The best present you can give your family and friends this year is you in a relaxed, loving, attentive state.
Remember when you’ve been with someone who you felt was really listening and paying attention to you? It felt great, didn’t it? Would you like to be that person for the ones you love this year? This year, let your “presence” be your present. Here’s how:
1. Reduce Social Stress: If you can only tolerate big family gatherings or office parties for so long before you start to climb the walls, limit the amount of time you spend in those environments. After the big meal, pick one relative you’d really like to make contact with and suggest a walk around the neighborhood for more intimate catch-up time.
If there are people at these gatherings that “bring you down,” see that you are at the other end of the table or room from them. Focus on the people you enjoy.
If you have more social invitations than you have social energy, explain that you have a family commitment on that night (even if it’s just your dog) and gracefully decline. People “get it” about family commitments around the holidays. Remember, you’re saving the best of you for when you’ve decided is most important.
2. Reduce Financial Stress: Let your family and friends know in advance what you’d like the gift-giving exchange to be like. If you like to make handmade gifts or set a limit on spending per gift, or only give gifts to the children, or draw names for the adults, now is the time to make your preferences known. Your family and friends will be grateful that someone has had the courage to broach the subject and get the conversation going.
Decide what your spending priorities are: a big tree, wreaths, entertaining, holiday greeting cards and postage, gifts. If you can’t afford, or don’t choose to do them all, pick the ones that mean the most to you and feel good that you’ve made a conscious choice.
Remember, lowering your stress level so that you can really be there for your family and friends is the goal here.
3. Reduce Time Stress: You cannot be that relaxed, fun person we’re going for if you are worried about the 10,000 things that you have to get done before the holidays. We don’t all have the staff that Martha Stewart does to make and do everything for that picture perfect Christmas. Again, prioritize what’s really important to you and let go of everything else. Maybe Christmas cards are not as important as your sanity this year. It’s more important for you to be relaxed and happy than to compete with Martha.
4. Reduce Your Physical Stress: At least once a day, lie back and listen to beautiful holiday music, take a run or a walk, get a massage, or take a leisurely bath. Get back to yourself and let those batteries recharge.
5. Watch What You Put Into Your Body: Alcohol, sugar, and caffeine are all very big stressors on your body. If you don’t have a happy body, you will not be a happy camper and therefore will not be as nice to be around.
6. Finally, If it’s not fun don’t do it! You deserve a present this holiday season too. Be “present” to yourself. Let go of the holiday activities that are obligations. Do something you really like instead (like going to see the Nutcracker Ballet!). You can tell yourself that the more you do out of joy, the more you will be contributing to the holiday season for everyone (and it will be true!).
Mara Lindstrom (MaraLindstrom.com) is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Santa Cruz, CA. She combines relaxing bodywork, talk therapy, and Spirit to help her clients feel better, solve problems, and lead more fulfilled lives.