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BossWoman eNews – November 2005
Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives

Welcome to the November 2005 edition of Susan Robison's free e-mail newsletter for women business owners, executives, and professionals.

Our goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life while making a difference. If you are on this list you have been a client, an advocate, or attended a workshop. Pass this newsletter on to others who might be interested. This e-mail list is not sold or exchanged. Details on subscribing (and unsubscribing) are at the end.

In this issue, you'll find:

  1. Beating the Holiday Blues
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. Up and coming workshops
1. Beating the Holiday Blues
The Winter Holiday season in the US is upon us. When we see Christmas decorations in the stores before Halloween, it seems that one holiday just roles right into another. Some of my clients tell me this is such a difficult, stressful time of the year that they would rather skip forward to January.

No matter which of the winter holidays you celebrate, this newsletter will give you strategies to combat the common causes of the “holiday blues.”

Unrealistic Expectations
We can blame it on the Hallmark card ads on TV. Everybody in the happy family is gathered around the fireplace ecstatic about their wonderful gifts and cards. Of course who wouldn’t want to be part of that scene? However, reality doesn’t work that way.

Instead: You are not living in a greeting card ad. Be realistic about where you are with your life right now. Set expectations that can be met. The Christmas after my mother died was one where I needed to lower my expectations. Each ornament I placed on the tree reminded of my mother who had made dozens of glass bead ornaments one summer when she was recovering from surgery. My father, who was coming out for the holidays, was struggling with his grief especially since their wedding anniversary was a few days before Christmas. Our daughter’s boyfriend broke up with her the week before Christmas. How was I going to make the perfect holiday greeting card in front of the fireplace for everyone? As we gathered around the fireplace, we took turns crying and comforting one another. And as a family of empathic people, we were feeling badly about each other’s pain. Then I got an idea to dig out the packet of the game, Charades, from my childhood. As we acted out the silly sayings, we started laughing and crying at the same time. Sometimes if you give up expectations, you can get something better. Instead of the Hallmark scene, we got a time of being real with each other.

If this holiday season greets you in bad time of your life, give up to the greeting card expectations. If you have been recently widowed or divorced, dealing with the loss of a job, or trying to recover from an illness, this year will be different from “normal”. The year that Victoria was separated from her husband, she gathered her teenage children on Thanksgiving Day to volunteer at a downtown soup kitchen. Be getting got out of the house and away from their pain, they were distracted from their misfortune by helping those even less fortunate. Now, even though her children are grown and Victoria is happily remarried, the family still gathers each year to help at the soup kitchen.

What are some new traditions you might need to introduce for this holiday season? Have family additions and changes necessitated new rituals for your loved ones? For example, this might be the year that Mom no longer hosts a holiday dinner but instead takes her place as the respected elder at a dinner hosted by a daughter or daughter-in-law. One of my friends gifts her whole family with a season of dinner theater tickets. She and her husband and grown kids enjoy setting aside these dates are important reminders of their sense of family and fun.

If you landed from another planet you might think that holidays were about food and shopping. According to happiness researchers, getting material stuff brings only momentary pleasure but not an increase in overall well-being. No one ever reminisces about “the perfect holiday of ’05 when I got my Ipod.” What does increase happiness is a sense of meaning and purpose.

Instead: Deemphasize the commercialism of the season.

  • Limit your gift giving to the people closest to you. I have seen clients being so frazzled by shopping for the mailman, the beautician, the children’s teacher, that they bark at their closest loved ones on the holiday. Is this what you want from the holiday? Your close ones don’t want you gifting the world and showing up for celebrations exhausted instead of saving some of your energy for yourself and them?
  • If you are in a career situation where gift giving builds business relationships, consider giving generic gifts that don’t require a lot of effort but might be appreciated by any adult.
    • Food gifts if you know them well enough (don’t send them chocolate if it gives them headaches).
    • Gift certificates for department stores where they can shop at their leisure in the post holiday sales.
    • Gift certificates on Amazon or other on-line bookstores for your readaholic colleagues.
    • Contributions to a selected charity for those who seem to have everything.
  • Make a note to start shopping early next year for a few individualized gifts for your close ones. Set a start date on your 2006 calendar, one that allows you a leisurely pace. Catch sales throughout the year. Have a shelf in a closet or garage where you can store items you will wrap later.
  • Make wrapping easy by using gift bags. An extra bonus: they can be reused.
  • Wrap the top of boxes and slide them down over the bottoms. Save the boxes by nesting them. We put labels on with one of those Post-it sticky goop devices and the labels can be removed for the next year without destroying the wrapping paper. During the years when my father was alive and my daughter and son-in-law came to our house, everybody would get out the boxes on Christmas Eve and be done “wrapping” in 15 minutes. Of course there was haggling over the various sizes and shapes. The biggest fight was over the self decorated Marshall Fields’ boxes especially the white ones with gold italic print that says, “Marshall Fields and Christmas.” They just don’t make boxes like that anymore.
  • Try out having everyone shopping for themselves with a dollar amount limit. Then the surprise is on the others when you open the gift, not the gift recipient.
  • Give a list or suggestion to your Secret Santa gift giver. Some families consider this the height of commercialism, while others find it is a good remedy because it puts a limit on time and spending.
  • Most importantly consider increasing a sense of meaning and purpose in yourself and your loved ones.
    • Establishing other traditions besides gift giving, like planning games or working jig saw puzzles.
    • Family talent shows.
    • Religious rituals like lighting the Chanukah candles or opening Advent calendars.
    • Pulling names for Secret Santa but instead of giving gifts, finding ways to do kind acts for the person whose name was pulled.
Not Enough Money
Do you find yourself working hard all year to pay off those post holiday bills? Do you and your spouse argue about the seasonal extravagance? Are you continually surprised that just when your checking account seemed ahead, it gets wiped out by the January bills?

Instead: Have a sane plan to balance your purchases with your values.

  • If you do buy gifts, limit the number and cost so that your shopping fits your spending plan.
  • Buy in bulk for deep discounts.
  • Don’t wander the stores looking for inspiration. Instead skim catalogues and on line stores looking for ideas and then go shopping with your list to the stores in your locations because you want to save shipping.
  • Don’t get caught up in the latest holiday decorating fad. Keep things simple and emphasize what is really important to you in this season such as being with friends or observing the religious aspects of the holidays.
  • Make gifts such as baked goods or even better, a decorated kit of ingredients so they can bake their own.
Too Much Food
Most Americans average a seven pound weight gain over the winter holidays – and never lose the poundage. Do you find yourself consuming high calorie foods in great amounts at holiday gatherings? Who forced you to eat that much?

Instead: Eat mindfully. That is, plan what and how much you intend to eat. Then stick to it. Eating healthily is not impossible if you set your goal to stay healthy. You can mindfully enjoy a few treats if you plan on taking small portions. Be sure to savor each bite instead of gulping and really enjoy your choices.

Family Tensions
Sometimes in spite of your best options, difficult family members can make your life miserable with their unrealistic expectations. For example, your family of origin is so jealous of you spending time with your in-laws on holidays that you dash around eating two (or more in the case of divorced parents) Thanksgiving meals trying to please everyone.

Instead: Set your own goals about the holidays being kind yet firm about your availability for celebrations. Sane families find sane solutions that benefit everyone as much as possible. It takes flexibility. The family of my sister-in-law has their Thanksgiving celebration the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day, thus freeing the grown children to make plans with their nuclear families or with their in-law families. Some families cause themselves unnecessary stress by rigidly insisting that holidays can only be celebrated on the actual holiday.

Sometimes the tension is so destructive, the family dynamics so dysfunctional, you might want to limit your contact with certain people. Arriving late and l eaving early or having “prior engagements” might be needed especially where drugs and alcohol play a part in escalating tensions. For all our cultural emphasis on not walking alone at night through dark alleys, we are most at risk for homicide at family gatherings where loosening of inhibitions and frustration at unmet expectations are unsavory dishes at the table. If you have sincerely addressed the issues and requested change but the changes have not been made, you might need to limit or avoid time with obnoxious or abusive people even if they are related to you. Give yourself permission to see your rights to have a peaceful holiday.

Feeling Overwhelmed
You only have 168 hours every week. All year long you fill up those hours and still wish you had more time. Now it is holiday time and you try to cram even more into your already busy weeks.

Instead: Know that you can’t do it all.

  • Set low goals for your time management. If you shop for gifts, don’t wander. Either shop on line or make focused lists for your selections.
  • Start early instead of waiting until after Thanksgiving. Group your errands and pace yourself.
  • Don’t set too many goals. Only Martha Stewart makes everything herself (if you believe that one, you are ignoring the multimillion dollar business she runs with thousands of employees whose job it is to think up and make all those handmade decorations.)
  • Give up some things to get others. Consider a pre-made dinner from your local grocery store so that you can get out of the kitchen to spend time with your family.
  • Limit your socializing to the events you consider to be the most important. You might have to leave an office party early to attend your child’s choral concert. Take a hard look at accepting every invitation just because you are invited. You want more than leftovers for your immediate loved ones and for yourself. It’s your holiday, too.
Have a relaxed, stress-free holiday season.

Susan Robison

2. BossWoman coaching
About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach, speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who want improvement in:

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.

She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:

  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she knows that workshops don’t work.

Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.

3. Up and coming workshops
I have booked a number of work/life balance workshops for the winter that are not open to the public.
Contact me if your group needs a speaker on any of the topics listed above.

I will be back with Johns Hopkins medical women faculty working with then on “Having the Best Year Yet.”
Date: January 13, 2006
Place: Johns Hopkins
Registration, fee, and directions: Linda Dillon Jones, Ph.D., Director, Center for Training and Education: 443-997-6800

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BossWoman e-Newsletter is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Coaching should not be construed as a form of, or substitute for, counseling, psychotherapy, legal, or financial services.

© Copyright 2005 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without the publisher’s permission.

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