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  • Just Say No to Holiday Stress

    Don't stressIf you’re like most people, your stress levels soar as the winter holidays approach. The amount of pressure you can feel to host the perfect Thanksgiving dinner, to throw the best party, or to give the perfect gift can be enough to either drive you mad, put you in the poor house, or both.

    But how do you lower your stress without lowering your potential fun?

    Never fear, I have a few tips to help you say NO to stress this holiday season that won’t leave you feeling shortchanged.

    Just say no to:

    • Overspending – Whether you break the bank on a fancy feast or on holiday gifts, this is the year to break that habit. It’s time for moderation to rule the holidays. Towards that end I have just one word for you: Pinterest. Pinterest is a one-stop shop for some of the most amazing recipes you will ever find, many of them low cost and easy to prepare. Pinterest also has scads and scads of creative, cost-effective, and just plain cool gift ideas. You could scour the internet yourself for all that info, or you can pick the electronic brain of thousands of people who’ve already done it for you.
    • Trying to please everyone – How this one works will look different from one situation to the next. Only you can decide who to “disappoint” and how. One possibility, if you’re hosting a big meal, is to not serve multiple main dishes or multiple desserts; keep the variety in the healthy fruits and veggies. Some will be disappointed that they’re favorite dessert isn’t on the menu, others that they didn’t get to have both prime rib AND turkey. The trick is to spread the “disappointment” around, so that no one feels singled out. Whenever you’re tempted to fall into please-everyone-mode, keep this quote in mind: “I cannot give the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.” ~ Herbert B. Swope
    • Giving to every charity that asks (no matter how guilty they try to make you feel) – Find one or two, maybe three charities that you would like to donate time and/or money to, research them carefully to make sure that the vast majority of donations go to help the clients (rather than administrative and executive costs), then give only to those charities. When others approach you, simply tell them that you’ve already allocated your charitable giving for the year. If they push, you can tell them you only give to charities you have thoroughly researched – no matter how famous the charity may be.
    • Waiting until the last minute – I didn’t really need to tell you this one, did I? Start shopping for your holiday meals several weeks in advance. Begin by buying the meat (freeze it when you get home), frozen items, non-perishables, and staples that you’ll need while there’s still a good selection. Split the shopping up over a couple weeks to keep not only the cost down, but also your stress level. The only thing you’ll have to get right before the holiday is fresh produce, milk, and eggs. The same principle holds true when it comes to holiday gifts. I’ve seen very popular gift items heavily marked down at the end of November and watched the price skyrocket once the second week of December rolled around. Popular items won’t get cheaper as people get more desperate to find one. Besides, the earlier you finish your gift shopping, the fewer rude, grumpy, ill-mannered crowds you’ll have to deal with at the stores. And if that isn’t good for your stress level, I don’t know what is!
    • Parties that you don’t really want to go to – If you’re invited to a shindig that you don’t want to go to, simply say that you already have plans. Those plans may be to stay home with a warm blankie and a good book, but they’re still plans. This holds especially true if you’re invited by someone you don’t know very well.
    • Last minute invitations – You are under no obligation to rearrange your schedule or to hurriedly make a dish to pass (or buy a bottle of wine or a buy a gift to exchange) without proper notification. Remember, it’s your life and your stress level… you set the rules about how much notification you need. A simple “I’m so sorry, I won’t be able to make it on such short notice” should suffice.
    • Being on the pageant (or other) committee or chairing a committee – If the thought of being on one more committee makes you absolutely crazy, or the thought of being in a leadership position makes you nauseous, don’t do it. Sincerely thank them for thinking of you, assure them you want the pageant to be the best it can, then politely decline saying you don’t have the time to give it your full and focused attention.
    • Staying for the duration of a party – If there’s a party that you don’t really want to go to but feel you must attend (perhaps the boss invited everyone to her house for a holiday get-together), you are not obligated to stay for the entire evening. Simply say you have another obligation. (In my opinion, a hot cup of tea and your favorite TV show do count as an obligation if missing them for this party would make you feel resentful.) If you’re still unsure, pay attention at the parties you attend this year. You’ll see that lots of people either come late or leave early because of previous or simultaneous engagements; very few of them state what that obligation actually is.
    • Over-indulging in sweets – This one is difficult, but there is a trick that will help. First, decide that you will only have one piece of dessert, or one item off the sweets table. Second, decide that you are worthy of only the best, because let’s face it, you are. Take your time at the sweets table perusing what’s there, decide which one item looks most appealing to you, listen to what others are saying about it (to make sure it really is as good as it looks), then take a piece of that one dessert. Third, savor it by taking small bites and chewing them slowly and thoroughly; let the taste of each bite fill your mouth. Make the flavor last. I guarantee it will taste better this way than if you had just scarfed it down and moved on to the next sweet item.

    Do you have something that you Just Say No To at the holidays? I’d love for you to add to this list. Spread the love and spread the stress reduction by posting it in the comments. And of course, don’t forget to like, share, retweet, pin, etc. Thanks!!