Christmas should be a joyous, magical time full of loving moments spent with friends and family. Sadly, many people find the holidays a source of additional stress in an already hectic life. Do you dread the holidays? Are you eager for Christmas to be over so you can have a rest? It is hard to make time in our already-crowded schedules for baking, shopping, wrapping, decorating, concerts and entertaining. As the “chief elves” responsible for most of our family's Christmas, women often end up frazzled and exhausted. Here are some tips to help you cope:
1. Begin by modifying your expectations -- decide what can be reasonably accomplished and let some of the “have to's” go.
2. Make a list of the jobs to be done, and start delegating. Things may not be done exactly as you like them, but you can adjust. Refuse to be a perfectionist.
3. Begin early. Being organized is one of the best Christmas gifts you can give yourself.
4. Why not get the kids to write your Christmas letter this year?
5. Bake easy-to-freeze treats, or better yet, participate in a baking exchange, support a local bake sale or hire a friend who is short of cash to bake for you.
6. Keep a small hardcover book with your gift list at all times. List two or three possibilities for each person's gift. Keep the last few years' lists in the same book so you don't give the same present twice.
7. Rather than trudging from store to store, use your phone to shop. Looking for a particular item? Let family and friends know what you are looking for so they can call you if they see it; perhaps they can pick it up for you.
8. If you can't avoid shopping in December, go earlier in the day as well as earlier in the week.
9. Give magazine subscriptions - you don't even have to leave the house to order them!
10. Give family gifts rather than individual ones to friends and relatives. You'll save time, wrapping, and money.
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11. If you do have to shop in December, visit one of the excellent craft fairs or specialty stores nearby. Try theme shopping this year - do most of your shopping in one place. Can you give several people books from your favorite bookshop, specialty chocolates or handmade candles? Antique malls, museums, plant nurseries, hardware and office supply stores often have marvelous gifts.
12. Make a wrapping station by putting all the things you'll need in a tub or box and store it under a table or in a closet. Buy extra tape.
13. Gift bags and tissue make wrapping easier, and the bags can often be recycled for several years.
14. Save some of your annual vacation so you can take time off work during December to spend with your children when school is out. Or use some in November to get organized before the rush.
15. Try hard not to get too busy with social commitments that do not involve your family. You can always visit with your co-workers and friends in the long winter months ahead. This time with your family cannot be recaptured later on.
16. Trade babysitting with a friend for half a day once a week. You can get a lot done in three or four hours with no children along. Plan some easy Christmas craft projects when it's your turn to baby-sit. The children will enjoy having handmade gifts to give their family. Wrap them up together in brown-paper lunch bags you've decorated together.
17. Have a weekly family night to make cards, gift tags, ornaments, or make goodies.
18. Exercise helps minimize stress. Plan some activities like skating, tobogganing, or outdoor walks to collect evergreens for wreaths. Your children will enjoy the time with you, and will be better behaved after they've used up some of that energy.
19. Get your car serviced in now so that you don't have to worry when traveling winter roads over the holidays.
20. Have potluck dinners when entertaining. Your guests will be glad to bring their best company dish.
You will enjoy the holidays more if you make a conscious decision to do less and enjoy it more! Put your energy into creating a more satisfying Christmas that focuses on people rather than on gifts. Hug people and write letters telling friends and family what you love about them. Watch some of those wonderful classic Christmas movies together. Laugh often. Spend your time with family and friends and set aside some time to help a cause or a friend who really needs your support. And remember, all we ultimately own are memories--spend your time giving your time and attention, for these “gifts from the heart” are truly treasured forever.
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Virginia Brucker is the author of Gifts from the Heart: 450 Simple Ways to Make Your Family's Christmas More Meaningful. Book sales of this “miracle disguised as a book” have raised over $75,000 for cancer research and an additional $120,000 for the schools, daycares, churches, and service organizations who have used the book as a fundraiser. For more information, call Virginia at 250-468-9888, by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website. © 2003, Virginia Brucker