Are you feeling bombarded by Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and all the other hyped up advertising to encourage into acquiring stuff? I am. The few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are the retailers biggest sales period. They also can be very stressful for women since we’re usually the ones to make the magic happen. While I can’t eliminate all your holiday stress, I can offer a few suggestions about gift-giving which have worked for me.

For those of us who struggle with what to give loved ones, it adds a complex layer of stress to our lives. Add to that, the  challenge when asked the question “what do you want for Christmas?” from well meaning family Ornamentand friends.  I really don’t need another scarf, a sweater, or a book I may or may not read. And every year I struggle to find a right answer without sounding like Scrooge. I really want world peace, an end to global poverty, to eliminate substance abuse, as well as a peaceful life.

I believe I have found an answer to gift-giving. (Note this doesn’t apply to my two adorable grand-children!)

The greatest gift we can give and receive is to show up in love for our self and with others. That means being authentic, kind, honoring our values and being respectful of others. Interestingly, two close friends just brought up the same dilemma they’re having about gifts this year. We simply want to be with and enjoy the people in our lives.

Here are my 4 tips to create a meaningful, stress-free and more personally peaceful holiday season.

1. Communicate early in person, by phone or email with those you usually exchange gifts. Let them know you want a gift-free year. Tell them you want to take positive action to simplify everyone’s lives and strive to make the world a little better. You might want to share that you’ll be making donating to a few charities this year in lieu of gift-giving.

2. Say “no” to things and “yes” to shared experiences. In lieu of gifts, consider spending special quality time with those you care about. This could be a long conversation with someone far away, mailing a letter with pictures, or laughing together over a glass of wine together somewhere festive. Some families I know volunteer together, often serving meals or playing Santa at nearby churches or agencies during the holiday season. Family traditions, rituals and favorite foods are most often what is remembered, it’s rarely ever the gifts given or received.

3.  Make selecting a donation recipient a special event, and let your choices be meaningful to you. My husband and I are planning an evening when we sit down and go through our charities of choice, discuss what’s personally important to us, and decide where we want to give. I know I’ll be giving to  Parisi House on the Hill, a residential addiction recovery center for women with small children. (I’m on the Board and know the impact this organization and its caring staff makes in these women’s lives.)  Decide on who you want to donate to,  log onto their website, and charge your donations. In a couple of hours, you’ve given from the heart, expressed yourself and made the world a little bit better. Your heart will be filled with the joy of giving and no stress!

4. Relax and truly enjoy the holiday season. This is the season of lights, love, joy and peace. Nowhere in all those holiday songs and cards we receive, is it about stuff, stress, shopping, over-crowded malls, and overspent credit cards. You’ll then be able to find quiet, peaceful moments of reflection and joy during this time of year. Not only will we enjoy the holidays much more, we actually create our own special magic!

Please post your suggestions for ways you’ve made the holidays more meaningful and less stressful for you this year. Especially if you’ve figured out alternatives to gift giving and how it worked for  you.