In your holiday daydreams, do you envision universal goals like sustaining our planet's resources and gaining energy independence - or less stress? For many Baby Boomers, this time of year tends to be exhausting rather than inspiring.
Stress is the body's response to any stimulus, either external or internal, that is perceived as taxing personal resources. Is gift giving your source of stress, as you look for the perfect necktie or worry that a better blackberry will be released next week? Does food become your comfort and challenge while you're eating the cookie dough instead of baking it? Will you be focusing on the buffet table rather than chatting at the annual office party? You may be creating more stress by sticking to the old routine and operating on automatic pilot.
Of course you don't want to feel anxious and agitated, especially during this season. We know your goal is to keep your life in balance and still honor the complexity of Christmas/ Hanukah/ Kwanzaa. Figure out what about the holidays is most important to you. Think about what you want to do not what you have to do.
Begin to lay the groundwork for gradual change in your gift giving rituals. Use the following eight practical tips to help you keep your stress in check, as you focus on more joy and less stuff:
Give the gift of reconnection. Send a card and catch up with an old friend or a family member with whom you've lost contact.
Invest time instead of money. Take your elderly neighbor to her doctor's appointment or grocery shopping.
Give the gift of yourself. Arrange a regular lunch or museum date with your parents or take them to the movies.
Enjoy your friends by inviting them to a potluck dinner and cut down further on expenses by limiting your gift exchange.
Add a personal touch and express yourself creatively by making some of your own presents.
Put the focus on others – volunteer at a soup kitchen, take gifts to a homeless shelter, or donate to a center for battered women.
Give a gift to yourself. Go away with your spouse for the weekend or take your grandchildren to the zoo.
Enjoy peace of mind by paying off your debts instead of taking the family on an expensive outing. Look through the eyes of your children and decide together how to spend the day. Your family will understand and grow from the experience.
Let go of the idea of the perfect holiday. It may not look like a Norman Rockwell painting, but these small changes can represent the beginning of a new chapter in your life. Take heart as you embrace and celebrate the moment. Use it as a template for the future. And joy to you and yours as you journey toward greater connections.