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Posted: December 06, 2011

Top 10 ways for the jobless to de-stress the holidays

Go shop-free and simplify

John Heckers

The holidays have once more hit us like the proverbial Mac Truck. If you're unemployed over this holiday season, you're probably feeling stressed and under pressure. Here are 10 ways to make your holiday easier, more meaningful and less stressful.

1). Break traditions. Traditions pile up over the years, often for no reason. Since so much is different in your life now, it is a great time for you to sit down with your family and re-evaluate the "traditions" that have grown up over the years, keeping those that are truly meaningful and discarding those that are onerous, meaningless or expensive.

2). Opt not to shop. Forty percent of Americans are not doing holiday shopping this year. Be one of them. If you have young children, you probably need to get them a thing or two. Otherwise, opt out. The merchants will survive, and you won't have a ton of debt to deal with in January.

3). Look for spiritual meaning. If you're religious, look to your religious tradition this holiday. If not, look to the spiritual meaning of the holidays. See that the holidays symbolize the open giving of the Universe to everyone. The holidays were never meant to be about buying a bunch of stuff. That's the Madison Avenue propaganda talking!

4). Give homemade gifts. If you simply must give gifts, give ones that come from your heart and your hands. Whenever I've received a hand-made gift, it has meant far more to me than something store-bought. Unless someone is irredeemably materialistic and shallow, they'll feel the same way, too. If you need to give a "bought" gift, shop locally owned small shops and get a gift crafted by a local artisan. Keep money in our community and out of the hands of the chains.

5). Make an agreement among adults not to give gifts this season. Do you really need to give another tie to your brother-in-law? In the families where adults have agreed not to give gifts, there is usually an immense sense of relief. No one likes the mailman with the "ghosts of Christmas past" (the bills from the holiday) in January. Minimize the material stuff.

6). Simplify. In every way possible, simplify things. Look at ways to make your holiday more simple and more meaningful. Appreciate those things which cost little or nothing, such as a snowstorm or a cup of cocoa. Spend your time with those you truly care about, rather than running around trying to meet the absurd societal expectations for this season.

7). Don't stop your job search activities. Yes, take a little time off for your holiday, whatever it is. But don't trash the whole month of December and part of January. Even if you can't interview, you can still do many things to continue your job search. This will prevent panic January 3rd when you realize that it is a new year and you didn't do anything for part of the previous one. Don't get lulled by the "holiday spirit."

8). Don't pig out or become a couch potato. Holiday food is very tempting. It is also really bad for us. Have healthy alternatives in your house. And make it a priority to get exercise at an even higher level this time of year. After all, exercise is proven to reduce stress more than almost anything else.

9). Be wise about extended family. If you dread the annual pilgrimage to the dysfunction that exists in many families, now's your time to break the "tradition." You have a right to spend time with those whom you truly care about and who truly care about you.

10). Don't fall for the propaganda! You'll get called a "Grinch" and "Scrooge" and all other kinds of nasty names for being sensible and frugal over the holidays. Ignore it! The merchants, Madison Avenue, the bankers, etc. all have a vested stake in your going into debt to buy stuff, party hearty, and generally over-indulge. But you have a vested stake in not doing so. Your needs win.

You can still have a meaningful holiday by spending time with those who are close to your heart, taking joy in simple things that cost nothing, and resting your mind and spirit. In fact, this holiday may well be the most meaningful holiday you have ever had. May whatever holiday you celebrate be filled with Light and Life!

Please join us for our management and executive holiday structured networking event on Monday, December 12th. Use discount code cobizmag. More information and registration here.
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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

What a great story, Carla! I used to do the whole Madison Avenue Christmas thing for a while. But the true meaning of Christmas, which is (for me) the overwhelming generosity and abundance of God, is what counts. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 12 08
Thanks, John. It's always a good reminder that the holidays don't have to be a big spending spree. Some years ago, when my daughter was eight, my purse got stolen three weeks before Christmas with ALL my money in it. I had been saving for months, and we had just made our first stop. It ended up being the very best Christmas we EVER had. We focused on the true meaning of Christmas. We handmade all our very simple gifts and Christmas cards. A friend cut a tree for us. And, her picture was in The Denver Post on Christmas morning, helping another little angel fix her halo for the Christmas Eve service at church! Our Christmases have been different ever since. Hope yours is just as wonderful. By Carla on 2011 12 06
Thanks, Jonathan. My wife and I are doing our annual "house de-junking" now. Each year we go through the house and if we haven't used it in a year, and it doesn't have deep sentimental meaning --- out it goes to someone who will get something out of it. We, as Americans, have too much stuff...most of which we never use. There is nothing wrong with having stuff (or money). The problem comes in when the stuff or money has US. May you have a blessed holiday! By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 12 06
Thanks John. Here's a quote from W. James which seems applicable to the topic at hand: "Lives based on having are less free than lives based on doing or being." Best wishes for a happy holiday season...enjoy your column. By Jonathan Spencer on 2011 12 06

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