Gift wrap and holiday sales, parking lots and tree lots, traveling and spending: it can all be too much. Many consumers are reporting the holidays are less and less enjoyable and more and more stressful these days. We have to wonder -- is it self-imposed? Why are people pushing themselves so hard to achieve the "perfect" holiday? And how is it they continue to miss that perfection no matter how hard they try -- no mater how much they spend? Perhaps it's that they have forgotten Christmas doesn't come in a box. Perhaps they've lost track of the true spirit of the holidays. Perhaps they are trying to purchase a spirit that was never for sale to begin with. It has always just been there for the asking.
Christmas isn't about setting a perfect table or outdoing the neighbors and the in-laws, Christmas should be about family, friends, hearth, and home. And it's not what we give or what we receive that makes Christmas special; it's how we connect with and appreciate our homes and our loved ones. Yes. Easier said than done. So, how do we step back from the hustle and bustle? Here are a few tips to make your holiday more relaxed and enjoyable:
We add so much weight to our lives -- Christmas is no exception -- overextending ourselves, trying be all things to all people. Maybe it's time to forget getting a separate meaningful gift for every member of the PTA. The advent of the gift card is a wonderful opportunity for simplification. If you are a purist and can't bear to give an electronic gift card, giving everyone in a group the same tasteful knickknack or charm may be the way to go. For the holiday table, don't feel the need to be super-host or -hostess. Instant mashed potato mixes have come a long way in recent years and most supermarkets now have full bakeries to supply traditional pies. Make no apologies. Just embrace the spirit of Christmas and your guests will taste the love -- even in a pre-baked ham.
Take time out:
Remember to smell the pine needles. The most important step to relaxation is forcing ourselves stop and do it. Forget about addressing all those cards for a while, put on a Christmas album, light a candle, turn on the tree lights and enjoy. A fantastic way to get into the holiday spirit is to take a few minutes to quietly meditate on what Christmas means -- why we give and receive, the tradition, the fun. Fill your mind with happy memories and honest warm wishes and the Christmas spirit will shine from you all season long.
Pass on the traditions that you love. Giving a gift is one thing -- it may last a year or two, or even a lifetime -- but a tradition will live on for generations to come. Switch your focus from the material to the enduring simple pleasures. Your children will not soon forget the lesson. Tell stories about happy holidays past. Sing songs with your children. Include them in your holiday crafts. Remind yourself and others of the traditions you embraced, even if you can't recreate them every year. Make the holiday about the past and the future.
Don't sweat it:
Finally, as they say, "Don't sweat the small stuff." Do what you enjoy and do it all with gusto. But at the end of the day, make sure the details never become more important than the spirit of the holiday itself. Don't forget, no kid ever grew up wanting the perfect parent, just a loving one. Make love and togetherness your focus and let the details fall where they may.
So much of the stress that we carry is within our power to let go. Let's do ourselves a favor and "make time to take time" -- to remember what is truly important. Protecting our minds from materialism is as simple as changing our focus to the pure and enduring ideals of the holiday. And who knows, perhaps we'll all have a bit merrier Christmas.
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