Holiday shoppers start your engines! Vroooom, and they're off, fast and furious. We are officially in the high-stakes competition of holiday shopping. The unrelenting marketing of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday have stirred American consumers into a gift-giving fury. For a large percentage of Americans this creates a unwanted, unadorned present: Stress.
“Gifting” is Pandora's Box wrapped up in shiny paper and a pretty bow. Once you open it, the simple act of buying a few gifts snowballs into a frenzy of buying more, more, more. It seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. It's the perfect example of making choices based on what you believe other people think. And, this, of course, taps into “are my presents good enough?” and “well, they bought me something so I have to buy them something.”
The American Psychological Association found that the related areas of money and gifts are huge stress triggers. In their study of holiday stress:
62% of participants report lack of money as a source of holiday pressure.
53% report commericialism and hype as a source of stress.
47% feel the pressure in the giving and receiving of gifts.
35% worry about credit card debt.
The answer? Set your boundaries and limits early, and stick to them.
I found this out by accident. Several years ago I had very little money to spend on gifts. I devised a plan. Little did I know that it would transform my holidays into a season I love and appreciate.
Here are some of the keys:
Decide for whom you are buying presents. Make your list early so you have time to make adjustments after some reflection. Sometimes we realize that some gifts are not necessary.
Decide on a limit. For instance, if you are buying gifts for children, decide on how many gifts you will give. With my own children, I give one large gift, and three small gifts (What do I mean by small? A pair of fuzzy socks). When we give with overabundance to the people in our lives we desensitize them to the meaning of the gifts. Less really is more.
Put a moratorium on gift-giving and receiving. Call friends and family and suggest a no-gift policy for the holidays. You might say something like, “I was thinking about how to make the holidays less stressful and more enjoyable. I really think we should consider enjoying one another without exchanging gifts. We'll save money and we'll have more time to really enjoy what's important.” Those first few phone calls were scary, but in the end every single person I spoke with was relieved.
Give gifts with intention. They will be more appreciated, remembered and will have more meaning to the receiver. For instance I have a friend who just finished purging her home and redecorating. A gift for her home, even something as small as an organic, beeswax candle, will be more meaningful to her than the latest gadget.
Go back to your original gift list and revise it. When you shift the way you view gifting and align it with your holiday vision, your gift list will shift too.
The act of gift-giving is not only a bank-account zap but it also extremely time-demanding. Imagine if you used all the time you took shopping and wrapping to walk around looking at everyone's decorations, or going for a “holiday walk in the park” with a special friend followed by a pit stop in a cafe. Doesn't that sound more like holiday cheer? And do yourself a favor, stop reading all the holiday flyers, advertisments and emails. Wasting your time on marketing does not serve your holiday vision.
Look beyond the superficial tones and really find the heart and soul of the holiday season. For me, that means being on the lookout for opportunities to show gratitude and generosity, such as bringing the holiday to a homebound neighbor, for instance. It also means slowing down, simplifying the entire experience in order to amplify the connections to the ones I love. It's time you will never regain so enjoy every moment you can.
A final word on parties. Accept the ones you want to go to. Period. For the others, suggest getting together after the New Year. Besides, you will have something to celebrate … a less-stressed you!
Melissa Rapoport is a Health & Nutrition Counselor. She combines her passion for healthy living and her background in psychology to guide others to successfully nourish their bodies and their lives. Her comprehensive approach uses the latest nutritional research and practical coaching methods to create “custom fit” programs, featuring step-by-step, manageable changes that last a lifetime. Melissa receiving her training from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and completed graduate study in Developmental Psychology at Teacher's College, Columbia University. She works with individuals, groups and also conducts workshops.
Greenberg, Quinlin & Rosner, 2006. Holiday Stress Report. American Psychological Association.
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