Surviving the Holidays - Without Losing It

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Year after year, many people "lose it" during the holiday season. They become overwhelmed by having too much to do and too little time to do it in. As a result, they stress out, overeat, over spend and learn to dread the holidays. It doesn't have to be that way. By simplifying and being more focused, the holidays can truly be "the most wonderful time of the year."

If you've been in any kind of retail store lately, you know it's already started! The decorations are up and the shelves are stuffed full of merchandise. The "Holiday Madness" has begun and you may already be dreading the stress of the holidays.

This year can be different. By starting early, planning, setting a budget and focusing on what really matters, you can change how you feel about the holidays. Professional Life Coach Christine Kinney shares her proactive strategies for reducing stress and accomplishing those overwhelming holiday tasks.

1. Assess and understand what's really important to you - Figuring out what really matters most to you and your family this holiday season requires some real soul searching. It is one of the most critical things you can do to keep your stress in check. Instead of just doing things because you feel obligated, because that's the way your parents did them or because that's the way you've always done them, take the time to evaluate how important they really are to you and your family. It's OK to say "no" and to create your own traditions.

2. Set a goal - How will you know if your holidays are a success? Instead of just going through the motions, define what a successful holiday will look like for you and your family. It can be as easy as completing a sentence such as, "This holiday season I want to focus on…" For example, you may want to spend more time with your family, less money and really enjoy your time together.

3. Create a plan - Instead of trying to do it all - prioritize what you really want to do and eliminate what doesn't really matter. You might just find you really don't miss some of the things you once thought were so important. Turn your priorities into a plan with specific dates you want to get things done by. There are resources, like http://www.organizedchristmas.com, which can help you to create a plan and even send you e-mail reminders of important holiday tasks.

4. Establish a budget - Surprises can be good when they come in small packages - but not when they arrive in January in an envelope from your credit card company. To ensure you don't overspend and get yourself into financial trouble, it's important to set a budget and stick to it. When you know how much you want to spend, it will save you from making those unnecessary impulse purchases. Remember to include incidental expenses for things such as food, alcohol and decorations.

5. Start early - Do yourself a favor and get a jump start on the holidays. Get as much done ahead of time as you can - you'll be glad you did. It will help to ease some of the last minute stress and give you more time to enjoy the holidays with family and friends.

6. Ask for help - You don't have to do it all. Incorporate into your holiday plan chores that can be assigned and shared with family and friends. Host a cookie baking night where everyone not only has a great time together, but also accomplishes their holiday baking at the same time.

7. Set yourself up for success - Share your holiday vision with your family and friends. Let them know this year you really want to enjoy the holidays and focus on what matters most. There may be some resistance because they're used to having things the way they've always been. Remember your goal is to focus on the meaningful stuff.

8. Don't sweat the small stuff - Whenever possible, if there is an easier way to accomplish something - do it. Most likely no one will notice you didn't make the appetizers from scratch or you didn't wrap the gifts just so. Perfectionism can often lead to frustration. Be smart about shopping. Don't fight the "mall madness." when you can order the same items on-line. Avoid peak shopping times in the evenings and on weekends. If you need to, you can always hire out holiday tasks, too. There are professionals who can help you shop, decorate and even help put your decorations away for the next year.

9. Put yourself first - Take good care of yourself. Get lots of rest, eat well and keep up with your normal exercise routine. Your body and mind will thank you later.

10. How's it going? - Pay attention to how you are feeling - both emotionally and physically. Before you get stressed out and eat your way through the Christmas cookies, create a stress reduction plan for what works for you. Whether it's taking a hot bath, walking the dog in the park or taking a nap, make sure you know what you will do when you start to feel yourself tense up. Allow extra time in your plan for those unforeseen projects.

"Year after year, many people 'lose it' during the holiday season," says Kinney. "They become overwhelmed by having just too much to do and too little time to do it in. As a result, they stress out, overeat, over spend and learn to dread the holidays. It doesn't have to be that way. By simplifying and being more focused, the holidays can truly be "the most wonderful time of the year."

Christine Kinney, owner of Fresh Strategies, LLC, is a mother of two and a Professional Mom Coach who works with mothers to empower them to take control of their lives and create a life they love. Log on to http://www.christinekinney.com to read articles and to sign-up for a free newsletter.

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Christine Kinney
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