For many people, the holidays are a favorite time of year because they are an opportunity for families to come together and focus on Christ. However, for many other people, the holidays are the most demanding time of year. Many stresses during the holidays can be avoided by incorporating principles of provident living into your holiday celebrations.
Church leaders have counseled us to be modest in our expenditures and discipline ourselves in our purchases to avoid debt. Be careful not to suspend sound financial practices between Thanksgiving and Christmas, thereby incurring debt that will follow you throughout the next year. Limiting holiday spending can be especially difficult when family members expect many gifts or expensive meals; however, it is possible. It may take just a little thought and time to change attitudes and habits. Here are some tips to help with the process.
- Create a budget: Sit down with your spouse or family and realistically plan how much money you can spend during the holiday season. Remember that you avoid debt when you spend less money than you earn. Keep that principle in mind as you budget and make spending decisions.
- Talk with your family: Let them know what to expect before the holidays, and ask them to contribute to the planning. If you will not be giving as many presents to family members as last year, talk to them about this and discuss what you can do to show love and appreciation to each other in creative ways.
- Plan ahead: The best financial practice when making a large purchase is to begin saving months in advance. If you know that you want to make a large purchase for Christmas, start putting away some money each month beforehand so you can buy the item without going into debt.
- Invest in the future: Often Christmas presents are focused on the newest gadgets and toys. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Christmas could be a good time to invest in opportunities that will have more meaning. Consider gifts that contribute to education, family history, or food storage, as well as opportunities to give service and spend time as a family.
The holidays are commonly a time when we indulge in delicious seasonal foods. While you are enjoying eggnog and stuffing, remember to also eat nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables. Don’t wait until the new year to pay attention to your health. Avoid overeating, and remember to exercise regularly. You will feel better and be able to enjoy your holiday celebrations more.
Another element of physical health that is often overlooked during the holidays is getting adequate sleep. With the demands of employment, family obligations, preparing for the holidays, and holiday celebrations, schedules can fill up quickly. Through all of it, do everything you can to get the sleep your body needs so that you can maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Because the holidays are so busy, we often find our emotional reserves depleted, and we become less able to cope when challenges emerge. Because of this, feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety may increase during this time of year.
To care for your emotional well-being, be realistic about what you can reasonably fit into your holiday season and learn to say no sometimes. There will probably be more activities between church, family, friends, and work than you have time for. Rather than planning something for every hour of the day, give yourself a little time to breathe. If you are feeling depressed, lonely, anxious, or stressed, reach out to someone who can encourage you and help you feel loved, or strive to be that person for someone else.
For individuals who do not have families or who have experienced a family disruption, the holidays can be an especially difficult time of year. If this is the case in your home, acknowledge that the holidays can be a struggle, and plan for them so you are prepared if negative feelings come. Make conscious decisions regarding how you want to spend your holidays. Also remember that the holidays provide an amazing opportunity to reach out to those who might be struggling and to seek spiritual guidance about how you might remove some of their burden. While each situation is very different, almost everyone responds favorably to a kind word and to the realization that you are aware of them and sensitive to their situation.
Often we think of emergency preparedness in terms of large-scale disasters. However, we should also prepare for other situations that are common during the holidays such as blizzards, ice storms, loss of power, house fires, and car accidents. These emergencies can be devastating to a family. As you prepare for all your family traditions, remember to also prepare for potential emergencies in your region. If your holiday plans include travel, don’t forget to pack emergency food and blankets just in case.
Additionally, holiday specials mean that this time of year can be a great time to stock up on needed supplies and food storage. You may want to take such purchases into account when creating your holiday budget.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf noted: “Who among us has not felt concern over the commercialization and even greed of the Christmas season? Who hasn’t felt overwhelmed by the packed calendars, the stress of finding gifts, the pressure of planning meals and events?” These feelings are unfortunately common. Sadly, they often cause many of us to lose sight of our spiritual well-being at a time when our spirits could be greatly nourished.
Along with the activities, Christmastime offers a unique opportunity to remember the mission of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Make sure to take time to consider the meaning of the season personally and as a family. As you make a concerted effort to live providently and minimize stress during this time of year, you can, in the words of President Uchtdorf, “see the purity of the story of the Savior’s birth and feel sincere gratitude for His life, teachings, and saving sacrifice for us” (“Seeing Christmas through New Eyes,” 2010 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, Dec. 5, 2010; lds.org/broadcasts).