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Feature Articles
 Best of the Low Carb Blogs
 Make it Low Carb
 The Perfect Holiday Table
 Date Nut Bread!
 Christmas Tree Guide
 Low Carb Cookies!
 Managing Christmas Stress
 A Homemade Christmas

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                    Managing Christmas Stress by Lora Ruffner

Most children can't wait for Christmas to come around. But for many adults, Christmas has lost its magic and become synonymous with stress, financial worries and family strife.

The reality for many is that Christmas is a desperate rush, where we try to pack too many stressful activities and expectations into one day. Overspending, exhaustion and frayed tempers are often the result.

Christmas is a very emotional time, when people experience a whole range of emotions. We tend to associate Christmas with feelings of hopefulness, happiness, contentment and love. But we also see feelings of loss, despair, worry, anxiety and disappointment.

Here are some suggestions to help relieve holiday stress and to help reestablish contact with the true celebration of Christmas.

Establish Christmas events and rituals:
When you ask people about their best childhood Christmas memories, they don't remember the big presents or the spending. They remember the rituals. Identify rituals that can build family memories. It's these warm memories that get us through the tough times in our lives. Your children will remember always hanging the stockings in a certain place, not what was in them. As materialistic as kids are, they associate Christmas with family events.

These events don't need to be expensive. You don't have to go to the theatre to see the Nutcracker every year. But you could have a tradition of an evening of tree decorating, and a Holiday video.

Avoid the Christmas rush:
When you are in a frenzy, you lose the importance of Christmas. Shop in small towns or at craft sales. If you have to make a trip to the local malls, don't shop during peak hours. If possible, take a weekday (especially Tuesday or Wednesday) morning off work and avoid weekend shopping. Instead, use the weekends to trim the tree and for family time. Avoid last minute shopping. You will feel more stress rushing around at the last minute, and you will most likely spend more.

Communicate and compromise:
Discuss with your family where you are going to spend your Christmas. It's an emotional issue, and can lead to division if there are mixed preferences for whose family or favorite location gets the nod.

Couples need to sit down and talk, to compromise and negotiate. Set some precedents as a couple. Alternate years between Christmas dinners at family homes, or celebrate events with the in-laws before or after Christmas. Plan together a new tradition that becomes your own family ritual. Remember to build fun and laughter into the holiday season. Approach differences with a sense of humor — try your partner's crazy Christmas tradition.

Set a realistic budget:
Families have to be realistic about what they can afford. Set an honest budget and stick to it. While it may seem old fashioned, paying in cash remains the best way to stay out of debt. Set aside an envelope of holiday gift-giving cash, add to it when you can, and use it only for that purpose — it'll force you to stick to your budget. When you run out of money, your shopping is complete. By avoiding credit cards with those high interest rates, you're ahead of the game. If you have to pay with plastic, grab your debit card instead. The money will be automatically deducted from your account, so make sure to record the amount spent.

Draw names and set a dollar limit instead of buying gifts for every brother, sister, in-law and cousin. This not only saves dollars, but also time. When someone suggests drawing names in a family, most of the other family members are relieved and agreeable.

If you have the time, energy and know-how, make Christmas gifts — cookies, jam, candles. Instead of buying a new dress for each year's Christmas party, exchange and share clothes with friends or family for those special occasions.

Prioritize and learn to say 'no':
A lot of things are important to us at Christmas time, but we can't always do everything and keep our heads. Have realistic expectations and set priorities. Don't try to keep up with the Joneses. What works for some, doesn't work for others. Try to celebrate Christmas in a way that works for you and your family.

Learn to say no at Christmas time to the 21st Barbie set, or a Christmas dinner. I know people who have four family dinners to go to in different cities and pray for bad weather so they don't have to travel.

You can't be two places at once. Worrying about where else you should be results in a constant state of anxiety. Plan to take pleasure in the present and make a decision not to entertain guilt about where else you should be, or what else you "should be doing."

Make Christmas Day a smooth event through planning:
Planning is crucial. Write a list of what you have to do, such as when to start cooking, then stick to it. Reserve blocks of time for each activity (e.g. cooking Christmas Dinner) and don't jump from job to job. Do one thing at a time.

Co-operation is the key to a stress-free Christmas Day. Everyone needs to help one another, rather than letting one person do everything. Agree on what you all want to do. Try not to have expectations that are too unrealistic and remember that if things go wrong, it's not the end of the world.

Live Christmas through your children:
Christmas really is for the children. They are wide-eyed and excitable and love the simple things, the snow, the lights. If you see Christmas through their eyes you are bound to gain great joy from the season. Plan activities to do with your children. Make a Christmas craft, string popcorn, design wrapping paper, bake some low carb cookies (recipes in this issue!) or sing carols.

Anticipate the Christmas let-down:
Whether you buy 5 presents or 10 presents, anticipate a let down after opening gifts Christmas morning. This doesn't mean you should have bought more presents. It is much more important to stay within your means. However, to lessen or avoid this let down, slow it down a bit. Don't rush the opening of gifts. Take your time. Open one gift at a time while everyone watches. Comment on the wrapping. Take pictures. Then, plan something special for after the gift opening — serve a special Christmas breakfast, play a family game of cards or a board game... any activity the family can do together.

Not a time for war:
Be careful not to use Christmas as a battleground for unresolved past family conflicts. Christmas is not a time to work things through, or an opportunity to stake claims. It is a time to minimize conflict and to make compromises. When emotions are so high at Christmas, you will not be successful in working things through. You can work things out in the long run when emotions are not so high.

Avoid known triggers. For example, if politics is a touchy subject in your family, don't talk about it. If someone brings up the topic, use distraction and quickly move onto something else to talk about.

Take time for yourself and the things you enjoy: You will be able to deal with the rush and hubbub of Christmas much better if you take care of yourself. Get outside. Enjoy the fresh air. Go skating, go for a walk, whatever relaxes you.

Remember to Laugh:
Laughter can relieve stress and hold your holiday spirits high. It can allow you reflection, and studies show people sleep better after an evening of fun and laughter. Plan to attend a comedy club, or rent videos of your favorite stand-up. Treat yourself to a Holiday comedy movie or two. Make it a point to spend a little time with those friends who never fail to make you laugh. It's all time well-spent!

Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year, so it's a challenge to get through it without suffering any emotional or physical ill-health. The problem is that if you don't keep things in balance you won't have any energy left to enjoy the festivities.

But if you can get all the preparations out of the way with careful planning, you will have more time for the really important things — like pampering yourself and partying!

                                                                             Lora

Copyright © December 2006  Lora Ruffner and Low Carb Luxury
Title photo Copyright © 2006  Neil Beaty and Low Carb Luxury


       

 

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