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Plan ahead to make holidays enjoyable

by Sheryl Egan-Olaivar

Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a stressful, emotional roller coaster! There’s the uphill ride with joy and fun celebrating the season with family and friends, and then a downhill ride of sad memories from the past. When combined with the financial and time burden of buying gifts, food and socializing, it can be a difficult season for many people. The following tips can help make this time of year more enjoyable.



Make time to be with people you love by doing some of the preparation together. Meet up to write greeting cards, wrap gifts, bake cookies and shop or make gifts.



Set a budget for gifts, food and outings to avoid the dreaded January credit card statement. An automatic deposit into a Christmas Club account is the easiest way.



If you have a large family or a large group consider drawing names from a hat to buy only one gift of a designated value. Another option could be to only give gifts to the children or do Kris Kringle or Dirty Santa where everyone gives/receives one gift. You can also show love with homemade arts, crafts, foods, recipe ingredients in a decorated jar, personalized gift certificates for outings, movie, car wash, housework, yard work, etc. Be creative! Remember to have a few extra gifts on hand for unexpected guests, such as locally made soaps, jams from a farmer’s market, wine, chocolates and gift cards.



Plan ahead by making a list of everything you would like to have completed and block time for it in your schedule. Avoid the crowds and stress by shopping for gifts and supplies in November. Make a list of all the gifts you plan to buy and keep this list with you to check off each person as you buy them.



Make hosting the meal enjoyable by keeping it simple with a buffet or potluck. Buy as much as possible in advance and store items for each recipe together, yet separate from the pantry to avoid it being used beforehand. Make a written timetable of all the tasks required on the day: when to put the turkey and casseroles in the oven, set the table, make the gravy, etc. Do accept help from others!



Anxiety and depression is more prevalent this time of the year. Don’t expect all family members to mingle and avoid discussing subjects that may create conflict. Have some fun activities planned to keep everyone occupied and content.



Take care of yourself by making time to exercise, eat healthy meals and get adequate sleep. Learn relaxation skills such as deep breathing and guided imagery to help reduce stress and increase happiness.


Sheryl Egan-Olaivar is an occupational therapist and yoga teacher with more than 30 years of experience in healthcare. Reach her at