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Don’t let this sneaky habit drain you this holiday season – 3 simple steps to refuel.

For many of us the holiday season is about giving. I absolutely love giving gifts. In fact, my gift expense category is often one of the highest line items when I do my end of the year finances.

A few years ago, though, my mom, my sister Ann and I decided not to do gifts anymore on Christmas. Each year the gift giving continued to escalate.

My mom would get anxious that she hadn’t bought enough. I would spend way more than I intended to. My sister would get stressed out. My mom would stay up too late wrapping. I would wake up with an over-spending hangover round about January 2nd.

The truth is, giving had ceased to feel good. We’d all succumbed to the sneaky habit of over-giving.

My sister Ann is helping me with the edits on my book. (She’s a genius and she also edited Danielle LaPorte’s The Desire Map. You can find her HERE.) One of the key concepts of my book, Money: A Love Story (Hay House, 2013) is that in order to receive more value (and money) we need to give more value.

Ann asked me a brilliant question:

How do you tell the difference between giving more value in the world and giving too much?

Luckily, the answer is simple. Your body will tell you. Your feelings will be your guide.

Imagine one of those fountains that spurts out water and then collects it in a reservoir beneath. The water then gets recycled and sucked back up through the fountain to spurt out again. It’s a beautiful, self-contained water spurting and saving mechanism. Good for aesthetics. Good for Mother Earth.

Now picture a garden sprinkler. Water comes through the hose and spurts out onto your perennial beds. The perennials soak up the water but as long as you have the sprinkler on you need a constant source of new water. The sprinkler does not replenish itself.

When we’re over-giving we’re the garden sprinkler. The first few spurts might feel great and our little pansies wake right up and are very happy to be hydrated. But after a while the water stores bgin to get low.

Here are some sure fire signs that you’re over-giving:

  • you feel resentful
  • you feel unappreciated
  • your throat, chest, solar plexus, or belly feel constricted
  • you start to get shoulder pain (from holding too much of a burden)
  • your breathing isn’t free and easy
  • you look at your bank statement or credit card bill and feel icky and hungover
  • you feel irritable
  • you’re totally exhausted, physically and/or emotionally

What if you’re part of a family that does give gifts for the holidays? What if, like me, you’re a generous person but don’t want to cross the line and become an overworked, rusty garden sprinkler busting her butt for her pansies without so much as a thank you?

Here are some practical steps to stopping over-giving in its tracks and get right back on the generosity train:

1. Give yourself plenty of time for gift planning, shopping, wrapping, and/or creating if you’re a DIY type. One of my favorite things is to look for gifts for people all year long. I may buy my mom’s birthday gift in March even though her birthday isn’t until October. I may start keeping an eye out for Christmas gifts in July. It’s when we rush that we tend to overspend, get anxious that we didn’t buy enough, and feel resentful. Give yourself the gift of time first and then you can give from an open, abundant heart.

2. Next year, implement a few new family traditions that don’t include giving gifts, but instead allow you to enjoy one another’s precious presence. Some ideas to share with your family in lieu of gifts:

  • take a trip together
  • create a slideshow of favorite moments from the year
  • share gratitudes from the previous year
  • share your desires for the coming year
  • spend time talking about your favorite moments from the year
  • get out in nature and enjoy one another and the beauty of the season

3. When you’ve already spent more than you intended to, stayed up all night cooking, cleaned your house for 4 days without anyone noticing, or you’re just not feeling so hot and you suspect you may have been bitten by the over-giving bug, simply stop doing what you’re doing.

  • Take a moment alone, ideally in another room or outside.
  • Close your eyes and breathe deeply.
  • Feel your breath refueling and nourishing your cells with precious oxygen.
  • Tap into the endlessly renewable resource that is your breath and your own presence with yourself. Even 3 minutes of this will give your body the message that you’re there for you. Then you can get back to spending time with your loved ones in a sustainable, feel-good kind of way.

Do you have other ways of avoiding or halting over-giving that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below and let us know what it is!

P.S. Last week I announced a new project I’m working on about self-love and feeling your hottest in 2013. Check it out and join the party by clicking here.


  • Love this post. For me rather than with gift giving (perhaps because my family has always been very modest), it resonates most with how it feels to under charge for services. That whole description of bodily and emotional responses is exactly what I experience when I routinely under charge! What a burden. Something I really hope not to revisit in 2013.

  • Jenelle

    I have opted in years past to make a charitable donation in lieu of gifts for my immediate family, to something we all care deeply about…like the SPCA, for example, I might have to return to that…

    Thanks for this great reminder to check in!

  • Such a great reminder Kate! Definitely going to look into some ‘new family traditions’ for next year. XX PS. Really looking forward to reading your book – there’s going to be so many great gems!

  • Claire

    This is such an excellent article! I wish I had read this before the holiday season began. I definitely feel like a used up sprinkler now and have to work on rehydrating, so to speak. Thank you for the excellent tips about how to care for ourselves.

  • Jen

    I get gift giving blues in a different way. I feel worse about spending when I want to give, but I have a hard time finding something meaningful. I shop and shop and agonize over what to get people and feel icky about what I got and worry I’m spending too much on something they won’t want, won’t need, won’t use. Then it feels like I’m wasting money on useless gifts even after I shopped until I dropped for the perfect item.
    Any feedback?

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