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    TIPS TO REDUCE CHRISTMAS STRESS
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    Christmas...it is just around the corner. The lights are starting to get hung, Christmas trees are starting to show up and the office parties are being scheduled. Christmas is typically one of the most stressful times of the year. The pressure of last minute shopping, the expense of buying the "perfect" gift for all those special folks, and the heightened expectation of family togetherness can all combine to undermine our best intention.

    But, it really doesn't have to be that way at all. Take a deep breath, slow down and start to consider how to reduce the stress of the season. Doing so may actually help you enjoy the season to its fullest!

    Cha-Ching! Think Budget.

    Due to the pressure of the season and the expectations of gift giving, some of us may be subject to overspending, and therefore, be left with dealing with massive New Years credit card debt. This could take months to clear up, so think and plan ahead to avoid overtaxing yourself financially. Stress reduction strategies may include:

    • working out an expected budget, include everything so you are not surprised by any "hidden" costs. Consider food, alcohol, entertaining, presents, flowers, cards, postage, long-distant phone calls, etc.
    • figure out how much disposable income you have to allocate to Christmas. Try to start putting some of this away to cover your Christmas expenses.
    • if these numbers are not lining up with your expected expenses...sorry, you'll have to either pull back on some of your expense to lower your costs, or increase your allocated funds. Better to reduce your costs.

    Gifts and Giving.

    If your circle of family and friends is large and extensive, you may be looking at a huge expense. Or...it may be worth of doing something completely different. Talk to your friends and family and consider the following, they might be surprisingly relieved and supportive. Consider;

    • buying only for the children.
    • having a secret Santa gift exchange, were folks draw names and give (and also receive) only one gift.
    • set a limit on the cost per gift.

    Go Christmas Buying, NOT Christmas Shopping.

    Ok, Ok...some people do like Christmas shopping, but research suggests most of us do not (and that's not just the men speaking!).  Very few people plan their Christmas shopping and when they do get out their, it is frustrating, time consuming and likely you spend way too much money. Don't waste your time Christmas shopping, instead, do a little pre-planning and go Christmas buying.

    Reduce your stress level by doing some of the following;

    • honest, making a list will save you huge amounts of grief, time and money. Don't wander around the malls hoping for inspiration, instead, consider the interests of your family and friend to lead you to make appropriate and thoughtful gifts. Don't have a clue after doing this exercise????? Lastly, don't forget you can give gift cards and money too.
    • buy some small extras, like chocolates, just in case you do genuinely forget someone.
    • if possible, do your Christmas shopping as early as possible. Consider having a goal in mind as to when you'd like to be finished your shopping. If you've a goal to be done by say, Dec. 15, you'll have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the season. Those that procrastinate and do all their shopping in the final days before Christmas tend to get a little desperate and spend way more money.
    • lastly, if you are seriously pressed for time and/or are needing to send gifts by post, consider doing some shopping on the internet. Its fast, easy, convenient and you can have the gifts sent directly to its recipient.

    Preparing The Christmas Feast.

    Some people call it a pig-put, but regardless of what you refer to the meal as, preparing to feed a bunch of people can both be enjoyable and stressful. Reduce your stress by considering the following;

    • delegate tasks, please, don't think you have to do it all yourself.
    • think "less-is-more", meaning, keep things simple. Maybe go with a potluck or buffet style meal.
    • again, planning ahead can ease your stress. Make a list of the groceries and order any special items beforehand to avoid disappointments (for example, ordering your turkey).
    • consider doing your grocery shopping on-line. It'll be more expensive, but if you are pressed for time, on-line shopping and arranging delivery can be a big stress relief.

    Relationships.

    Isn't it ironic that during the Christmas season, there is a significant increase in stress, anxiety and depression. This is entirely normal for many people. Here are some things to consider during the festive season;

    • as much as this is a time of love and peace and goodwill, don't expect miracles. If you and a family member haven't been getting along over the year(s), you can be sure that this will not change over Christmas, in fact it might even be amplified.
    • avoid triggers. If religion, politics etc., are sensitive topics, just don't go there. Do your best to distract and deflect the conversation from these "hot topics". If this doesn't work, simply leave to room and take a "time-out".
    • during time-outs, and whenever else you need to, practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing to cope with tension and anxiety.
    • family activities after meals tend to help ease the tensions and are less likely to get into contentious arguments. Plan something for the family, go for a walk, play a board game, whatever...

    You Already Know This Stuff...

    It is always worth reminding folks and repeating;

    • do all things in moderation.
    • drink responsibly.
    • have a designated driver.
    • don't drink and drive.
    • no designated driver? Call a cab or find out if there is a 'designated driver' program in your city and use it.
    • get regular exercise.

    Lastly, I'd like to wish all readers a safe, healthy and fun Holiday Season.

    Warm Regards and Happy Holidays.