The holidays should be a fun time! Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years… But with so much packed into a couple of months it can often get very stressful. Add into that mix travel, decorations, melding family traditions, and of course spending money, it is no wonder that we can end up forgetting to relax and enjoy the season. There are a lot of guides out there to help you de-stress and relax during the holidays that range from the gambit of get more sunlight too getting a massage. If these work for you then by all means go for it! However, I’m going to suggest a totally different way of relaxing during the holidays: Instead of “getting” or “doing” or “buying” or “going”, stop for one moment and be just a little bit introspective.
Honestly ask yourself what is the one thing that stresses you out the most during the holidays. Perhaps it is dealing with relatives, having guests in your home, or something as simple as what to wear to the myriad of events. For this exercise pick only one item! Now think through a plan of action on how to solve this one problem. You might need to come up with a variety of ideas; and sadly it may not be something that you can solve this particular moment. However, come next holidays season you’ll be prepared.
I’m going to share our real life example, though it is pretty personal. A few years ago my husband and I had a huge “Come to Jesus moment” in January right after the holidays. He was pretty much incredulous at the credit card bills we had wracked up during the season and I was pretty pissed at him for even balking since he had happily passed out the presents with me. As the fight escalated as only a fight about money can we realized our current holiday situation was just not sustainable. Our major stress was money. We LOVE to give gifts (and get them too), but that love didn’t outweigh the debt we would spend the first quarter of every year paying off, the fret at trying to find great gifts at low prices, and the feeling of just not being able to measure up monetarily.
So the next Christmas we made gift-baskets. Actually I made gift baskets full of home-made goodies, crafts, and love. I was so proud of them and happy to give them as gifts. However I had made a miscalculation, Patrick while wholely supportive of our reduction in spending does not craft or cook. By the time I was done with the baskets I was exhausted and pissed all over again.
To be honest I can’t remember if we did gift baskets again the next year or if I finally came to the real solution to the problem. We had to be honest with ourselves; that while we love gift giving, decorating, attending parties, and more during the holidays our wallets and time could not accommodate all these activities. Finally we came up with a real workable solution. We asked (during the late summer) for both sides of our families to please leave us off their Christmas list. That we would only be getting gifts for the children and it would hurt our pride if they were to give us gifts and we had nothing in return. We stressed our appreciation of all that our families give to us, but the best gift would be for them to follow our wishes. In a show of solidarity we also no longer exchange gifts between ourselves. Did this probably hurt some feelings? Yes. Did this likely take some of the fun away from others and ourselves? Certainly. But was it the right decision? YES. Why? Because we can face the holidays much more relaxed.
Try a Solution!
As mentioned above pick your battles and focus on one major stress. Brainstorm ideas to relieve the stress after the holiday season. Try a variety of solutions, but above all else make a commitment to change the problem.
If family is your biggest concern then consider a destination Christmas on occasion. If you let your family know in July the emotional hurt will be much less than if you wait till 2 weeks before Christmas. Or limit the time you spend. Maybe the family dinner is necessary, but skip the family breakfast.
Maybe money isn’t a concern but time is! Write down all the events you attended. Which ones do you want to go to next year; which ones could be dropped? Feel guilty? RSVP and send a small gift to the events you turn down. Or consider only attending alternating years.
Finally, I would always suggest approaching holiday changes outside of the holiday. Guilt, stress, and anger are always at their highest when you are feeling the “guilt, stress, and anger”. While it is easy to forget about the stress during the year proactive changes made before the holidays will allow long term solutions that make the holidays enjoyable and relaxing.
Image courtesy of Alan Cleaver.