December, the month for parties, gifts, food, friends and family, all wrapped up in good cheer. It’s also the season for making lists, spreading ourselves too thin, stressful emotions and figuring out how to squeeze a few extra hours in the day.
Here are a few tips to help you sort things out:
1. Party invitations: It’s okay to attend more than one event in an evening, provided they are “drop by when you can” type of affairs. There are only so many dates and hosts realize their guests may have several invitations to choose from, so map your route, plan to stay for at least 30 minutes, and have fun!
An exception to this would be a sit-down dinner party, where guests are expected to arrive on time and stay through dessert. Be sure to R.S.V.P. so your host knows how to plan accordingly.
2. Host gifts: Yes, please. A thoughtful gift reflects your thanks and appreciation for the time, effort and expense your host puts forth on your behalf. It does not have to be large, nor expensive. A few suggestions would include a bottle of wine, homemade jam/jelly, a nice smelling candle, napkins with fun sayings, a set of coasters, an unusual vinegar or olive oil, or muffins for breakfast the next morning. Be sure to include a brief note with your name (never a business card); hosts have a million things to think about during a party and remembering who brought what might slip their mind.
3. Unexpected gifts. Receiving a gift from someone without having one to give yourself can feel awkward and uncomfortable. Have a stash of wrapped gifts, such as wine, candles, picture frames, or delicious treats – wrapped and ready to go. Keep tags and a pen nearby, so you can quickly personalize the item. If you say that you “left their gift at home”, be sure to follow through. However, before giving presents just to keep even, ask yourself if you really want to begin exchanging gifts with the person on a regular basis. A sincere “thank you!” may be all that is necessary.
4. Feeling over-whelmed, yet guilty when you don’t agree to do something asked of you? It’s okay to say no! There is no need to make excuses – your reasons are your own and you are entitled to keep them to yourself. A polite “I’m sorry, I’m not able to do that / be there” is all that is necessary. Keep in mind that just because someone feels comfortable asking “why” does not mean you need to tell them. Smile, repeat “No” (I can’t / I’m not available / I’m not able to / I have another commitment or other plans) as needed, and stand your ground. Close the conversation to avoid further discussion: “Thank you for thinking of me. I hope you have a wonderful time / everything goes well” etc.
Be kind to yourself. Show yourself the same courtesy you extend to others through-out the year. Whether it is a two minute conversation as you order your coffee, a long lunch with a friend, or a visit with family you see only once a year, it’s an opportunity to connect, share a smile and perhaps a laugh.
Positive interactions with others help reduce stress, so above all else, do your best to relax and enjoy the season.