If you arrived at the end of the holidays last year saying, “Thank goodness that’s over,” you might decide to take a different approach this year. Although the holiday season is supposed to be a time of celebration, many of us find it the most stressful, even depressing, time of the year.

Since the holidays will go on with or without your participation, why not make them the happiest, warmest time possible? 

Begin by giving yourself a gift or two.

Here are some ideas for extra special gift-giving that will eliminate the hassle and expand the pleasure in the busy weeks ahead.

° Give yourself the gift of plenty of time. The sooner you begin to organize your activities, the more relaxed you’ll stay. Start by spending an evening making a list of everything you’ll have to do. Make a list of ways to save time such as shopping off-hours or online.

Set deadlines for activities and put them on your calendar.

° Give yourself the gift of saying no. Part of the overwhelming feeling that comes with the holidays is thinking we have to accept every invitation, bake every cookie from scratch, and run ourselves ragged in the process.

Decide to say no to all the activities that don’t add pleasure. Keep “Less is More” as your motto. Your holidays will be more special if you go for quality, not quantity.

° Give yourself the gift of simplicity. The less complex you can make things, the more time and energy you’ll have to enjoy this season.

Pick one knockout outfit and wear it over and over again to parties. Simplify your shopping by having a theme or giving the same gift to several people.

° Give yourself the gift of extra pampering. Pay more attention to soothing activities like a long, leisurely soak in the tub. Pamper yourself, too, by watching what you eat and drink.

Your nutritional well-being may dissolve when faced with a Yuletide dessert table. Moderation is your friend.

° Give yourself the gift of a new tradition. You may carry around warm memories of holidays in the past and your current reality doesn’t match up. Your holidays will be more wonderful if you create some new traditions for yourself.

If you are far from family, plan a celebration that includes others in the same situation. Or plan a celebration unlike any you’ve ever had. Last year, my sisters, brother, brother-in-law and I spent the week of Christmas in San Miguel de Allende Mexico. It bore little resemblance to our usual holiday, but it was every bit as wonderful.

° Give yourself the gift of hired help. Many enterprising folks start service businesses to help around the holidays.

For a reasonable fee you can get assistance with party-giving, shopping, errand running. If you normally clean your own house, splurge on a cleaning service.

Don’t add to your stress by trying to do everything yourself.

° Give yourself the gift of laughter. If you want this year to be merry and bright, keep your sense of humor.

When things go wrong or not according to plan, don’t forget to keep laughing. Joy, delight and wonder show up when we make an effort to welcome them.

Determine now that you will, indeed, make this the best holiday season ever. Relax, smile and enjoy all the giving and receiving that comes with this time of year. You’ll give yourself and the people you love a holiday season that they’ll remember fondly for years.

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