It might seem a little early to bring this up…but it really isn’t. There are exactly seven more Saturdays before Christmas. That’s it – just seven.

Are you an early shopper? Or are you one of those circling a packed mall parking lot the day before Christmas or staring a hole through your front door trying will that last-minute gift you bought online to magically appear?

How much extra stress do you think you go through because you’ve left holiday shopping until the last minute?

If you participate in the holiday season every year, it’s arrival shouldn’t be a surprise. It comes at the same time every year. Honest!

What if you were to plan? Make a list of everyone you want to buy for, then make a budget and then a list of creative ideas to help keep you on track. If you start now you could be done by Nov 30th–how great would that feel? I call bullshit on those who say they are waiting for inspiration. These people are deadline driven and usually habitual procrastinators!

Christmas and the holiday season can already be stressful enough without kicking into panic mode because you have less than 24 hours to spare before Christmas morning arrives.

There is a huge amount of expectation on Christmas, some is placed on us by societal norms and some comes from internal and external expectations. What are the stress levels being created because of those expectations?

Many people will put themselves into debt to meet those expectations. Do you know who you will buy for? Who will you be going into debt for? If you put a $50 gift on your credit card and can’t pay it off for a year, how much will that gift actually cost you?

What’s the value system in your family? Do you exchange one large gift or a bunch of little things? Often our norms come from traditions established during our childhood, but if you are weighing whether or not to put yourself into debt to buy gifts, you might need to stop and think about whether those norms still work for you.

Ask yourself what you’re doing from a place of being aware and choosing rather than going through things by default because it feels like what you should do or what you are expected to do. If you find meaning in it, then go for it. If you are miserable and hate every minute of scanning the shelves, then this is the time to stop and ask yourself why and if you can change anything. Maybe there is a happy medium?

If the first thought that pops into your mind is about spending quality time together and not what presents you hope to get then is there a way to move your expectations a bit closer to that value set?

Maybe instead of a gift in the commercial sense there is an experience you can give. An experience has value over and above the event itself. You create memories and meaning while sharing the gift of time–which is the most precious gift we can give anyone.

Think about a gift that would have meaning for someone. Ask: What will make them light up and what will bring them joy? For me it would be the gift of a clean house — nooks and crannies too — from top to bottom in one day. Best gift EVER! Is there something you can do for someone else that would be that gift for them? Precooked meals? Car cleaning?

If you do still wait until the last minute to find your gift–whatever that may be–I ask you to be kind to everyone else who is there with you. People in the line, the person at the till, the staff. It’s not their fault you waited until the last minute and they are probably doing their best. As you stand in a 20 minute line up, it might be a good time to think about how you can do it better next year – think of it as a walking meditation or a little down time – your gift to you.

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