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How to Have a Stress Free Holiday

By Ana Tampanna

Increase the memories and satisfaction and decrease the stress with these ideas!

As the holiday season approaches, my well-organized, super achiever friends have already put into motion the plans for their annual, holiday extravaganza.

All year long, they have purchased gifts at bargain prices. Their favorite family photo is duplicated onto 1000, addressed greeting cards. They can't wait to flip the switch illuminating their house which is permanently wired with twinkle lights and they have a file of menus carefully clipped from last year's Thanksgiving edition of Oprah magazine.

Sometimes I am envious of this achievement, sometimes I hate them for it (not really) and sometimes I even get caught up competing with them. The real freedom comes when I chose to give up the entire holiday tradition completely.

Don't get me wrong, I still celebrate, but differently. Memorable? You betcha!

That's impossible, you argue. Generations of family traditions, thrown out the window? That's right"and I'm challenging you to try it"offer a new tradition this year'steeped in values, simmering with love, and bursting with opportunities to connect with the best part of who we are. It could be the best gift you have ever given yourself, your friends and family.

Here are my tried and true approaches for a life-changing, no stress holiday season:

Volunteer: Sign up to serve Thanksgiving dinner at the local soup kitchen. You will have a profound experience, I promise.

Become a bigger family: Announce at your church or school that you are organizing a potluck Thanksgiving for singles and for families who would like to be part of a bigger group i.e. anyone who wants someone to eat with on Thanksgiving. Encourage people to bring their favorite holiday dish.

You would be amazed at the people who come".divorced parents whose children are visiting "the other parent, single adults, single parent families, and people who can't face the stress of preparing and cleaning up a huge dinner by themselves.

Take a trip: Take a trip at Christmas. Take your family or a special friend and go somewhere you've never been. Explore. Christmas decorations are everywhere religious services abound. Resorts often have lots of empty condos at Christmas. (It's the week after Christmas that is in big demand.)

Select an area restaurant for a deluxe Christmas Eve dinner remembering that nothing is open on Christmas Day.

Enjoy games, books, and puzzles together.

For children, emphasize the search: Give less expensive gifts and hide them. Leave rhyming clues to maximize the fun.

Entertain foreign guests: Call the local colleges and universities and request foreign students as guests for the holiday. They are such fun and bring fascinating stories about their lives at home and at the school. Sometimes they even contribute a treat from their homeland!

Remember those who work on holidays: Take some cut up veggies and a dip to an office where people work throughout the holiday'such as a fire station, a police station, or a nurses station at the hospital. Usually sweets abound, but nutritious nibbles make for a thoughtful gift.

Wrap little novelties for a nursing home of Alzheimers patients. Sit and visit a while with patients who can still connect. Women love used costume jewelry.

Propose a special family project such as helping the Battered Women's Shelter. You can collect toiletry donations from big hotels or hold a clothing drive.

These are a few ideas to get you going. The hardest part is choosing to do something different. Focus on enjoying your family rather than pleasing them. Simplify your preparation, and give love at a time that carries loneliness and heartbreak for so many. Instead of stress, you will find yourself full of gratitude.

© Ana Tampanna

About The Author
Ana Tampanna, "The Alligator Queen," is author or the "The Womanly Art of Alligator Wrestling."

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