By Judith Rasband

“My days are getting shorter and shorter!” wailed my neighbor.
Well, indeed they are, because we’re headed for December 21, the shortest day of the year. And I know, there’s so much to do between now and then as we prepare for the holidays.

Often, we’re so busy doing all the things we think we’re supposed to do—decorate the house with a festive air, buy all those perfect presents, send all those clever cards, cook all those mouth-watering goodies—we never seem to personally experience the feelings of good tidings we’re trying so hard to spread. ‘Tis the season of extra stress.

I’m one to tease, “Thank goodness for stress or I’d never get anything done.” But tense, tight muscles, pains in your stomach, a foggy or forgetful mind, and sleepless nights are symptoms that you’ve crossed the line from healthy stress to unhealthy stress. It’s no wonder many people feel overwhelmed and disappointed during the holiday season, then depressed when it’s all over.

Plan Your Precious Time

With proper planning, you can keep stress levels low and spirits high all season. First of all, there are far too many things going on to try to keep it all in your head. Gather your family together and put everyone’s activities on the calendar, then refer to it diligently.

Schedule shopping trips for morning, Monday being the lightest shopping day of the week. Set up a gift-wrapping station in some corner of the house. Maybe you’ve got a card table and chairs that can stay there through Christmas Eve. Plan light healthy meals for every night, right up to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

Now is the perfect time to remind ourselves what we often forget—the need to make time for ourselves. Maybe you’d benefit by taking a walk outdoors, or propping up your tired feet, closing your eyes and taking a ten-minute cat-nap. Enjoy the peace and security of the moment. Ten to 15 minutes does wonders to erase those worry lines from your face.

What is important to your spirit? Good holiday music lifts my spirit. Try it, even for ten to twenty minutes. Regardless of how hard you are working, a ten-minute break in the middle of the merry madness can give you the lift you need to tackle the next must-do job.

holiday planningRemember What Gives You Joy

As you accomplish an essential task, allow yourself to feel the joy of a job well done. Give yourself a little reward. One of my favorite rewards during these busy afternoons is a cup of hot spiced cider sipped slowly while relaxed in my favorite chair. A friend of mine soaks her feet in a tub of hot, sweet smelling sudsy water—just the pick-me-up she needs to pull her through the rest of her busy day. Twenty years ago, I rewarded myself with a red coat. Wearing it throughout December surrounds me with a feeling of joy. What reward might bring you joy?

When you begin to feel burned-out, take a moment and weigh your priorities. Maybe you don’t really have to make a new wreath for the front door. Maybe you can order a fantastic fruit cake, Christmas cookies, and rolls, then freeze them till needed. Think of your freezer as your own personal “food bank.” Double up on hearty soups, casseroles, and meat loaves in November, ready in the freezer for December. Your hands work overtime during the holidays, so maybe a manicure will help present you feeling and looking your best for a party.

Make Every Occasion A Special Occasion

The word party reminds me, if you usually attend a number of holiday events or parties, plan your outfits ahead of the dates. Literally, buy and/or prepare them, ready to go weeks in advance.

  • For her, buy a simple basic dress and wear a different jacket and jewelry to every event. Or top it with a trendy silky poncho from Chico’s online.
  • For him, buy sharp looking slacks and leather jacket to wear with a different shirt to every event.
  • Look to fashion catalogs for seasonal separates in a range of affordable prices.
  • A burst of color signals special! Color is fun and festive. Go for red or burgundy, turquoise or teal, royal blue or emerald green and know you’ll look terrific!
  • A snazzy handbag for women, embroidered, beaded, sequined, or otherwise embellished adds a lively punch to black satin or black denim pants.
  • Drop dead earrings make a solid statement in gold or silver and shiny stone combinations. Charming Charlie’s is sure to have something smashing.
  • Velvet is a no-brainer for both women and men—a velvet dress, skirt, or pants for her and a velvet blazer for him. If not buying this year, buy at end-of-season sales and be ready for next year.
  • A fabulous wrap can finish off your outfit in style and ease. It could be a sheer chiffon evening drape or multi-colored fleece shawl for her and a red plaid muffler for him.

The point is to avoid momentary panic and feeling like you’ve nothing to wear. Plan what you and the family members will wear Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—dressy or relaxed looks. Lay the clothes out the morning or night before to eliminate potential fuss.

And so, as you make your plans, remember to include yourself on your gift list this year. Before bed on many a night, sit in front of the tree and let the magical sparkling lights lift your spirit and fill your heart with feelings of peace.

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Judith Rasband
Judith Rasband MS, AICI, CIM is CEO of the Conselle Institute of Image Management (Conselle.com), residing in Orem, Utah. She works with the influence and expressive effects of dress and image on wellness and successful living.
Judith Rasband

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