7 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Stress

Let me just say up front that if you are one of those people who love the holiday season, Christmas music, and all those decorations and presents, this blog is not for you. My goal for the holidays is to neutralize them! I don’t want to sway to the dark side and chant Bah Humbug, so I’ll just say may the holiday frenzy just pass me by.

When my husband and I were still living in Florida, we realized the insanity of shipping presents back and forth across the country. So, we stopped and asked others to do the same. What, you may be saying, no presents?! Yep, zero, zip, nada except for a very modest exchange between my husband and I. Wow, what a relief that was! Turns out, our families were fine with our choice. I know at least some were equally relieved to have less to buy, package, and ship off. In fact, it was so successful that when we moved back to the Northwest, we upheld the policy!earth ornament

Which leads me to tip #1: Just say NO! Think of it as a gift to the planet as well as yourself. The environmental impact of all the consumerism, wrapping paper, and carbon footprint alone is worth considering moderation. I realize going cold turkey may not work for many, so remember you can always take baby steps. Let’s face it, there has to be someone who – if you both are really honest – would appreciate skipping the whole gift thing. After all, it can be a lot of pressure.

This brings me to tip #2: Prime the changes you’d like to make by letting people know this season what you’d like to do next season. As in, avoid an overabundance of gift exchanges. I warn you, some may resist this process. But, you may also find that many more than you guessed are open to – and even appreciative of – the concept. In the event of a standoff – as in being faced with the prospect of receiving an unsolicited gift while standing empty handed – acceptance is key. There may be an occasional person who goes rogue. Just smile politely, thank them, and let them be. Do not put yourself on the hook by feeling obligated to say yes and join in. Try not be swayed to the other side. We cannot expect another to change just to meet our desires, and the same goes for them. Acceptance and respect are a two way street.

If you find the idea of moderation with gift giving too much, then at least take a moment, breathe, and ask yourself why? Am I buying something just to have a gift to give? Is this something that I honestly think the person will enjoy? In other words, take a reality check on your intentions. The definition of gift is: to provide pleasure or show gratitude. Is that being served?

In the event that all of the above seems like something that is more hassle than just buying presents, wrapping them, and receiving stuff in return, here are some other ideas.

Tip #3: If you find you must venture out, try ear plugs. I try to be patient, but I have to admit, the barrage of Christmas music blasting everywhere I go can turn into a budding headache. Imagine, instead of daydreaming about sarcastic remarks regarding the annoying tunes that make me want to run screaming from the stores, I can smile in the quiet solitude of my mind. Instead of wondering if the poor clerks are on the verge of going insane due to what amounts to weeks and weeks of their life being drowned in holiday tunes (something I consider a form of slow torture), I can radiate empathy and peace.

Tip #4: If you find you must venture into a department store (something I try to avoid anyway, but especially during the holidays), you may want to carry a respiratory mask. You may be thinking, oh yeah no one wants to get sick and there’s always something going around. But no, I mean for the perfume!!! The other day – in spite of my trepidations, I ignored my own advice. I went into a department store, and by the time I made a purchase, the back of my throat was swelling, my eyes were burning, and my lungs were getting congested. The sensory overload was literally toxic.

Tip #5: Try to be forgiving of yourself. As Ram Dass said: If you think you are enlightened, spend time with family. So, if you find that suddenly all the years of growth and change seem to slip away as aspects of your former self rears it’s not so pretty head, be kind. Drop your expectations and do the best you can.

Tip #6: Boundaries! This is really more of an everyday tip than one for the holidays. For many, the holiday season means added social activity and family interactions. Boundaries can determine the difference between calm appreciation and insanity!

If all else fails, here’s tip #7: Pour a glass of wine – or a beverage of choice, put on some calming music (obviously not Christmas!), and take a nice long hot bath. The season will pass, the energy will recede, and hopefully, equanimity will be restored.

May you find peace this holiday season!


Copyright (c) Sallie Odenthal 2011. All rights reserved.

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