Check the calendar and take a deep breath. We are entering a critical phase of holiday preparation. As shopping winds down and preparations come together, be prepared for something weird to happen. You may begin to doubt yourself.

I only know this because I know myself. It happens every year, so I've learned to plan for it.

Just days before Christmas, when all the gifts are wrapped and the plans are nearly complete, I hear this voice suggesting that the gifts I made are really dumb, and the ones I purchased are too cheesy. Surely, they won't be right, and I'm going to be embarrassed. I begin feeling regretful.

Once those thoughts are neatly wedged in my mind, a sense of panic takes over. "Oh, no," I think. I need to buy new, better gifts. What if someone gives me a gift, and I have nothing for them? What about the mail carrier and the neighbors? Panic sets in, which can lead to more buying and over-buying, ruining all of the good work I've managed to do so far.

If that's not bad enough, invariably I begin to hear from the voice of food that insists I didn't make sufficient dessert or the breakfast buffet includes only one source of protein. We might run out of beverages or snacks or eggnog. I don't know if the voice of food ever visits you, but it tries to take up permanent residence with me.

The best way to avoid going through this season of doubt is to anticipate it and be ready with a counter punch.

The gift is exactly right. Think back to when you made or selected that gift. If it was the right gift then, it's right now. Relax and trust yourself.

No one is keeping score. You're not calculating how much anyone spent on you, right? Then, don't assume anyone else is doing that either. This is not about settling scores or spending equally. A gift carries an expression of love and best wishes. Let it do its job.

No one has starved in your home. When is the last time you really ran out of food and left a poor soul sitting at the table half-starved? That's what I thought. Such a thing is not going to happen this week, either. Should there be a sudden shortage of food or beverage, find out now which store will be open and keep the address handy. Now relax and trust yourself.

If, after all of this self-talk, you are still feeling unsure, I have the perfect antidote that will not cost you any money, but will put you at ease. Write each one of your gift recipients and dinner guests a note. Express your fondness and tell each person what they mean to you. Attach those notes to the gifts, or place them at the table.

Your work is done. Now, it's time to enjoy the holiday.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

December 22, 2009

Copyright © 2009 Mary Hunt. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint required.

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