The holiday season is supposed to be the happiest time of year, but for many of us, it's a stressful money pit. But it doesn't have to be that way. Don't be a grinch - make the most of the holidays by following these tips.
1. Let Go of What You Can't Control
When dealing with friends, relatives and co-workers at holiday events, remember you can't control what other people do and say. You can offer gentle reminders or suggestions, and control your response to what they say and do.
2. Be a Good Guest
When you're invited to a Christmas party or dinner, don't assume being a good guest means you can sit and watch TV while the host slaves over a hot stove. Offer to help out by setting the table or doing other small tasks. Be fashionably late, (about 15 minutes or so) to give the host time to get everything ready. Always contribute to the festivities' food and drink by bringing a bottle of wine, pie, candy or appetizers. Even if you've called the host in advance, and she didn't take you up on the offer, bring a little something. It's a nice way of saying “Thanks for inviting me.” And turn your phone off while you're at the dinner table.
3. Employed in a Seasonal Job? Keep Your Cool.
What if you're behind the counter or phone line during the holidays? Acknowledge that they're frustrated; ask why and express a desire to help them find a solution. Email and social media complaints should be acknowledged immediately, even if they can't be solved right away. Don't wait until you have an answer to reply –customers will think you're ignoring them. If you can't solve the problem, contact a co-worker or supervisor who can.
4. Acknowledge Feelings of Grief and Loss
Although we're supposed to feel jolly and engaged during the holidays, this time of year can compound stress and sadness for people who've lost a loved one, have financial difficulties, or already suffer from anxiety or depression.
Be honest about your feelings with close friends or relatives. If your grief is overwhelming and prevents you from participating in any holiday activities.
5. Practice Gratitude and Compassion
Being thankful isn't only for Thanksgiving. When you aren't looking forward to meeting with the family for holidays, remember some people don't have a family to dread. We get so involved in thinking about what we want or what the media tells us we should want, we forget about the good things in our lives. Write a gratitude journal to keep in the spirit of the season. The holiday season should make us appreciate what we have, but the commercial aspect often makes us feel bad about the material things we lack.
Take the focus off your problems by helping others. Volunteer at a soup kitchen give toys to charity or host a party for or mentor underprivileged kids. Helping others is the spirit of the season, even if you can only send a few dollars to your favorite charity.
6. Maintain Peace at Holiday Gatherings
Do you have a problem with one of your relatives, but can't leave him or her off the guest list? Talk it out before the holiday dinner either in person or over the phone. (Email will do if you have no other choice.) Agree to be civil just for the sake of other family members for one day. Steer dinner table conversations to neutral subjects, and tell guests to save political debates for later, when everyone's broken off into their own social circles.
Think before you speak. If it's hard to self-edit or if you're feeling really mad, excuse yourself to check on the pie or go to the bathroom. When you come back there'll be a good chance the other person has forgotten about the disagreement.
Try not to drink alcohol. If you're the host keep your wits about you and serve non-alcohol or low alcohol beverages. This reduces the chance of drunken fights. Nothing spoils the party like a belligerent drunk uncle or tipsy college kids. Wine spritzers and mimosas are good, low alcohol mixed drinks, and there are many brands of non-alcoholic beer.
Everything doesn't need to be perfect. Sometime it's the surprise that makes things better at the last minute. The replacement desert your sister helps you whip up may turn out to be better than the pecan pie you'd planned to serve, so go with flow. Holidays are a chance to recover from work and routine; make room for spontaneity at your party or dinner.
7. Take Care of Yourself
No matter how busy you are, find time to take care of your health. Meditate, stretch or take a walk around the block (in warm clothing, of course). Take a break from shopping to get a manicure or sing karaoke with friends. It will energize you and lift your spirits. A fun break will revitalize you – you won't resent the holidays like many people do because they're overwhelmed.
8.Take the Stress out of Christmas Shopping
If standing in line for hours and fighting for parking spaces is too stressful for you, do as much of your shopping online as possible. Look for sales from your favorite companies by subscribing to their email newsletter or following their social media pages. To keep your credit card and bank account safe when shopping online, look for Norton, ThawtE or other security symbols on websites. Use Paypal or prepaid Visa or American Express gift cards to pay if you don't want to potentially compromise any of your credit card information online.
When you're in a hurry, standing in line at the register seems to last forever, remember cashiers, salespeople, gift wrappers and store managers are under more pressure than shoppers. When you need to complain about a mistake, do so firmly without calling people names or yelling. You'll get better results being assertive instead of aggressive.
Shop early in the December to get the best selection. Buy presents for difficult to buy for people on your list first - stocking stuffers can come later. Plan your shopping trips to save time, money and gas.
Too busy to gift wrap or uncoordinated when it comes to paper and scissors? Most stores offer free gift wrapping, and you can always add your own tags, stickers, or bows later. If you prefer to wrap your own presents, here are some Christmas gift wrapping tips and tricks.
Do stores in your area offer an assembly service for bicycles, toys or furniture? If you're all thumbs or don't have time to assemble presents, this service will cost you a few bucks but help you avoid stress.
Short on funds? Set a total gift budget and pay with cash or debit card to prevent overspending. Find inexpensive ways to celebrate the holidays.
Throw a buffet-style party and serve appetizers. Invite guests to bring their own holiday specialties. People will be glad to share, and you'll be able to host a party without going over budget.
9. Aim for Experiences, Not Presents
In addition to, or instead of, material presents, take your family to dinner at a special restaurant or to a Christmas musical. You'll bond and have wonderful memories to share. Christmas isn't about buying the most expensive present it's about nurturing friendship and family. A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania showed people felt more connected to people who gave them experiential gifts, like tickets to a baseball game, than to people who gave them material items.
Use your skills to craft homemade gifts, like a wooden wine rack or rhinestone headband. Friends and family members will appreciate the time and effort you put into making the keepsake for them
When you do buy presents for friends and family, consider purchasing from local artists or buying handmade or vintage gifts from Etsy or eBay. Personalized items show that you put some thought into the gift and value your friendship.
10. Just Say No
Learn to say no to illogical or demanding requests. This may be hard to do if you're a people pleaser. Most people will understand if you tell them you don't have time for something else on your schedule - they have probably dealt with a similar situation during the holidays.
Saying no to certain invitations or requests may be tough, but agreeing to attend an event and then not showing up will cause more ill feeling than saying no in the first place. If you're conflicted about doing something, say “Maybe. I can't commit to it right now.”
11. Minimize Stress by Finding a Holiday Partner in Crime
Don't feel you need to do everything yourself. Invite friends over to address cards or wrap gifts or decorate or bake Put on Christmas music and turn the event into a social occasion. Many people who think they hate the holidays soon change their opinion they stop doing everything themselves and enlist help from friends or relatives.
Order some of the dishes from local deli or restaurant. You don't need to cook everything yourself. Or plan holiday dinner at a restaurant ( arrange payment in advance).
Invite family to your home for dessert and coffee instead if having a traditional, sit-down dinner is too time-consuming or awkward.
Maintain your health and weight by snacking on fruits, seeds or nuts instead of sweets between meals. Pleasantly decline treats when you're offered. Sure, you can eat a few peppermints or chocolate once in awhile, but don't let the calories and tooth-damaging sugar become part of your holiday routine.
If some friends or members of your family can't come to gathering don't be disappointed have them join in via Skype or Face Time to celebrate the holiday. Social media technology opened up options for holiday get-togethers. Even if you can't get in a plane and travel cross-country, you can still see your relatives and watch them open presents you've mailed.
To save time on mailing packages, use FedEx or other services instead of going to the post office. Of course, these services cost a lot more than the USPS. If you can't order a present through Amazon or another online store and you must send it yourself, follow the rules on the USPS website. Take your time wrapping packages correctly at home, and print out and fill out forms before going the post office.
Take time to enjoy the holiday. Forget about responsibilities of cooking, shopping and party-planning and enjoy the decorations or watch Christmas specials on TV. Get into the spirit of the season and take a break from shopping, cooking and baking.
There's a lot of holiday overkill out there, which detracts from the enjoyment of the season. If you're burnt out on Christmas music avoid places that play it or listen to music on your Smartphone while shopping. Avoid toxic people who make a big deal about the “right way” to celebrate the holidays or just tune them out (it's hard but it can be done).
12. Let Your Host Know if Any Members of Your Party Have Health Problems
Let family members know if older relatives have developed dementia or Alzheimer's, or if any members of your group have allergies or health concerns. It's best to mention this at the beginning of the party to avoid misunderstandings and potentially embarrassing or harmful situations.
If you're on a diet, it's OK to politely decline dessert, or ask for fresh fruit or sorbet instead. (You can bring some to share with other guests.) Recovering alcoholics don't need to skip the champagne (or wine) toast – just drink sparkling cider instead.
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