They’re here again! The wonderful days to gather with our friends and loved ones. The days of sharing stories over a cacophony of food items and exchanging gifts that somehow represent a physical manifestation of our love and adoration for others.
While there are many reasons to feel uplifted during this season, many of us experience deep amounts of stress and anxiety.
In this article I’ll list the most common holiday stressors and 6 ways you can say “Hell No!” to holiday stress so your days can be…Merry and bright.
Have you ever asked yourself, “if this time of year is supposed to be full of cheer, how come I despise it so much?” I’ll admit this pops into my head every year. Luckily, I’ve given the question some thought and I figured out what makes me despise this time of year.
Everyone will have their own reasons that are uniquely theirs but there are a few things we can all agree on.
1. The Holidays are too Commercial
Let’s be honest, a little part of us wants to physically strangle this thing that has become Christmas. Every year decorations and advertisements for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals appear before Halloween is over. Speaking of advertising, remember the job of all of those talented men and women is to sell you something.
Their clients’ something.
No matter what they want you to believe, no kid needs an iPad or an iPhone or an iWatch. They have created desire to own these products as well as the feeling of belonging to a group. A group that will stand outside in line 48 hours before a new product is released to be one of the first to own the new iThing.
Advertising has created groups that stand in line beginning at 8pm the night of Thanksgiving until the doors open at midnight to get a great deal.
2. Too Many People-This is War
Even when you’re in a festive mood, the abundance of people that come from seemingly everywhere is mind numbing. Crowded stores and roads makes traversing during the holiday season more like a well-executed battle plan than a quick shopping trip.
The friendly smiles and winks that appear on the faces of the battle-tested moms, dads, and grandparents disappear when the choice parking spot is available or a new checkout lane opens.
This is one of the biggest reasons online shopping is giving brick and mortar businesses a run for their money. Hmm, brick and MORTAR! INCOMING!
3. Dazed and Confused = Holiday Hell
Shopping during this time of year makes you susceptible to what I call “Extra Long Very Entertaining Stares” or E.L.V.E.S.
You’ve seen them aimlessly walking the aisles with blank stares on their faces. You’ve probably been one of them. This blank stare, or “spacing out”, is due to our senses being bombarded. The lights, music, smells, colors and influx of shoppers hits all of our senses like no other time of year.
Normally, our brains and bodies are accustomed to blocking out many of the unnecessary sights and sounds that vie for our attention. It doesn’t make sense for your brain or body to focus intently on things it doesn’t need to notice or worry about. However, during the holiday season stores change nearly everything.
These changes surprise your brain and body by introducing new information that it wants to process and make decisions about. You may wonder why you feel exhausted after holiday shopping. After all, it’s only shopping. This is because your brain is not meant to take in so much sensory input for extended periods of time.
You are tired. Take a long winters nap.
4. I Understand Why We Do This Once a Year
If you’re like many people, family means so much. As much as you may love most of your family, you also have those few that you would never associate with if it weren’t for an extended marriage you never sanctioned.
However, this is a season of merriment and cheer and it’s done once a year. That doesn’t mean you won’t need a good night’s sleep and some liquid cheer to get you through time with the family.
From petty one-upmanship to gossip and tattling, to poor communication that lead to uncle Mort having hurt feelings 6 years ago, you may need a good sense of humor and a strong constitution to make it through to New Year’s Eve.
These are just a few of the more common stressors during this time of year. So, let me give you 6 ways you can say “Hell No!” to holiday stress.
1. What’s Important?
So many things happen during the holidays that we forget to take stock of the real important things. From getting “the right gift”, making all the holiday parties, completing gift shopping in time, and making something to bring to the parties, we tend to lose track of what’s really important.
Stop stressing about should-dos and fear of guilt that you may disappoint someone.
Ask yourself and your immediate family how the holiday should be spent. This will help you figure out what is most important to you and your family. What you’ll often find is that what you thought was important to others really isn’t.
Wow! That’s a relief.
2. Get Organized
Next, look at your schedule. Be realistic about all the things you want to get done and don’t over-extend yourself. This often causes us to feel hurried and stressed which we then share with others. Ask yourself, “Do I realistically have the time to do all the things I would like to and still maintain my sanity?”
Start by penciling in events on your calendar to help yourself manage your time effectively. Include things like decorating, cooking, shopping and wrapping gifts.
If the idea of getting organized stresses you out, you’re in luck. There are services like Organize Yourself that turn organization into an art. The best part is that no matter what area of your life needs organizing, they can help. Think about how much time you’ll save by being organized this season.
Now you’ll have more time for eggnog!
3. Be a Good Compro-Miser
Be willing to compromise. For example, if you have your heart set on decorating your house like Clark Griswold in “Christmas Vacation,” but your family likes “A White Christmas” decor, consider something simpler or eliminate something else.
You may ask, “Jason, why be miserly during the holiday season? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?”
That’s because many of us compromise too much and get run over by those that aren’t as worried about how we feel, what we want or what sacrifices we’ll need to make. They’re really only concerned about their agenda. They may also be very good compro-misers themselves and bending you to their will is helping them achieve their holiday goals.
Just remember that your time, and how you spend it, is also extremely important. This is time you won’t get back. Don’t agree to things you don’t want to do for fear that you’ll hurt someone’s feelings.
Chances are they’re not considering your feelings if they use guilt as persuasion.
4. Perfection is for Posers
Avoid perfectionist tendencies. For example: you want 12 ounce, green disposable cups for your party. But, when you get to Wal-Mart you can only find 8 ounce blue cups. Consider the time, energy and frustration you will expend traveling to other stores, in the holiday traffic, to find those green 12 ouncers!
Some of the best parties I’ve attended were eclectic not only in food and drink but also in decor. If your guests are only interested in pointing out that your dinner plates, silverware or drink ware didn’t match at your last holiday party it’s time to find new guests. Having a festive group of great people, without pretenses, makes for a great party.
Party perfection, while great in theory, is for those without much to say.
5. Practicality With Purpose
Doing some very practical things during the holiday season will help maintain purpose and happiness. You can set a budget that you’ll stick to and try to pay with cash. Looking at a mountain of holiday credit card debt is not how you want to start the New Year. Find holiday recipes you can prepare in advance when you have a little more time.
Don’t scramble around at the last minute to make something while trying to wrap presents and take a shower.
6. It’s All in Your Head
One of the best things you can do to keep your sanity over the holidays is to remember that most stressors we experience are first conceived in our brains. We are great at creating things to stress about. Real or imaginary, we’re often creating mountains from molehills and we become our own worst enemy.
When you find that you’re feeling overwhelmed this season, step back and take a moment for yourself. Ask yourself if there’s any truth to the thought or thoughts you’re having that are getting you worked up. If this exercise is difficult for you, you can find more help here.
Question whether it is something factual or if you’re adding a lot of your own thoughts and beliefs without facts to back them up. Also try to remember, if you really want to make holiday memories this year focus on relationships rather than activities.
Giving the gifts of kindness and service will last you and others long after the season.