The Holidays are Coming ...

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For some people that statement brings feelings of excitement and fond memories of childhood holidays ... for others it creates a feeling of dread and the wish to just fast-forward to January.

I suppose there are a multitude of reasons why some folks love the holidays as much as others hate them. In fact, I've had some years where I couldn't wait for Thanksgiving to arrive, and other years when I wished we could just avoid the whole mess. Current family dynamics, age, the economy, and a whole slew of other factors play into how you perceive the holiday season.

So how to avoid the holiday doldrums when they come rushing in? Two simple approaches have helped me immensely in past years. 1) Get my focus off myself, and 2) Do some advanced planning.

Get your focus off yourself

Those years when I've struggled the most, and tried to determine why, I've usually found that I am hyper-focused on my physical struggles, family struggles, or disappointment in others. It has been very helpful for me to name the issue, whatever it might be, and consciously work to leave it with the Lord. If I can daily shift my focus off from me and on to those around me, my attitude improves tremendously. Certainly the holidays are not the time to become a martyr, so I'm not suggesting totally ignoring personal needs. But looking for little things that might work to improve my spirits is much more fruitful than using that time to dwell on life's troubles or injustices.

Do some advanced planning

Most often the stress and hair-tearing of the holiday season can be avoided with a little proactive planning. As much as I'm able, I try to map out the events of November and December well in advance. Around those activities I plan our meal schedule. Based on that schedule I try to plan my grocery shopping so I only have to go once or twice. There's nothing more frustrating to me than being stuck in an over-crowded grocery store during the holidays.

Getting my kids involved with the planning is also tremendously helpful. With my focus on others instead of myself, it becomes less important that every event is planned "correctly" than working on the project as a family. We schedule hospitality times in our home, create a menu, and brainstorm decoration ideas.

I also take a serious, realistic look at our budget, and plan our gift giving based on what is possible. 61% of Americans list lack of money as being their greatest holiday stress point. Shifting our focus to relationships and creativity can go a long way toward relieving this issue.

I'd love to hear your ideas for a stress-free, enjoyable holiday season. Feel free to share! And most of all ... I wish you a relaxing, family and Christ-centered holiday season.

Blessings ...

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