It’s only a matter of time before we’ll be hearing Andy Williams crooning, “It’s the most WONDERFUL tiiiiiiime of the yeeeeear!” Substitute “wonderful” with “stressful” and you get a little closer to what most of will experience in these coming weeks. But does it have to be that way? Do we have a choice as to whether we are going to enjoy and embrace the holidays or simply “get through” them? (By the way, we “get through” a colonoscopy. The holidays really should be more pleasant.)
For many of us the “holiday season” starts with Halloween. This is when we dress up and pretend to be something we’re not (which is pretty much like going to work every day).
Then comes Thanksgiving which is a great excuse to overeat and lie around watching the tube. What separates this from every other day of the year is the addition of gratitude (and sweet potato casserole).
Christmas stress starts with gifts and shopping. Then stir in the parties, festivities, card-writing, planning, scheduling, dinners, services, programs, gatherings, and sing-alongs. Top that off with a pinch of visitors and a heaping teaspoon of travel and you’ve got the perfect recipe for Holiday Stress Pie. And with all of the blended families and in-laws, it’s easier to decipher the da Vinci code than to work out who is going to be with whom on what day. It takes an engineer and three quantum physicists just to work out the meal times.
So, what to do to help minimize holiday stress?
Eliminate what doesn’t really matter
- Whatever you do, don’t let others decide what matters for you. If someone’s world comes crashing to an end because you didn’t get time to make your famous homemade “Hominy-Fruitcake-Popcorn-Garlic Goulash,” then they’ve lived a pretty charmed life. A little rain must fall. People can sling all the guilt they want, but it only sticks if we let it. Don’t let it!
- When it comes to your holiday baking, pace yourself. Do a little at a time and freeze the baked goods. Or wait until a few days before Christmas. People are so sick of their own goodies by then that anonymous plates will begin showing up on your doorstep.
- Make lists, but don’t panic if you don’t get to everything on them. Prioritize and then let go of unfinished tasks when the stress starts creeping in.
Keep our sense of humor
- It’s been an annual tradition for me to claim that I received a “special request” to sing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” in Carol Channing’s voice. When I launch into this screechfest, they all clear the room and I get to control the remote. Everyone wins.
In the end, people won’t remember the details, but rather how they felt. Be warm and relaxed as opposed to uptight and stressed to make the holidays joyful for yourself and all you touch. If others don’t agree, just tell them to go eat their Holiday Stress Pie elsewhere.