Avoid Holiday Stress
How about downsizing this Christmas? For some people, this upcoming season is filled with oughts, shoulds, musts, and have to’s. After gift shopping, wrapping, card writing, holiday baking, home decorating – inside and outside, bringing home the tree, and preparation of the turkey, many folks are financially, physically and mentally depleted. Indeed, in North America reports of depression increase 15% around Christmas. Holiday stress is common. So much for merry on!
The Ho-Ho-Ho fun and celebration of Christmas can become stressful rather than joyful. If we are not careful, we can end up in a frenzy. I know. I have been there. But one year I asked myself and family, “Do our holiday rituals enhance our family life? Do they support our faith and our values?” These questions are reminiscent of the story of a new bride.
Unexamined Rituals Can Become Meaningless
Every time she bought a roast of beef she would cut it in half and put the pieces in two small pans. Her husband asked her why she did this. Her response was My mother told me I should. The young husband went to his mother-in-law asking the same question about the strange habit of cutting a perfectly good roast in half. His mother-in-law’s answer was My mother told me I should. Upon checking with his grandmother-in-law he was told, Are they still doing that? We raised our family during the Depression. We only owned two small roasting pans.
It behooves us to examine our rituals and habits to check if they serve our intentions for this season. There was a time when Christmas was a delightful festival, an important religious celebration, a time to focus on family, friends, and community. Little preparation happened on the eve of it. Unless we are watchful, this holiday can become a royal We have it, We bought it or We did it competition.
Many of us want to re-establish simpler, seasonal moments of innocent giggles, of warm snuggles, of tender connections and the wonder of a sweet and thoughtful surprise–Aw, a special little something for me under the tree.
To begin, we can stop doing tasks we find draining. We can reclaim traditions we loved as children. We can change the ones we dislike. We can make up new and meaningful rituals. Here are some ideas to reclaim this holiday as a time of personal and family joy.
Engage in Nonsense
- Rewrite Christmas rhymes and songs: All I want for Christmas is a tummy tuck….
- Brainstorm with friends the following question: What if Santa was born a girl?
- Place a 1000 piece puzzle on the coffee table for company entertainment.
- Play Christmas Carol Charades or Name that Christmas Carol.
- Play games cooperatively. Play Scrabble with all players putting letters on the board together. See if you can beat your previous time filling the board with words.
- Make a snow angel.
- Go tobogganing.
- Learn a seasonal joke or two: Why does Santa Claus go down the chimney on Christmas Eve? Because it ‘soots’ him. Here are some more Christmas jokes.
Change Your Rituals
- Say “No. I am not doing that this year,” to one non-satisfying activity.
- Make your own Christmas cards. Treat them like a gift for special people.
- Do not send Christmas cards. Send Valentines in February.
- Write a special note to support people in your life telling them how they are angels to you.
- As a group, design and construct a gingerbread house.
- Give a turkey a break. Instead, serve lobster or shrimp.
- Serve Haagen-Daz ice cream for dessert.
- Spend Christmas day helping at a shelter for the homeless.
- Place a serving of Christmas dinner on a tray and take it up the street to a shut-in senior. Sing a Christmas Carol before you leave.
- Invite friends to dress up like Mrs. Santa Claus and meet at a restaurant for lunch.
- Spend an afternoon in nature.
- Book an afternoon for one long, delicious nap.
- Take a snack to your favorite mall’s Santa Claus. Tell him what a great job he is doing.
Change Your Gift Giving
- Make and give cookies, preserves, and candy.
- Donate to a charity in your loved one’s name.
- Make a gift certificate offering to prepare a meal.
- Give away an heirloom or owned treasure enclosed with the object’s story.
- Create a treasure hunt to find a gift.
- Take a child on a shopping trip to choose ONE toy that will be her gift, wrap together, and place under the tree.
- Wrap one sock in a small package and the match in a large box. This is a fun way to make a big deal out of a pair of socks.
- Buy fun gifts such as a rubber chicken, wind up toy, glow in the dark underwear, silly puppet, giant bug, comic book, joke book, juggling or giggle balls or simple magic trick.
- Give an adult a teddy bear or cuddly doll. Many people 55 years of age and older did not have a love object growing up. It’s not too late!
- Donate to a charity as a family gift.
These ideas are not intended as add-ons to your list. Rather, they are intended as options for you to consider. Stop the meaningless traditions. Start meaningful ones. In the end, may your heart be warm, may your tender ones be nearby, and may your inner self be calm and merry.
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Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.