Tangled traditions, plus helter-skelter consumerism, create a holiday season heavy with expectation.

But you can extract the qualities you treasure, and the experiences you want, and walk away from the rest Ė guilt free.

How Did It Get This Way?

We think a consumerist holiday is a modern invention. But thatís wrong. It began during the Industrial Revolution when items got cheaper. Ordinary people Ė who had been giving food as holiday treats Ė could suddenly give gifts instead.  Stores saw this opportunity, and began creating highly-decorated displays stuffed with goodies. The age of the big-spend holiday was born.

The Many Strands of Your Holiday

To lighten your load, look at the strands of holiday expectations. These include gift giving, food, family gathering, community gathering, lights, and singing. If you emphasize each aspect, youíll have a very full calendar: overwhelming, expensive, and planned months in advance. But if you extract only the pieces that your family enjoys, it narrows the field and personalizes your holiday experience, giving you time for replenishment, nourishment, and self care.

Gift Giving

If you buy last-minute items youíre not sure people will enjoy, look at that habit as one you can change now. People donít need another thing. They prefer an experience, one they can share with you, or another friend. Nothingís more relaxing than getting a massage. Or more companionable than sitting together while you receive a pedicure. Everyone enjoys a facial Ė from a teenager to a stressed-out executive. College students need haircuts Ė and theyíre happy if someone else foots the bill. High School girls and new mothers both feel uplifted with highlights. And a cut and color gives everyone the boost they need to beat the winter blahs.

Spa gift certificates can be bought months in advance, allowing you to plan your spending. Combined with a simple home-made card or gift, they will be appreciated and used.

Food and Warmth

Itís important to decide in advance how you want to interact with food over the holiday period. If youíve been maintaining a balanced diet, going into the holidays can be stressful. Your local gym will be pushing new fitness classes on January 1 to help people with their New Yearís resolutions. Think about a gym membership as a holiday gift. If youíre already a member, now is the time to sign up for those classes, and take advantage of the heat in the sauna and steam room.

Sometimes we unconsciously eat to keep warm. Beat the urge to fill up on high-fat foods by booking a hot stone massage, a hot oil treatment for central-heating hair, or a hot-towel facial.

Family and Community Gathering

Family commitments and parties can quickly pull your schedule off balance. Be mindful of going out too much. The holiday will feel rushed and difficult with more than two events per week. Choose one special event for the children, and focus on that, such as going to see the lights or watching a stage show. Donít try to do it all. Tell family about your limits on the treats your children will receive. Children who canít absorb it all and get cranky, and appear ungrateful.

Book Time For You

Itís important that you get to the big day with a smile on your face. Spas fill up over the holidays, so book your appointment for hair and nails before Thanksgiving. And give yourself the gift of a stress-relieving massage before you travel or your schedule becomes busy. The holidays arenít created to help you feel less stress. So itís important to include only the factors that create good memories for you, your spouse, and children. If you pamper yourself with adequate down-time, healthy food, winter walks and time at the spa, youíll arrive in January feeling calm and rejuvenated.

2 Responses...

Anonymous says:
December 13, 2012 at 6:38 AM
Anonymous says:
December 13, 2012 at 7:19 PM
Excellent advice!
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