The Holidays Needn’t be Synonymous with Stress

Last holiday season you swore you’d never put yourself through all that stress and craziness again. Well, here’s your chance to make good on that promise. The following are my favorite holiday stress tips, excerpted from my new book, “400 Ways to Stop Stress Now…and Forever!”

Develop a gift ear.

Constantly coming up with fresh and innovative gifts for the holidays can be an exasperating challenge. Try this. Always a keep a sharp ear open. In the course of casual conversation, people unwittingly reveal needs and yearnings that can trigger incredibly on-target gift ideas. You just have to train yourself to “hear” them. When you do, write them down immediately since it’s likely you’ll forget. Don’t be a perpetually stumped gift giver. Turn on your gift radar starting today. Why make yourself crazy?

Start your holiday shopping early.

You’ll be able to do it in a more leisurely, composed manner. Stores will be less crowded. Selections will be at their fullest. Pre-holiday sales will save you money. And sales clerks may even be pleasant. Put it off and you risk that last-minute insanity of overcrowded stores, traffic jams and mile-away parking; frantic searches for hot items long sold out; agonizingly long checkout lines; and dealing with overwhelmed, under-trained Christmas help. Who needs that, on top of all your other stress? Even if you’re not yet in a holiday mood, fake it. Start shopping, get it done. And actually enjoy the holiday season. Why make yourself crazy?

Look for that secret cashier.

Somewhere in the store there’s a little-used cash register, service desk or courtesy desk that will also ring up your purchases. You just have to find it. People naturally drift toward the busiest lines. Take a moment to seek out that alternative checkout. You might be surprisingly rewarded. Why make yourself crazy?

Let the store assemble it.

It’s tempting to think you can save a few bucks assembling that gas barbecue, play set or bicycle yourself. (Or maybe you just love irksome, time-consuming tasks.) Save yourself the anguish. Let someone who can practically do it in his sleep assemble it. Faster, better and cheaper in the long run. And you won’t suffer the despair of learning at 1 a.m. on Christmas morning that a key part is missing, or you put it together backwards. Why make yourself crazy?

Put the holidays back into focus.

At the height of the holiday season, when your stress level is peaking, you’re totally crazed, blowing through money, wondering if you’re missing the point entirely…do this. Give a gift to someone you don’t even know. Maybe it’s a child or family you read about in the local paper who’s undergoing a severe hardship. Maybe it’s a charity gift drive for the down and forgotten. Make the effort to go out and shop for that present. As you’re doing so, perhaps concerned about the time and money you’re spending, imagine the person on the other end opening it, who has to celebrate their Christmas in this way. Who may not be getting any other gift but yours. Or none at all, if you weren’t doing this. Compare that with the Christmas you and your family will enjoy. It’s a sobering thought. Let it influence your generosity. Let it temper your excesses. Why make yourself crazy?

G. Gaynor McTigue is a noted author, stress management consultant and motivational speaker whose latest book “400 Ways to Stop Stress Now…and Forever!” has just been published. For more information, call 203-254-7789, email, or visit:

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