How to minimize holiday stress

Here are some tips on how to put meaning and joy back into the season:

Focus on the real meaning of Christmas - Christ. Follow the Savior's example of being of service to others. In addition, during family home evenings during the holidays, study together the scriptures about the birth of Christ. Also, Christmas falls on Sunday this year. Make sure your family attends Church meetings to worship the Savior.- Set a budget and keep it. This includes not just the gift-giving but the top-dollar amount you can afford to spend for everything, including gifts, Christmas dinner, wrapping paper, decorations and parties.

Suggest your family participate in a "pick-a-name" gift exchange. Buying presents for everyone in a large extended family can be a real "budget-buster." Some families pick names. This way everyone gets one nice, thoughtfully chosen gift, and no one goes broke from the need to buy so many presents.

Keep holiday plans realistic. Simpler can be better and make for a happier and more relaxed holiday.

Make a "to do" list. Prioritize what has to be done.

Delegate responsibility and/or divide the chores. At a family home evening well before Christmas, have family members draw lots from a hat or use the "grab-bag" system to assign tasks such as putting up the tree, putting up outdoor decorations, baking cookies, wrapping gifts, etc.

Factor in changed circumstances. Are you recently laid off, newly divorced, grieving a recent death? Now's the time to "Keep it simple." Keep the demands on your time, energy, emotions and wallet to a minimum.

This Christmas season let's keep in mind that people - not stuff - are important. - Vicki S. Cowell, Tustin, Calif.

How we did it:

Start early

I begin early in September to draw up a list of those with whom we exchange gifts and those on our Christmas card list. Beginning early enables me to finish the shopping, wrapping, making craft items and writing Christmas cards by Dec. 1, which leaves the month of December for our family to spend time together.

We have tried over the years to cut down on the commercial aspect of Christmas, and instead make items to give from the heart instead of from the pocket book. - Susan Bull, Orillia, Ontario

Keep traditions simple

Shopping done early in the fall not only helps to relieve some of the holiday stress, but it also helps relieve the stress on the family budget. Purchases that are planned in advance can be planned for financially as well.

Christmas baking can be done ahead of time and put into the freezer. A large container of cookies and baked goods comes in handy when it is time to put together a gift for neighbors and home teaching/visiting teaching families.

Keeping celebrations and traditions simple helps us to enjoy the holiday season more and concentrate on the true meaning of Christmas. - Cindy Maxfield Young, Brownfield, Texas

True Christmas spirit

Minimizing holiday stress requires planning, including calendaring various activities, and getting an early start on gift selecting. One year I actually began gradually purchasing gifts each month as early as July, which makes it easier on the budget than all at once.

Getting an early start also makes it more likely that gifts can be purchased with cash a bit at a time, rather than charged on credit, with a big bill coming due in January.

We often make a project of disposing of some of our older - but still good - toys and other gifts to charitable organizations that provide new and used toys to the needy. It really adds to the spirit of our Christmas whenever we use the excess to make a special holiday package for a needy ward family (anonymously). Another way to add to a more peaceful spirit of true Christmas is to "give Jesus a present" by doing something for someone else. - Hollye Holmquist, Lancaster, Calif.

Calm, simple Christmas

Last year was calm and simple for three reasons:

Buying most of the presents before December started.

Trying not to hand-make any gifts.

Asking children what - besides presents - they like best about Christmas. Our children said, "Seeing the lights and doing the `Baby Jesus Play.' "

So drop the other things, relax and enjoy! - Susan H. Andersen, Preston, Idaho

Proper perspective

Two years ago I came down with a bad cold on Christmas Day and felt miserable. Those feelings and feelings of exhaustion from a very hectic Christmas season carried over into last year's Christmas season, and I was quite "Grinch-like" for the first two weeks of December. About half-way through December I finally realized what Christmas was all about: children, lights, music and - most importantly - Christ. The parties, presents and endless activities are enjoyable, in their proper perspective. Once I started focusing on the true meaning of Christmas everything else fell into place, and I felt joy. - Beckie J. Beck, Tigard, Ore.

`Family service day'

Three years ago, we started a "family service day" in early December. We all meet at our parents' home in our work clothes and perform service for them. The whole family is involved. We do things like remove a dead tree, install security lights, do yard work, put up Christmas decorations, wash windows, repair a roof, clean their car, etc. We realize that living in California allows these outdoor activities to be done in December, but indoor service could easily be done as well.

We work for five to six hours and have a great time together. This becomes our "present" to our parents. They need our time more than our gifts, and they feel this gift of love is the greatest gift we could give. In the afternoon we plan games, a craft activity for the children, an easy meal, and conclude with a family meeting and short Christmas program. This activity, held early in the month, takes the pressure off the holidays. - Ruth Ann Harrison, Wildomar, Calif.

Christmas budget

It seems that most of our stress came from the added demands on our finances and time. We eliminated the money stress by setting a Christmas budget for the next year and then setting aside each month or from each paycheck enough to cover those expenses. We find it is easier if the money is direct- deposited to a savings account just for Christmas.

We evaluated our Christmas traditions and tried to eliminate some that were time-consuming habits and not necessarily meaningful to our family. We found that we don't really miss hand-dipped chocolates!

Christmas has become a more joyful time for our family since the money is not a worry and the time demands are more reasonable. - Lora Hardman, Lehi, Utah

How to checklist:

1 Focus on Christ during Christmas; do service, study scriptures about His birth.

2 Set Christmas budget; live within that budget.

3 Get holiday preparations, shopping done early; this leaves time for family, self.

4 Keep gifts, traditions simple; have proper perspective.


Dec. 10 "How to help your children develop self-reliance."

Dec. 17 "How to keep the Sabbath day holy."

Dec. 24 "How to filter out the bad from television and music while utilizing the good."

Dec. 31 "How to focus more on the spiritual and temporal well-being of children during 1995."

Jan. 7 "How to enhance our testimony of the Savior through studying the New Testament."

Jan. 14 "How to cope as a family with crisis."

Jan. 21 "How to cooperate as parents in the discipline of your children."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, or send fax to (801) 237-2121. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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