If you are anything like me, you’d like to say that the holidays only bring about this heightened joyous spirit compared to the rest of the year. But in reality, that just isn’t so for me or for many people out there. In fact, according to a Principle Financial Group Index Poll taken in 2015, 53% of Americans surveyed felt holiday spending would stress their finances, with 11% saying it would put a “great deal of stress” on their financial situation.

So, why do we do this to ourselves (because let’s be honest, it’s usually our own expectations that guide our decision-making process in the gift-giving category)? One culprit may be that crazy little thing called love. Giving gifts is a love language for me. It’s my opportunity to show those I care about how much they mean to me by way of giving them something thoughtful, helpful or that I know will bring a smile to their face. And each year, I feel the pressure to outdo the gifts from years past to bring an even bigger smile.

For most of us, financial security is at the top of our priority list. Right, wrong or indifferent, when our financial stability gets threatened by unexpected expenses, a loss of income or the holiday season (which we never quite seem to plan for enough to put our worries to rest this time of year) it throws our emotions into a tailspin. We find ourselves with less patience, on edge, and with an overall higher level of anxiety.

What can we do about this annual holiday spirit change in mood? For me, the following tips are helpful reminders and practices that have helped me enjoy the holidays and lower my anxiety level:

  1. Set a Budget. Sounds simple enough, right? But, this is always harder to stick to when we’re out and about and see that perfect gift that we just know our loved one needs, even though we put a checkmark by their name weeks ago. Listen, there will always be something shinier around the corner if we’re looking for it. Once that individual budget is exhausted, move on to the next person. Don’t start approving yourself to go $10 over here and $15 over there…we all know where that leads! Maybe even consider some alternative buying and giving this year, such as making family donations to those in need in lieu of gift giving (or agreeing to a reduced gift giving amount than normal). 
  2. Don’t Abandon Your Healthy Habits. The holidays can send our banks accounts AND our daily routines into a downward spiral. Make it a priority to keep up with the self-care that is so badly needed this time of year. Whether it be meditation, exercise, journaling or all of the above, stick with it and don’t sacrifice those things for a trip to the mall to take advantage of the latest sale. 
  3. Practice the Art of Saying “No.” If there was ever a time to work that “saying no” muscle, this is it! We all to often put more on our plate than is realistic for us to accomplish without sacrificing somewhere else. How many times do we need to learn this lesson and feel the resentment build-up, all because we just didn’t feel like we could say “no?” We need to know that It’s okay to say, in fact, it’s necessary. An added bonus, you’ll most likely find it gets a little easier each time you say it. Put that people-pleaser demon in check and avoid biting off more than you can chew.

The last point I’ll make is simply to remember what the holidays are truly about; a commonly used phrase that often gets left in the dust of our vehicles rushing around town to round up all the presents. This is a time to celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ and what He did for our eternal salvation. Reminding ourselves of that very detail can be enough to make us pause, take a deep breath and refocus our efforts on how we think about and handle this time of year.

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