The holiday season can be a time of stress instead of peace - a time of busyness instead of relaxation from all the holiday parties to family gatherings, to expectations of gifts to give and receive. If you are not careful it is easy to enter the new year feeling drained, broke, and having collected many things you didn’t want or need including a few extra pounds.
So as you prepare for the holidays in front of you, here are a few tips to keep the stress levels lower and avoid the holiday hangover come the new year.
1. Practice Gratefulness
With all of the advertising and people reminding us of what we “need," this is a good time to take inventory of what you already have. From simple things like a warm house, clothes, food, a job, shelter to more immaterial things like friendships and family (even if they are weird). So slow down and simply think about or write down what you are grateful for that you already have.
Holidays can get complicated, and it is easy to feel like you are just moving from one party or store to the next. Instead of frantically trying to meet others expectations, learn to say no. There are some parties you just don’t need to be at. There are some gifts you just don’t need to buy. Or if you feel like you have to be at multiple events, bring the same gift. Most likely the only one who will ever know is you.
3. Spend Less
The default for many of us when considering gifts, is going to a store and purchasing something. Yes that is easy, but there are alternatives to buying gifts. Now I am not suggesting you knit everyone socks (unless that’s your thing), but you can think of more immaterial things to give. It could be a coupon for babysitting, a night out, cleaning, cooking or some other low cost activity. If you do feel the need to buy gifts, set a budget and stick to it. Avoid the impulse buys and come up with list before you hit Amazon or the local mall. That way you won’t be dealing with an empty savings account or over extended credit card come the new year.
4. Give Generously
Now this might seem to contradict the last point, but I think it is more of a different mindset. Often when we are thinking about spending around the holidays it can be with an expectation of something in return. Generosity does not expect to get something back but to bless others. So look around and see what are the opportunities to bless others. Maybe instead of getting little Billy the extravagant toy he doesn’t need and doesn’t want, you can go and purchase groceries for someone in need, or give to a charitable organization that is blessing others through their service. It’s incredible how far even a small (or large) amount of money can go when blessing others. And you know something, when you give to others, you do actually receive a blessing in return. It’s a great feeling knowing you have helped in a way that is making a difference in your community, world, or in the life of another.
5. Be More Present
Let me just be blunt. Put down the phone and be present with those around you. If you catch yourself checking out of relationships and checking into Instagram, Facebook, or some other sites, just silence your phone or notifications. Or even better, if you are the host of the party, put out a basket for mobile devices and tell people the gift you would like everyone to give is more presences this year. We are forgetting how to have conversations, how to ask good questions. We need to re-learn what it means to be present.
And isn’t that what Christmas is really about…presence. That God wanted to be present with us. Through the birth of Jesus, God forever took on humanity. I love how Eugene Peterson in the Message states the incarnation of Jesus. “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. Jesus became humanity. He became present with us and I believe he desires us to be present with others," (John 1:14).
So at this time of year, practice gratefulness, simplify, spend less, give generously, and be more present. By doing this, once the New Year rolls around you will have a full soul without the holiday hangover.
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