5 TIPS FOR A STRESS-FREE HOLIDAY

​When most of us start thinking about the holidays it's with a mixture of pleasant anticipation and an overwhelming sense of how much we have to do. Gift buying, planning holiday meals and activities, travel and not enough time to get it all done. 

This joyous time of the year can easily become the most stressful, exhausting and expensive time of the year. It's easy to get caught up in too much activity, too many commitments and too many sales to pass up. 

How do we get back to the fun, magical feeling we had about the holidays when we were young? I would like to share with you a few things I discovered which have helped me put the "Happy" back into the Holidays.

1. FOCUS ON THE SPIRIT OF THE HOLIDAYS This is a time for sharing and being with people you love. It's a time to engage with friends and family and enjoy traditions that you look forward to all year. It's a time to be reminded of how much you have to be grateful for and remember others who may not have as much abundance.

2. MAKE A GIFT LIST AND THEN CHECK IT TWICE Make a list of everyone you think you need to buy a gift for. Then put it aside and relax – maybe for a few days. Bring out your list and cross off about half of what's on it. Our family made a decision many years ago that we only buy gifts for the children. I have enough sweaters, and kitchen items – what I can never have enough of is the love and connection of family and friends who are calm, happy and enjoying our time together.

3. PUT A LIMIT ON SPENDING Once you have whittled down your Gift List – look for great gifts that are also inexpensive. If I'm going to go into debt I would like it to be for something more far-reaching, such as college tuition. One of my favorite gifts, for children and adults, are books (no shock here) and not an item that will end up in a landfill shortly after the holidays. What about something meaningful that costs very little such as helping a friend with a project, offering to cook or babysit for a busy mom, creating a photo album, making a basket of tasty treats, or filling fun containers with holiday plants? Do something simple and thoughtful.

4. CREATE FAMILY ACTIVITIES YOU CAN DO TOGETHER Go see one of the classic holiday movies such as, "It's a wonderful Life" with the family. Take advantage of all the fun craft kits out there to make awesome ornaments and decorations. Make a few extras and have yet another inexpensive holiday gift item for others. My favorite holiday activities with the kids was making a gingerbread house, decorating it with garlands made out of colored construction paper, and making lots of hot chocolate with cinnamon sticks. These are the gifts that are remembered.

5. ALLOW OTHER PEOPLE TO CONTRIBUTE TO HOLIDAY DINNERS AND PARTIES When a guest asks if they can bring something to the party or dinner say YES! If Aunt Martha is not a good cook or you have your dinner menu already set -- ask people to bring a beverage, an appetizer, a dessert or really anything that saves you some time and effort. If a guest asks if they can help you set the table or clean up say YES! Let everyone help – people feel good when they are participating in the celebration.

So let's put our efforts into the spirit of the holidays… Joy, Peace and Goodwill to all. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!