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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

Ever notice that the holiday time seems to be an equal-parts mix of joy and anxiety? I know I’m not the only one who struggles this time of year. As much as I love the holiday spirit, part of me just feels too rushed and too anxious to really be able to enjoy it.

First there’s the careful budgeting for each person on your holiday gift-giving list: limited funds with a seemingly infinite list of people you would like to offer a present to. Let’s not even get into the difficulty of those $10 max secret-santa gift buying ideas (just buy good chocolate for these things…entirely not needed during the holidays but you know SOMEONE will appreciate it.)

Then there’s those shopping marathons where you find yourself rushing frantically from store to store in search of something special and meaningful with the same 10 Christmas songs on repeat in every store, making you wish time travel and teleportation would just hurry up and be invented already. You’re getting sweaty because you’re wearing to many layers, there’s about a thousand people in the checkout lines, and everything on sale is looking picked-through.

Worst of all, you‘re feeling distinctively uninspired, overwhelmed and more than a little confused. You’ve lost focus. You can’t even remember who you’re shopping for anymore.

You just want it to all go away. ‘Tis the season!

Avoid THAT moment.

And when all the preparing and running around finally clams down and you’re supposed to just relax with your loved ones, there’s that moment when finally you get to offer your gift to your loved one, and you have that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling of excitement and dread, that “what-if-he-hates-the-scarf” instant.

And then you see that it’s totally not his color. It’s the wrong length. It’s just, wrong. Ugh.

You can’t help but wish that you would have been able to spend more time looking for that perfect gift. You wouldn’t have screwed it up if only you weren’t so rushed! As we all know, disappointing someone can be the worst. Feeling. Ever.

Ease Anxiety- Do your shopping like a pro!

The best thing I learnt a couple of years ago about Christmas is how much better (ie less stressful, more enjoyable) it can be when you’re prepared. The cornerstone to preparedness is a little organization.

You don’t need to go overboard on this, but there’s a certain amount of magic that is created when you make a list. Yeah, just like Santa, you’re going to make that list. And check it. At least twice.

Organization creates thoughtfulness.

Let’s say you’re shopping for your dear ol’ papa. Several weeks before you start your Christmas shopping, listen to him. Listen to his stories and his complaints and all the little messages he is sending you.

Say he tells you a story about dropping something heavy on his toes at work. Mark it on your list. You might not make a connection right away, but then one day you’re perusing the net and you see a sweet pair of Timberland Pro Series safety boots and you have that flash of genius: a stylish way to protect his tootsies AND you’ll have that bonding moment, that little inside joke when he opens his gift and knows that you were listening to him, and that you care.

These are the moments when your heart feels like it’s just pumped full of love and excitement, when you know you really nailed it; the perfect gift. Something useful, something he loves. Something that truly shows you care.

THAT, ladies, is what makes a great gift.

About the Author: Jessica Lee is a freelance writer who works from home and likes to juggle her time between online Christmas shopping WELL in advance (she just scored a ride on dump truck her nephews are going to go bananas for!), writing her own LOLcats captions, and doing actual work. Sometimes.

Earnest Parenting: helping parents navigate the holiday shopping season in an organized fashion.

Image courtesy of Lorenzo T. (ricominciamo…) via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.