Around this time of year, much of the conversation in our counseling sessions surrounds the holidays. Typically, there’s an assortment of feelings associated with the holidays, some positive and some not-so-positive. Many therapy clients talk about feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Needless to say, we've been doing a lot of thinking about this stress and where it comes from. Much of it has to do with travel plans, attending multiple events, and dealing with family… plus all of the shopping that comes along with the holidays. If you haven’t started shopping yet, or still have a ways to go, your stress level might be up there right now.
What’s in a gift?
Whatever your reasons for celebrating or your feelings about holiday gifting, many of us participate in the practice of gift giving around this time of year. If you're going to do it, you might as well make it count and take advantage of the opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your gift recipients. A gift can be a token for your relationship. Giving can be a way of connecting with other people on some level.
For me, holiday shopping isn't stressful… it's actually really fun! It's a time where I get to be creative. I love to find a special gift for each person, and I spend a lot of time thinking about my gifts. The time that goes into thinking about and planning for gifts is also a way of getting outside of myself during this time and focusing on the needs and interests of those I know and love.
There's something about receiving a really meaningful gift that lasts beyond the life of the gift. When you receive a gift like this, you feel known... like that person really knows you. It shows that they pay attention. It shows they cared enough to seek out something just for you. It really is the thought that counts.
Here are a few tips that may help you keep your holiday shopping stress down, as well as find a meaningful gift for each person on your list.
Gifting within your means
Take some time to look at your budget and see what you have room for this month. Overspending is one of the biggest reasons for all of the holiday anxiety. For me, I think knowing what I can spend is the number one thing that keeps me from stressing too much. I know how much I have to spend from the get go, I make a list of everyone I need to buy for, and then I just divide my budget by the number of people. Knowing how much I can spend on each person gives me an idea of the types of gifts I need to be looking for.
You don’t have to buy expensive or extravagant items to make an impact. They could even be homemade. Even if you don’t have much to work with, your gifts can be thoughtful and meaningful.
Gifting with purpose
Gifting with purpose means not just buying whatever pre-made gift basket you see near the checkout line at Target. It means taking the time to actually plan for each person. Before you start freaking out about how you don't have the time to plan, just know that having a starting point in mind is much better than wandering into a store or surfing the internet with zero direction. It might actually save you time in the long run.
You can start just by brainstorming. Think about each person on your list, and go through the following categories. Think about your own experiences with them. Write down whatever comes to mind.
What aspects of their personality do you most enjoy or connect with? Do you enjoy their sense of humor? Find something funny that you know they’ll laugh at when they open it. Are they competitive? A challenging game might be something they’d like. Someone who likes order and organization might appreciate a tool to help them be more organized.
What's going on in their life right now? What do they need? Maybe they recently moved into a new home and could use some new kitchen utensils. Perhaps your giftee is a super busy mom who just needs a break! Bath bombs or a massage day for the two of you?
What do they care about? Maybe they’re passionate about environmentalism. They might love nothing more than an eco-friendly item to help them reduce their carbon footprint. Or maybe you’ve got a friend that’s into alternative healing that would appreciate a rose quartz crystal.
Are there things you have in common? I have a friend with the same taste palate… we connect over our love of the same flavors, specifically when it comes to wine. It’s something that gets brought up each time we’re together, and a good bottle of wine that we both enjoy is always a hit with her.
Once you've got some ideas, that's half the battle. Before you shop, translate those brainstorming notes into a condensed list of physical gifts or experiences the person might like. If you’ve got a list, you’ll be less likely to go into a store and get overwhelmed. You can relax a little. You have direction and a general idea of where you're headed.
Now, of course, it's not the worst thing in the world if you procrastinate too long and end up having to settle for a pre-made gift basket (I mean, I always dig one of those pampering sets). The point is, if you can, spend a little extra time thinking of the ones you love as you plan, and seize the opportunity to weave meaningful connection into an aspect of holiday tradition that is often superficial. You may not find the exact thing you’re looking for, but as long as you put some thought into your gift, it’s sure to make an impact on the recipient. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Afterall, regardless of what they open up, the important thing is that you show up and show you care.