How to Manage Holiday Stress

Are you plagued by holiday stress year after year? Do you feel as if you are a victim in all of this? Do you believe that you are the ONLY one in your household who is contributing to the success of the holiday?

Let me share with you some ideas for making the holidays manageable. I used to literally make myself nuts during holiday time. I was married to a man who thought his contribution to the holiday was simply to show up, eat his fill and then watch television in the living room while I cleaned up the kitchen. I also had two sons who couldn’t care less about the trimmings of the holiday season.

What I am about to suggest may offend your sensibilities but it does stand a good chance of greatly reducing your holiday stress. When you are finished with this article, you’ll have to decide what is most important to you—having everything just perfect or regaining some of your sanity. When all is said and done, you can always continue to do it just as you’ve always done. I’m only providing some alternative suggestions.

What is your typical routine? Of course, for me there was mailing of at least 100  Christmas cards. Often this was the only way I was able to stay in touch with people I cared about.

Then there was the gift buying. I married into a family where I instantly inherited 20 nieces and nephews and the family insisted that all children receive a gift from all the aunts and uncles until they reached the age of 25! No matter what I said, they were not going to be swayed from their position. Christmas shopping, for me, was a chore.

Then, after the gifts were purchased, there were the many hours of gift wrapping that was required. And what about putting up the Christmas tree and decorating the rest of the house? Let’s not forget the cleaning that had to be done to make my house presentable for the drop-in holiday visitors. There was also the baking of the many multiple varieties of cookies and the preparation of whatever food I was expected to bring to any myriad of places to which we were invited for holiday party after holiday party. Add to that the stress of the inevitable weight gain over the holidays and it was no wonder I was crabby and irritable.

Once I began to practice Inside Out Livingä,   I had to question the sanity of all the rituals in which I engaged myself. The first question I asked was, “How many things am I doing because I believe I have to and how many are for my pleasure and the pleasure of my family?”

I remember one particular Christmas when I was feeling particularly stressed, I told my children I either needed help with holiday preparations or I needed to cut some things out of the holiday routine. They made it clear they didn’t really want to help in reducing the load of things that I put on myself but they were more than willing to forego many holiday traditions. In fact, what they told me is that we didn’t need a tree. All they cared about was presents and they didn’t even care if they were wrapped!

That was eye opening for me. Now it was clear that anything beyond gifts was something I was choosing to do and not something that was necessary to the success of the holiday for my children.

Next, I had to assess what was necessary for me. I decided I wanted to send Christmas cards to stay in touch with friends and family and I wanted to wrap my children’s gifts so I could enjoy the joy of seeing their faces as they opened their gifts.

That particular Christmas, I discovered the joy of sending out New Year’s cards. That’s right. I stopped pressuring myself to get the cards out before Christmas. After all, the purpose was to keep in touch with people. It turned out to be much better to send my card in January. It definitely stood out from the rest!

I didn’t put up a tree. My children really didn’t care if we had one or not. Neither did I. Great stress reducer.

I also gave up the idea that everyone in the home SHOULD contribute to the work involved in the holidays. In demanding assistance from unwilling family members, the only thing I accomplished was to alienate the people I loved the most. The whole holiday hype was not important to them. If it were, they would have more willingly provided the assistance for which I asked.

In shopping for the nieces and nephews, I discovered the value of gift cards. The kids love them because they can pick out whatever they want and they protect them from getting those unwanted, unappreciated gifts from an aunt or uncle who really doesn’t know them well enough to purchase a gift they would truly appreciate.

Another suggestion, particularly if you have older children, is to take the money you would normally spend on gifts and find a family who needs it more than you and purchase gifts for another family as part of your new Christmas ritual.

As for the cookies, I stopped making 27 different varieties and only made chocolate chip cookies—the family’s favorite. They were always a hit and no one really the others anyway!

And as for the weight gain, there are two possible solutions. Approach the holidays with reckless abandon. Know that you will gain weight and that you will address it in January. The other option is to take control of your eating. Eat smaller portions and taste, instead of devour, any of the many sweets offered during holiday parties.

Happy Holidays!


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