Maximizing time for happy holiday season

December 06, 2002|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Look around you - what do you see? People are rushing around getting ready for the holidays. It's all too easy to get yourself stuck in the same old stressful cycle year after year.

Many of us, it seems, fail to recognize this self-destructive pattern and come to dread the holidays. Perhaps this feeling is, in part, due to a lack of conscious thought about what the holiday season really means to us.

If we can take this into consideration, then we might be better able to spend time doing what we really think is important.

Take time to decide what the purpose of the holiday season really is for you and your family. All you need to do is pause for a moment and look inside yourself. Define the holidays in any way that is meaningful to you. Create your own traditions that exemplify your values.


Next, write down your holiday goals. What do I want to accomplish this holiday season? Help those in need? Spend more time with family and friends? Teach the kids what the season is really about? Spend more or less money than last year?

How many times in the past did you say, "I wish I did this or that," instead of what you ended up doing. Writing down your goals will help you spend your time and money more wisely this holiday season.

Once you have your goals written down, you can then develop a plan of action. It is usually wise to pull out a calendar and write down the things that need to be done and when you plan to do them.

Be sure to leave plenty of blank space, because, in addition to all the unexpected events that tend to pop up, you also need plenty of down time when you can relax and recharge your batteries.

If one of your goals is cutting holiday gift-giving expenses, here are a few tips:

Offer your time instead of something you purchased as a gift to family members and friends. In today's society, with both parents working or one parent trying to do the job of two, time might be worth a lot more then a purchased gift.

Large families can have each person write his or her name down on an index card. On the back of each card, the person can list four gifts he or she would like from various price ranges for family members to select from.

Many parents and grandparents want to be with their loved ones during the holiday season more than anything else. If, for financial reasons, you have to choose between buying your loved ones a gift or traveling to visit them, consider making your visit the gift.

If one of your goals during the holiday season is to teach your children that we are all part of a larger community and that how we spend our time reflects this thought, here are a few tips:

Most organizations need volunteers just as much, if not more, than they need money during the holiday season. Call an organization that interests you and see what you and your family can do to help out.

During and right after the holiday season is the most difficult time for almost all individuals who are not with loved ones.

Levels of depression and suicide rise alarmingly during this time. This is especially true if someone has lost a loved one or has experienced other stressful events such as a divorce or the loss of a job.

If you know someone who's away from home or has no family, invite him or her over to celebrate with you during the holidays.

The holiday season is a good time to go through your closets and the rest of your house to see what you no longer need. Make sure the items are still in good condition or good working order.

Many dry cleaners will clean coats, free of charge, to give to the needy.

Check with local charities to find the most appropriate one for the various items you would like to donate.

Lynn F. Little is the Extension Educator with Family & Consumer Sciences, Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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