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by Gretel Breytenbach
 
It has been many moons since my last Christmas under an African Sky. I miss it, especially this time of year. What I miss most is being able to spend an uncomplicated Christmas with the people I love.
 
BUT, three continents and fourteen years later, I'm spending another Christmas in one of my most favourite places in the world, Queensland's Gold Coast. People come here from all over the world on holiday, and I live here! What a thrill!
 
Interestingly enough, research shows that this is one of the most stressful times of year. You don't need me telling you this; all you have to do is go shopping. Aside from all the commercial pressure - Visa and Mastercard encourage you to buy now, pay later, the temptation to overspend on making other people happy is not only encouraged, but applauded. And I have yet to meet those immune to “family” pressure. Who's spending Christmas where, what's our budget for gifts, are we supplying drinks, what's for lunch, are we going traditional or modern, are we adopting our new country's approach to the festive season….and if families are extended, as so many are, who spends the holidays where, how do we keep it fair; and if we are fortunate enough to spend Christmas with our next of kin, how do we get through lunch and remain friends without tearing each other's eyes out. And so on!
 
No wonder then, that this time of year sees doctor's offices more busy than usual. My doctor told me last year this time that this was the season when prescriptions for “happy pills” (anti-depressants) increased enormously. We seem to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make everyone, but ourselves, happy.
 
So in light of all the contradictory feelings, experiences and emotions of the festive season, here are some ways to balance the silly season and save yourself from complete and utter overload:
 
Five tips for fabulous festivities
(without losing your mind!)
1. Decide now what's important to you this Christmas.
It doesn't matter that traditionally you've spent every single Christmas with your family. Every year is different, and every stage in your life requires awareness. If this year finds you exhausted, you're perfectly entitled to a Christmas by the beach, doing absolutely nothing! And while family may be offended, trust that they'll get over it! Being honest and generous with yourself is as important as it is for your family.
 
2. If you are hosting Christmas for family and/or friends, delegate tasks so that you aren't overwhelmed by the time the big day arrives.
Everyone is more than happy to contribute and would love to feel needed and valued. After all, it is the season for giving!
 
3. Plan ahead.
Planning allows you to set clear boundaries for yourself and others. There's nothing worse than running around the shops at 8.30pm on Christmas Eve trying to find gifts for someone you overlooked, or groceries that you forgot to buy. Being prepared enables you to enjoy the season's highlights with those you treasure!
 
4. Know your budget.
Traditionally Christmas has become a time of serious overspending for most people. Ad agencies, and retail concerns play on our emotions and enhance guilt complexes by creating tug-at-yourheart ad campaigns. We, of course, fall for it, - hook, line and sinker! Planning what this time of year will look like for you allows you to choose a set budget for the holidays. Put a cap on spending on presents, or decide that gifts are only for the kids! Remember, you (and Santa) make the rules!
 
5. Enjoy.
Most importantly, once you've decided what to do for Chrsitmas and who to spend it with, be committed to enjoying it for what it is, an opportunity to catch up, spend quality time and enjoy the company of those you love. Try to avoid the commercial hype and the overwhelming urge to splurge and impress. And if you, like so many others, are committed to your faith, celebrate this day for its' true meaning!
 
 
 
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Posted by Gretel Breytenbach
24 Nov 2007



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