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Holiday Survival Guide:
Part 2: What You Can Do Before the Holidays Begin

by Lisa Lorden

The more prepared you are before the holiday madness begins the better.  Here's what you can do:

Be realistic about expectations
The first step in surviving the holiday blues might be to realize that our expectations of a "picture-perfect" holiday are not realistic.  Instead, we can adopt more realistic holiday goals.  The best way to do this is to examine your own expectations and priorities; ask your family to participate and find out what's most important to each family member.  Hold on to those traditions that you can--a special food or holiday activity that is especially meaningful to you--but let others go, recognizing that they may no longer be possible.  Create new rituals that work for you now.

Set priorities
Ask yourself how much you can really do without undue sacrifice to your health, and prepare to make choices accordingly.  For example, in the past you might have cooked an elaborate Christmas feast, requiring countless hours of work and preparation.  Was it the food itself that was truly important to you and your guests?  Maybe a store-prepared platter of meats and cheeses and other goodies would serve the purpose just as well.  If you receive several invitations to holiday parties, and you know you won't be able to attend them all, consider which ones are truly important to you.  Focus on what is meaningful and enjoyable to you, rather than on what you feel obligated to do.

Involve others
What tasks can be delegated to others?  Involve family and friends in various activities.  Consider a "gift-wrapping" party with a friend to help you with this potentially tiring task.  If you're feeling fatigued or stressed, discuss sharing responsibilities with other family members.  Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Remember your budget
Plan ahead for holiday expenses and don't spend more than you can afford to.  Consider giving gifts that cannot be bought: time with a loved one, a home-made item, or a gift of memories.  The December 2000 issue of Oprah magazine contains a letter from a woman whose mother created a new Christmas tradition in the course of de-cluttering her attic:

Instead of throwing out the boxes crammed with our forgotten childhood treasures, she decided that it would be fun to give us the stuff back.  The whole family dies laughing when the recipient is reunited with such memory-packed possessions as a leg cast, a Brownie uniform, old report cards, or a beat-up stuffed animal.  My sister and brother and I look forward to our "attic gift" more than any other.

While the pressure to find "the perfect gift" is familiar to all of us around the holidays, a gift from the heart is often the most treasured of all.

Plan Ahead
Plan activities to allow time for extra rest and recuperation.  Spread out commitments and engagements as much as possible. Try to take advantage of the times of day when you typically have more energy, and avoid those times you know you'll be exhausted.

Shop Smarter
Buy gifts from catalogs or shop online whenever possible.  If you must go out to the stores, consider shopping when they will be least busy, such as weekday mornings.