I can't believe that the 2009 holiday season is upon our doorstep already. For so many people, 2009 has been a roller coaster experience. And some are ready to get off the ride! The economy has impacted everyone, some much more than others. And the impact hasn't just been financial. Attitudes, emotions, plans, and mindsets have all been affected. I have no doubt that this year's recession has resulted in a culture-wide increase in stress and anxiety.

For many of us, the holiday season is a time that is anticipated with both joy and anxiety. Sure, we love the celebrations, the family traditions, and we cherish the memories of holidays gone by; but along with them, we add the stresses of preparation, expectations and the fear of letdowns, or family squabbles that we have experienced in the past. And, this year, the stress and anxiety level is likely to be amplified. With this in mind, here are ten tips I believe can be helpful in getting ready for an enjoyable, meaningful holiday season in 2009.

1. Set manageable expectations. Spend some time now setting realistic and manageable expectations for your holiday season. Understand that you can't do everything, and with our current economic realities, you might not be able to do everything you've done in the past. If this is true for you, there might be a sense of disappointment. Still, it doesn't have to ruin your family's holiday season. So, be realistic about what you can do. Make a list of what you can do and prioritize your most important events and activities for you and your family. Then, pace yourself. Organize your time. Keep in mind that it's the holiday "season" (not "day") and spread out your activities to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.

2. Remember the holiday season does not eliminate sadness or loneliness. Problems and difficulties arise even during the holiday season. And, for some, the holiday season evokes painful memories from recent events or the loss of loved ones in the past. Give room for yourself and your family to experience these feelings. Try not to let them become a consuming focus. Make an effort to work through present challenges and conflicts.

3. Acknowledge the past, but look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season of life is different. Determine to enjoy this holiday season for what it is. Acknowledging the past, whether it was good or bad, is appropriate. But, if you find that this year has been a rough one and you don't anticipate having the best holiday season ever, try not to set yourself up by comparing today with the "good old days." Take advantage of the joys the present holiday season has to offer.

4. Develop and encourage a life of gratitude. Gratitude is an attribute that transcends circumstances. No matter what your circumstances, I believe there is reason to be thankful in them. Your circumstances may never change, but your attitude toward them can change…and this can make all the difference. Christians have a special reason to adopt the attitude of gratitude, because we know that whatever comes, our times are in God's hands. It was Jesus who said, in effect, "So don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow, too." (See Matthew 6:34.)

If you want to help your kids develop an attitude of gratitude, I encourage you to try an experiment that might radically influence your family, and it's a great exercise in the days leading to Thanksgiving. It's called "Thank Therapy." Thank Therapy is simply focusing on the many things in your life for which you can be thankful. Get started by having each family member create individual lists, of "Twenty Reasons Why I'm Thankful." Thank Therapy is simply an act of the will to concentrate on the good and not the bad.

5. Do something for someone else. One of the ways we can demonstrate that we are grateful to God for His many blessings is to help others. Even if this has been a difficult year for you and your family, helping others will actually help you too, as your focus will move from your own circumstances onto serving others. While there are always people who can use a helping hand, this year, I suspect there are many more. So, enrich this holiday season for your family by getting involved in serving others. For some great ideas, read HomeWord's free online article, "Helping Others at the Holiday Season."