I was raised with Christmas. I have no idea if other Holiday traditions are as stressful as Christmas can be for some people. When I say 'stress' here, I mean stress purely from the unique demands of the holiday season...health, family, financial stresses are a separate issue.
Personally, I think National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation” is one of the very best holiday movies. It’s fun. It’s funny. It shows without a doubt that most - if not all - of our holiday stress is self-imposed. Holiday stress comes from our own overly-high expectations. The good news is that if the stress is self-imposed, then it is also under our self-control. If you can expect yourself into feeling stressed, you can un-expect yourself into feeling relaxed. An attentive, relaxed, happy, you is the best gift you can give for any holiday.
I can’t speak for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Yule, Ramadan, Bodhi Day or any other winter holiday tradition, but I hope these little ideas help put some of the jolly back in your holly, and help you stress less for Xmas.
- Poll the Elves: Find out what everyone’s absolute number one favorite thing is about the holidays. You might be surprised how much overlap there is. For example, turkey and black olives are unanimous must-haves for Thanksgiving at our house. Ask the ones closest to you to complete this sentence “It just isn’t __________ without ____________” (Thanksgiving without a turkey, Christmas without a tree, New Years without pork and sauerkraut or what have you)
- Keep it Simple: Focus on the Elves list of must-haves, and don’t sweat the extras. If everyone gets their top one or two must-haves, you are going to look like a genius, so who needs the other details?
- Prioritize: If you have a wide-eyed four year old staring up the chimney before the turkey is even cold...that’s more important than the extra string of lights on the shrubbery. Like I’ve told my daughter so many times she’ll probably put it on my tombstone: "One thing at a time, in the right order, first things first". Small and thoughtful trumps big and flashy in my book every time.
- Make a Tradition: aka create a routine. Once you know the bare-bones must-haves, then you can do that every year. Traditions are nothing more than the meaningful things we do over and over again. Once you have a set routine, it is easier to figure out when to do what, and to get everything done at a no-sweat, easy-peasy pace. Grandma’s “cookie day” is an example. Every year she set aside a day to make enormous quantities of sugar cookies for gifts, dinners, church suppers and the like. It wasn’t one bit overwhelming to her, but a sight to behold for the rest of us. It was no big deal to her, because it was the yearly routine. She shopped for supplies this day, baked them that day, used so many here, another batch there. The deluge of sweetness was a yearly, rote thing. It was like the donut guy, only ‘time to make the cookies’ instead.
- Ask Santa: You are not a frosty failure if you ask for help - or accept help that is offered. You won’t get a lump of coal in your stocking. Let your Santa-helpers do the easy, small, low-priority things. That lets you focus on the high priority must-haves, it gets more of those extras and details done for you, and it’s no big deal if they can't get it done for you.
- Get on the Naughty List: Say NO. If you really don’t have time, if you really don’t want to do something, then don’t. (But be nice and polite about how you say it - no need to get too high on that naughty list.) Problem-solve instead. Rather than take on something that you will find stressful or later resent, suggest a different way to do things or suggest another person who might (or might not) be willing to lend a hand.
- Be Snow, My Friend: Bruce Lee, the martial artist, is famous for saying “Be water, my friend” because of water’s adaptability. Water will change to fit whatever container it is in, yet it has the power to erode a mountain. Adaptability is a huge stress-buster. The Christmas police won’t throw you in North Pole prison if you don’t wrap the gifts just-so or make only 6 kinds of cookies instead of 7. Drift like snow into the shape of this year’s holiday, instead of trying to beat the holiday into the shape of your expectations.
- Raid Your Stocking: A lot of frustration comes from putting time and effort into something, but seeing no results. Make sure to do some things that are a treat for you, too. That goes double if that thing is good for others at the same time. Grandma enjoyed baking cookies...and taking a day away from any other responsibilities. Kris Kringle knows we enjoyed eating the cookies as much as she enjoyed making them. Find your inner cookie day. Enjoy the warm fuzzy feelings that come with giving a toy to a charity for tot’s. Listen to your favorite music while wrapping presents. I used to get a container of my favorite port wine cheese and crackers to nibble on while I addressed Christmas cards.
- The Long Winter’s Nap: Get enough sleep. It’s that simple. Adequate sleep fights off stress, and helps to keep your immunity boosted. The last thing you need is a cold or the flu on top of it all.
- Sniff Out Some Gifts: The emphasis here is on sniff. Naturally scented candles can ease your stress and set a holiday mood. Using an oil warmer or electric diffuser with some good quality essential oils is a nice accent to any holiday gathering. Not surprisingly, many anti-stress scents are long associated with the holidays. Cinnamon bark is warming and comforting. Frankincense is calming and meditative. Cedarwood is centering and strengthening. Orange is uplifting. Pine is refreshing. Vanilla is calming, comforting and balancing (Source:www.auracacia.com)
- Enjoy the View From the Sleigh: Keep it all in perspective. Find meaning and spirituality where it exists and take the fun and frivolity at face value. The holidays can be stressful because they can seem so big. But it is precisely this big-ness that can also make the holidays comfortable and cozy. There is room enough for it all..serious and silly, secular and religious, young and old, old and new. You don’t have to do it all, just do what is right for you. Right-for-you fits into the big holiday picture just fine.
- If all else fails, there is always eggnog.
Ronda Snow has a Ph.D. in Natural Health from Clayton College of Natural Health. She is a Reiki Master, emerging author and published poet. Her Natural Health practice includes fun, safe, medication-free stress reduction strategies like Reiki, Bead Meditation, Intuitive Aromatherapy, and Tarot Readings. For more information, please visit www.RondaSnow.com