The ghosts and goblins (jedi and fairies mostly this year, actually) are parading past my door now, reminding me that the holiday season has arrived! Turkey dinners with all the trimmings, trips to see Santa, office parties, holidays of all persuasions spent with family. For some, November through December is a magical season. For many, many others, it is a stress-filled time to be endured.
If you fall into the latter camp, I have one suggestion: less is more. Make it your mantra.
If hosting Thanksgiving has become a logistical nightmare, give away some of the tasks. Pick up the cranberry sauce and stuffing at the deli counter at your supermarket instead of making it from scratch. Put your kids in charge of decorating. Tell your guests that dinner is potluck this year. Stop planning for it to be perfect and start expecting it to be good enough.
If gifts for Hanukkah or Christmas are completely out of hand, just stop the madness. The recession gives you the perfect excuse to buy fewer gifts. Have them wrapped in the stores or take them all to the table at the mall where a local non-profit is wrapping gifts as a fundraiser — a huge time saver for you. Decorate just one room instead of the whole house. Give up the picture of the ideal Norman Rockwell holiday in favor of one where you actually enjoy yourself.
Which brings me to family. If yours causes you stress, know that you are not alone. It seems that people somehow expect that, this year, family time will be all warm and fuzzy even if it has been filled with shouting, broken dishes and slamming doors for the past twenty years. You will have less stress if you give up the unreal expectations. Assume this year will be like last year. If time with family equals stress to you, then limit your time. Leave the party an hour early. Book a flight for only 3 days instead of 5. Plan some excuses in advance to cut the conversation with Uncle Rex short (“Excuse me, I’ve got to talk to Andy about his new snowblower”). Lowered expectations and less time with difficult people will make for a happier, less stressful time.
I may just have to revisit this topic once or twice in the coming months. In the meantime, start thinking of ways to dump some of your holiday stress this year.
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