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The holidays: The only time of year when ugly sweaters, maxed-out credit cards, getting tipsy on eggnog, and last-minute gifts from the gas station are all OK.

And don’t forget the all too common…

  • “Car-stalk mall-walk” where you slowly follow people with your car in the mall parking lot so that you can grab their spot.
  • “Honey moonshine phase,” where everyone is nice to each other after their first couple of drinks, but then have disagreements over the most ridiculous things as the night and drinking progresses.
  • “There’s always a little more room for turkey!”
  • “How come you’re having her dessert and not mine?”
  • “Can we open our presents now.” *five minutes later* “Now can we open are presents?”

I like to think of myself as a master at surviving cracker jack holiday shopping and Christmas dinners, so I’d like to pass my wisdom onto you. Here’s my survival guide to get through the holidays with most of your sanity intact:

  • If you can’t get your shopping done early, try going to the mall during quieter hours. Monday & Tuesday nights are generally ideal.
  • Don’t even bother trying to find a parking spot close to the mall entrance. Just save yourself the frustration and the headache. Head to the furthest area in the parking lot. This tactic works best when you’re shopping with someone else, so that you have help carrying everything back (better yet, have one person stay with the gifts while the other person gets the car).
  • Set a gift spending limit. Calculate how much you can reasonably afford and stick to that budget. It’s better to get a decent, reasonably priced gift than to spend the next year paying off your gift-giving debt. And if your family is on board, consider doing a gift exchange among the adults (or just buy gifts for the kids). When money was a little tight after purchasing my first home, I discretely told each family member not to buy me anything because I wouldn’t be buying gifts that year. Most listened…a couple didn’t.
  • Don’t start a diet during the holidays. It’s going to be really difficult to stay disciplined and dutifully eat your salad when everyone else is piling gravy on mashed potatoes and having another piece of cheesecake. You can start fresh and healthy in the New Year.
  • Keep in mind that you will never be able to please everyone. There’s always going to be at least one person who won’t like your gift, your decorations, your dinner, your dessert, your outfit, your Christmas music, your lack of Christmas music, your traditions, your Christmas tree, etc. While the holidays are about the spirit of giving, it is not your responsibility nor is it your burden to make everyone happy. If someone wants to be a Scrooge, that’s their problem.

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  • Don’t use the holidays (and the inhibition-reducing power of eggnog) to air dirty laundry or grievances. Put your emotional IQ and social skills to good use. Got a problem with someone? Deal with it after the holidays. Starting an argument when the family is gathered together is socially awkward, unpleasant, and shows poor etiquette. If someone starts a conversation on a controversial topic, cut it short. Firmly emphasize that it is not the time or the place for such a discussion – and if they must hash it out, tell them to take it outside. Remember, your home, your rules.
  • Accept gifts with grace and gratitude. Even if your mother-in-law bought you yet another cookbook, or your grandma another ugly sweater, remind yourself that it was done in the spirit of giving.
  • Find yourself alone on the holidays? Use it as an opportunity to reach out to others. Donate your time to a soup kitchen, children’s hospital, retirement home or animal shelter. There is definitely someone out there who would greatly appreciate your companionship.
  • Use your mishaps of the past year as incentive to do better in the New Year. Nothing is set in stone. There is always time and ample opportunity to learn something new, become a better person, fix a broken relationship, find love again, improve your health, heal, and move on. And remember to count your blessing and express gratitude for everything you have. You’re an amazing, powerful soul having a human experience. Your life isn’t full of mistakes, failures, or bad decisions, only learning opportunities.
  • While it’s noble to strive to be kinder to others, make it a priority to love yourself more in the new year. It’s very difficult to find success, love, happiness, and inner peace when you spend most of the time putting yourself down and focusing on your faults.
  • I’m always torn between being optimistic/hoping for the best in the new year and being realistic/preparing for all eventualities. And then I remind myself that living a life in fear, worry, and sadness isn’t truly living. The laws of the universe are really quite simple: If you jump off a building, gravity will inevitably drag you down to the ground. If you expect the worst and assume something will inevitably go wrong, chances are it will. If you want to best in life expect the best. If you want love, give love. If you want joy, create joy.

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Wishing you Happy Holidays & an empowering and enlightening New Year!

Queen D

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