Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to Enjoy the Holidays Without Losing Your Cool (Latest Fieldstone Article)

     For many people, no matter what holidays are celebrated, the beginning of November signals the beginning of the end – Umm - I mean the end of another year. September is a whirlwind and October is gone before we know it. Then, it happens. November arrives. 

To many of us, the last months of the year are a blur. It doesn’t help matters that many retailers already have upbeat Christmas music playing before dust has had time to settle on our Thanksgiving décor. The sale signs, the Christmas décor, the wonderful new coffee flavors at Starbucks and the non-stop commercials advertising the newest gizmos and gadgets are enough to put us into holiday panic and the countdown begins.

The stressful thoughts send our brains into overdrive. “The airports and roads are going to be a mess!  I hope we don’t get stuck somewhere.  What if the house isn’t ready on time? What will my mother-in-law think? How many cookies can one person actually bake? I have to have the perfect presents for EVERYONE! Oh, how I hate holiday traffic. How many parties do we have to attend? We have got to get our Christmas cards in the mail today! I am so tired and I still haven’t wrapped all of the presents. Now, where is the note for Santa? Oh my goodness, I can’t wait until the holidays are over. Can I just hibernate until spring?”

The holidays do not need to be this stressful. With a little planning and taking time to rejuvenate, we can have a successful holiday season and focus on what matters most -  making lifelong memories with family and friends. We also want to take part in making memories, not missing them because we were running around as busy as a bee.

Remember to take time for yourself: This is the most important tip. If we are tired and run down, we are susceptible to illness. Read a book, listen to music or take a long bath. Make sure you get plenty of sleep. Make time for exercise. And, no matter how difficult it may be – eat healthy. All of these things will provide you the energy you need for all of the tasks ahead.

Give back: Use your time to help others instead of spending countless hours in traffic or at the mall. Volunteer to feed the homeless. Sing carols to children in the hospital or elderly in a nursing home. Donate money to a worthy cause. Pack gifts to send to troops or children overseas. Help instill giving in your children by allowing them to donate some of their good toys to those in need. Helping others will give you joy.

Shop smart: Begin in January by updating Christmas gift lists and setting money aside. By having money budgeted, you will not overspend. You will also be able to purchase items throughout the year making impulse buys less likely. Shop around for promotions and coupons and shop online.

Use your talents:  Make gifts for others instead of buying them. Some great gifts that fall into this category are photo albums from companies such as Shutterfly, homemade sugar scrubs, sewn items, hand-built furniture, art, and themed gifts. An online search for inexpensive DIY gifts will bring up a lot of ideas. Giving a coupon for your services throughout the year is also a great idea. One husband actually gave his wife a coupon good for one year’s worth of dish washing by him! What wife wouldn’t want that? 

Plan ahead:  Prepare and freeze some meals ahead of time for those days when everyone is tired of turkey or ham – lasagna is good for this. Cookie dough can also be made ahead of time and frozen (it will stay good for 4-6 weeks if double wrapped). Shortbreads, chocolate chip, peanut butter, and sugar cookies freeze best. Set up a gift wrapping station and wrap and label presents as you bring them home or they arrive via UPS, FedEx or Santa. Update your address list in January right after the holidays to save time next year. Decorate and clean as you go throughout the month. Your home doesn’t need to be immaculate – just warm and inviting. Clean the fireplace and purchase firewood. Add clean sheets to the beds along with soft throws. For a special touch, purchase matching PJs for your family and cozy slippers for your guests. If you are traveling, pack travel kits to keep your children entertained on the road or in the air.

Learn to say No: We know ourselves best. If we are normally prone to stress, the holidays will be no different. You cannot possibly attend all of the parties or participate in all of the cookie swaps. Choose to attend the events you know you will enjoy the most – the ones where special memories will be made.

Create your own traditions: Trying to keep up with all of the traditions this time of year will drive you crazy. Try to set a few traditions that you and your family really enjoy and will want to recreate each year. For our family, some of these traditions include visiting the pumpkin patch and apple orchard, decorating the tree together, reading the Christmas story on Christmas Eve, and attending our Christmas Eve service at church. This year, we hope to add a couple of new traditions with our one year old son. Also take time to remember those family members who have passed away. Remembering these family members will help alleviate the sadness that enters too many homes during the holidays. Add holiday magic by decorating with items that have special meaning such as a bowl of ornaments made by your children.


Whatever your plans for the holidays, the memories made during this time of year are ones to be treasured. Try to find ways to relax and enjoy this time of year. It will be here and gone before we know it. 
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