and opt for a gift card next time. You may be irritated on the inside, but you'll exemplify maturity and composure. Enjoy the holiday now and discuss your feelings later with someone you trust, like your husband or your best friend.

 


 

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