Keep your good cheer this season
Many women approach the holidays with a mixture of anticipation and dread. The seasonal accoutrements that bring us so much joy - visiting with friends and family, festive parties, gift giving and receiving - can also lead us to feel exhausted, broke and emotionally drained.
This year, why not strive to do it differently? While the Thanksgiving to New Year's season has some inevitable stressers, you can take steps to make sure that your merrymaking enhances your life and brings you good tidings and good cheer.
1. Plan ahead - If the last-minute shopping frenzy drives you nuts, make out your list of gift recipients by November 1. Look through catalogs for gift ideas, and jot down possibilities for each person on your list. Then begin buying a few presents each week - hitting the malls at off-hours if possible - until mid-December. You'll not only avoid the crowds, but you won't end up making do with a less than perfect gift.
2. Pace yourself - Resist the temptation to accept every invitation that comes your way this holiday season and you'll have enough energy to truly enjoy the festivities you care most about.
3. Take time off - The productivity of most employees dwindles as the holidays approach, and many companies wind down the last two weeks of the year. Take advantage of your employer's holiday spirit by taking a bit of vacation time to take care of all those last-minute holiday chores.
4. Delegate - Remember that you don't need to prove anything to anyone. The holiday season is the time to ask for help. If you are hosting a holiday dinner, ask your relatives to each bring one of the courses, or assign your sister the chore of ironing and starching the tablecloth. Enlist your kids' help in decorating the house, and get Uncle Ernie to uncork the wine. Not only will you benefit, but your gathering will have a greater sense of community spirit - which is what the holidays are all about.
5. Give yourself a gift - You deserve it! Whether it's a pedicure or a massage, or just staying home and reading a trashy novel while everyone around you has a case of holiday madness, give yourself the gift of a bit of leisure and pampering.
6. Do things together - Turn even the most mundane holiday chores into an opportunity to share quality time. Make a day of shopping with a girlfriend, invite your mom over to help you bake cookies, or get a good-natured buddy to keep you company while you clean house. The season can add a sparkle to your friendship, as well as to your kitchen floor.
7. Avoid money woes - Draw up a gift and entertainment budget for the holiday season and stick with it. You won't be faced with those mega-bills come January, and besides - it's the thought that counts, right?
8. Travel smartly - There isn't an off-peak time during the holiday season, but if you'll be going elsewhere to celebrate, there are ways to make your trip less of a hassle. If travelling by air, make sure to have a carry-on of toiletries and a change of clothes, snacks and water, just in case delays or bad weather strands you. If you're hitting the road, give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination, taking frequent breaks and being extra vigilant for inattentive drivers.
9. Party responsibly - Even though the holiday season is a time for indulging yourself, be smart when it comes to partying. Avoid exhaustion by politely excusing yourself at a reasonable hour, don't overindulge in alcohol, and try not to schedule any early-morning appointments after a late-night party. And, of course, always use a designated driver when you're going to drink.
10. Set limits with family - Any family gathering can generate tension, but holiday clan festivities can push more buttons than usual, since everyone is bringing their own set of expectations to the table. Be aware of your family dynamics, and set good boundaries about what you will and will not tolerate. If your family tends to be volcanic, you might choose to skip the main event, and just stop by for coffee. If you need to avoid your family altogether, give yourself permission to bow out this year.
11. Agree not to exchange gifts - If the last thing you need is another tchotchke, and some of the people on your list have more "things" than they'll ever use, talk to them early about not exchanging gifts this year. Instead, why not give a contribution in that person's name to the charity of their choice? If money is tight, agree to spend an evening together in lieu of a gift. Who knows, they may be as relieved as you are!
12. Stay healthy - Being in close quarters with other people - at parties and while travelling, makes it that much easier to get the latest bug going around. Help your body survive the season by - if your health status so indicates - getting a flu shot in October or November. Try to get as much rest as you can, and to balance out party food fare, eat plenty of fruits, veggies and grains when you're at home.
13. Be prepared - Buy a couple of all-purpose presents, just in case someone springs a surprise gift on you or you find yourself without a hostess gift. Choose things that you would use, in the event that they won't be needed for the holidays.
14. Fulfill your fantasy - Think about your warmest holiday childhood memory, and do it again as an adult. Go to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, or on a hayride, or caroling. Indulge your inner child this holiday season.
15. Don't go postal - If you do your shopping early, go ahead and start shipping your gifts off to loved ones around the globe. Overseas ground mail should be at the post office by the first part of November, but airmail can be sent to most countries as late as December 9 in time for Christmas delivery. Plan on adding a day or two to domestic shipments as well to ensure their holiday arrival.
16. Do something nice for someone else - The season is a time for giving, so take the time to volunteer at a food bank, choose a name from your mall's giving tree and buy a needy child a gift, or decide to forgive a friend's past transgression. You'll feel as good - or better - about your act as the recipient of your kindness.
17. Escape - If you're just not into the holidays, plan a getaway vacation. Send postcards in lieu of holiday cards, letting everyone know what a great time you're having.
18. Don't drop when you shop - Take advantage of the no-hassle alternatives to running with the mall rats. Try catalog shopping or buy gifts on the Internet. Even though there are shipping costs involved, it can be more than worth the time and hassle of going to the stores. Plus, you can shop with your feet curled up, wearing your pajamas and drinking a cup of hot cocoa. Ahhhhh!
If you take steps now to take care of yourself this holiday season, chance are you'll be able to chase the humbugs away, and have a joyful and spirited time in the process. Enjoy!