Many of us look forward to the holidays for months, if not all year. They’re a time for family and friends – and for giving. But if we don’t put any limits on that giving, we can end up exhausted and resentful. That’s why, even during the season of giving, it’s important to put some boundaries in place. Here are three tips to help you get the most from this special time.

  1. Don’t try to be the perfect mother, wife, friend or sister. The holidays are a busy time, and everyone has their own expectations. The kids want you to be their personal chauffeur, taking them everywhere from parties to malls. Your parents and siblings expect you to host the family dinner. Your husband is planning to vegetate in front of the TV. And your best friend, who is on her own this year, wants to talk on the phone for hours.If you try to be everything for everyone, the holidays will fly past you in a blur, and you’ll wonder why they’re called “holidays” at all. So decide what’s most important and focus on that. Set limits with the kids; get lots of help from the family with that dinner (or go to a restaurant); and let your husband know that you can’t do it all alone. As for your friend, decide what you can and can’t do for her. It may make sense to schedule some conversations with her so that she isn’t forgotten – and place limits on the time you spend talking so that you can still get everything else done.
  1. Don’t go along with everyone just to keep the peace. If you want to survive (let alone enjoy) a busy time, you’ll need to say no to some things. If you over-commit, you’ll miss out on the things that matter most to you: time to relax with your family (or on your own), read a book, check out the Christmas lights – whatever it is that you love the most about the holidays. Don’t spend too much of your time attending parties you don’t enjoy, cooking for crowds (unless that’s what you love to do), or listening to distant relatives arguing or complaining. Make conscious choices about the things you want to do and the things you do for others. If you keep them in balance, you’ll be able to relax a bit and still feel good about yourself.
  1. Don’t expect the impossible. You may never find (or receive) that “perfect gift”. If you have kids, they won’t stop fighting (or throwing tantrums or staying out late) just because it’s holiday time. If you’re single, you may spend more time alone than you’d like – so decide how you’d like to spend it. If you have a big family, you probably won’t have as much time to relax as you’d like – so schedule some me-time. And you may find yourself spending time with some difficult people; decide what limits work for you.Let go of that holiday fantasy. Enjoy some time with the people you love, knowing that it may not be perfect. Eat some good food, even though some of it may be as good as you hoped. Spend some time in nature if you’re fortunate enough to be able to – but know that you may be sharing it with some extra people.  And place reasonable limits on your obligations so that you still have time to enjoy the break.

Finally, don’t underestimate the time you need to recharge your batteries. Most of us don’t take enough time to just relax. Whether that involves TV, books, music or extra sleep, make sure that you have some time to just chill. January will be here before you know it, and you want some energy left to tackle those New Year’s resolutions!

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