It’s that time of year again! Thanksgiving officially begins the holiday season. For most of us, the holidays signal excitement accompanied by stories, memories and traditions. Whether you love the holidays or dread their arrival, here are some thoughts and tips to help you cope with the season and its expectations.

1. Be realistic and focused. Learn from your past holiday experiences. If you’ve made decisions you later regretted — and who of us hasn’t — refuse to make them again. Reruns only assure misery.You can create a new tradition or put a different twist on the familiar. The point is, make the holiday meaningful and enjoyable for yourself and those you love.

2. Make choices and decisions that respect your time, energy and limitations. Whether you’re a family caregiver or someone living with a chronic illness, make choices and decisions that respect your limitations. We all have them whether it’s time, patience, money or health. Enjoy what you can do and accept what you can’t do. Be confident about expressing your limitations and trust that you’re the expert when it comes to knowing what you will and won’t do.

3. Create and value your boundaries. If there are expectations cloaked as “traditions” which create havoc or distress, either decline participating in those activities, or limit your time and presence in those situations. People who tend to zap your energy can’t do that without your cooperation. Give yourself permission to make boundaries. No one is going to do this for you, it’s your responsibility — so create, value and maintain them.

4. Focus on what’s positive in the here and now. Many of us have an “if only” list. But “if only” doesn’t live in the present, and you do. Listen to your heart and spirit. Choose to express what’s really important for you to celebrate. Open yourself to the here and now in your life. What three things are you most grateful for? Celebrate them! They are the unique gifts you bring to the table of life.

5. Shop wisely because everyone wants your business! Retail stores make the majority of their revenue during the holiday season. With a weaker economy, and a more cautious purchasing public, expect retail stores to go all out with enticing sales and bonuses to capture your attention — and your pocketbook. Remember, you’re the only one who can prevent overspending.

6. Create a budget. This way you’ll know how much actual money you have to spend, compared to how much you may be tempted to spend. Now make your gift list from your heart and your pocketbook — and stick to it. If you need to cut back on presents — do it! If this makes you “feel” uncomfortable, that’s OK. Using good judgment and less credit now prevents financial stress and more problems down the road.

7. Be aware of what motivates you to purchase gifts. Our ego is often involved in what we choose to buy for others. Sometimes we want to be loved for what we give, along with its price tag. Shopping with your ego in control isn’t smart shopping. Review your gift list and simplify it. Then simplify it again. If there’s financial abundance at your disposal — wonderful, enjoy and share it. If not, share what’s within your means, and do it with gusto!

8. Keep shopping simple. E-commerce is easy, direct, and most of all — quiet! Catalogues are also great for hassle-free shopping. Don’t wait till the last minute to choose your merchandise because merchants may run out of popular items. Remember to check the return policy of both e-merchants and catalogue companies, and keep an eye on shipping and handling costs — they add up.

9. Protect your personal space. There’s usually “more” to do at holiday time -more of everything, so protect your personal space. More doesn’t always mean better. If you say “yes” to every request, good idea, or fun thing, you’ll probably end up saying “no” to something else — and that “something else” may well be your personal space. Pick and choose activities you want to do, and decline those you don’t. By consciously slowing yourself down, you can make choices which will add to rather than detract from your enjoyment of the holidays. Pace yourself to make space for yourself!

10. Practice mindfulness. Along with the excitement, festivities and years of accumulated memories and experiences, take time to be mindful. Set aside two or three minutes in each day. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Let your mind clear. Be aware of what the day has brought you, and what you have brought to your day. Each of us, no matter who we are, has just 24 hours in each day. By practicing mindfulness, we express gratitude for each one and how we live it.

Enjoy a sane and satisfying celebration of the season.

Pauline Salvucci


  • Pauline Salvucci, M.A., is a former medical family therapist, a personal coach, founder and President of Self Care Connection, LLC and author of the Self-Care Now! booklet series. Her specialty is coaching men and women at midlife -- particularly those living with chronic health conditions and family caregivers who are "sandwiched" between their families and their aging parents.