From Holiday Stress to Holiday Bliss

With the holiday season still fresh in our minds, I’d like to take a moment to recount the many and varied ways in which the holidays sever our nerves.  Perhaps too numerous to count, let’s tackle the top five holiday stressors (or at least my top five), along with suggestions for how to ameliorate the tension and create Holiday Bliss rather than stress.  You may want to book mark this list for next November for a quick read:

Top Five Ways to move from Holiday Stress to Holiday Bliss!

5.  Time stress – not enough time to get everything done.  You must do your regular work, house work, etc. PLUS add on all the shopping, groceries, baking, cards, wrapping, entertaining, visiting, etc. that the holidays entail.
Holiday Bliss – budget your time in September!  Yes, September.  It will sneak up on you before you know it.  By planning days well in advance for these tasks, you will sail through the holidays with panache rather than panic! Discuss with your family – do they really want home baking, or are they all eating more healthy foods these days?  You may not need to do as much as you think you do.

4.  Christmas cards, aka holiday letter.  In these electronic days, is it really that big a deal if someone gets a Merry Christmas email or Facebook posting instead of a printed Christmas card?  Why isn’t Greenpeace or Al Gore calling for a destruction of the Christmas card and wrapping industry?  The statistics are alarming on the ecological footprint of thesetime-honoured traditions.  Yet the expectations persist – even I, the hater of this tradition, proudly display the cards we receive.  Not only must we purchase the cards, sign and address them (do you actually HAVE snail-mail addresses for most of your contacts?  I don’t!), but we are also expected to include a little holiday letter updating the world on what 2011 meant to you and your family.  How quaint.  I sincerely hope all my friends will recognize the annual New Year’s card when it arrives in January as my begrudging nod to this archaic tradition.
Holiday bliss – decide NOW how you want to communicate with your family and friends next year.  Is it a video, a letter, an e-card or the traditional holiday letter complete with smiling family photo?  If you and your significant other decide now, you can start a file with monthly bullet points as the year goes on, so that come next November, you can easily and quickly summarize your year for friends far and near.

3.  Shopping – whether you are shopping for presents or for groceries, the financial stress (see number two below), the obscenely large crowds and the search for the perfect gift/turkey/Christmas outfit can incite sheer terror. Who among us does not HATE those that finish their Christmas shopping in September, and loudly gloat about same for the rest of the year?  I think that’s grounds for lynching in some counties (or should be – Sanctimonious Maximus)! 
Holiday Bliss – two words – ONLINE SHOPPING!  Start early, and wait patiently for the gifts to drift in throughout the year.  You, too, can be sanctimonious!  As for grocery shopping, do not EVER, and I repeat EVER go grocery shopping on December 23 or 24!  On pain of death, which is almost the same, just trust me!

2.  Financial Stress — I’ve often said that Christmas shopping would be easy if you did not have to find cheap gifts that look expensive, while trying not to blow your budget to hell!  Between the gifts, family vacations or travel, and grocery shopping for a multitude, any budget can bulge at the seams.

Holiday Bliss – take a moment NOW to think about how your Christmas or Hannukah gifting went this year.  Were the gifts appreciated?  Were they reciprocated?  How do you feel about the process and the cost?  Taking a minute to discuss this now will help you plan ahead for next year.  For example, if Aunt Martha continually surprises you with an expensive gift, perhaps it’s time for you to either start budgeting to buy a gift of similar expense, or have a frank discussion with her about your budgetary limitations.

1.  Family stress – see my blog “Family Ties” for details.  The bottom line is that adding into a small space a large number of people (whom you may or may not like on any given day), who are also stressed, add alcohol and stir for a recipe for disaster!

Holiday Bliss – figure out which you want more – downtime or family time.  May I recommend a mix of one down day in between family or friend days?  This gives you time to regroup, read, nap, refresh and be ready for the next round of visitors!

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