De-stress the Holiday Season

Now that the Thanksgiving holidays are over, I can reflect, smile and again, be thankful.  What about you?  Were you tense and stressed with the preparation and anticipation of a perfect Turkey Day?  Was this the first year you felt like a celebration was expected, but your heart was just not in it because of a recent loss?  Perhaps like many of us, your family is of the ‘blended’ variety.  Nothing like blending families and traditions to make for upsets.  No two families celebrate the holidays in the same way.  Accommodating everyone means that someone’s favorite treat, favorite tradition is moved to the side for the sake of someone else’s.  And what about if you are newly married/widowed/separated and want to start a new tradition?  Heaven forbid!


I have to confess, I was not feeling very happy looking forward to the Thanksgiving holidays.  Don’t get me wrong, I was very thankful!  We have had a good year, and anticipate a good 2012.  However, get-togethers with family and friends are fraught with emotional minefields.  Consider:


  • People enter the holiday season with unreal expectations (when I say people I should say me)
    • I want the holiday to be perfect;
    • I want all the guests to be at ease and enjoy everyone else’s company;
    • I want all broken relationships to be mended;
    • I want all the hurts accrued over the year to be resolved.
  •  People have to deal with loss every day, but Holidays are more difficult:
    • Spouses have left;
    • Parents are missing;
    • Children, while they may have made the effort, are still showing signs of grief and pain.


While a perfect celebration is what I want, I know that it is a tall order.  This is why I was more tense than thankful last week.


And if this is not enough, the economic pressures are not getting any less these days.  Let’s face it, Holidays are expensive.  No one wants to show up empty-handed at the feast, yet many are struggling to make ends meet with day-to-day expenses.  If you are the host of the feast, there are decorations to be bought, carpets to be cleaned, and all the clutter to be moved to someplace where it won’t be seen.  No pressure there….


We have about three weeks before we get to do this all again.  The pressure to buy is stronger.  Expectations are higher.  Christmas is the holiday for some people.  Let’s strategize so we can remain less stressed (I wanted to write non-stressed, but the dictates of reality…..)


What can we do to lessen the stress?


  • Have a meeting with friends and family to discuss unreal expectations.
  • Decide in advance what you absolutely must have for it to be Christmas, and what holiday trappings/traditions are not necessary.
  • Make a plan for gift giving, or not, as financial standings of family and friends warrant.  There is no rule that says you must get everyone you know or are related to a gift.
    • One year, we discussed with this with our adult children.  We decided that we would each buy one (that’s right O N E) gift (non gender specific) and we would draw numbers at the family dinner and exchange gifts.  The sighs of relief were audible as we removed the gift bearing burden from our children.  Believe it or not, we still had a great time around the tree.
    • On another year we decided that we were not giving any presents to the adults in our family.
    • Yet another year, we decided that all the gifts had to be home-made.
  • Pace yourself.  You cannot attend every party that you are invited to.  To some invitations you must respond NO; and really, they will get over it.


Probably the best advice I can give is to “Remember the reason for the Season.”  I know this is a phrase that may have been overused, but it is no less true.  Forget about the materialism; forget about having a Norman Rockwell table setting.  Remember “Peace on earth, Good will to men.”  What do you need to have a peaceful Christmas season?


Until next time,