Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dealing With Holiday Stress

Current Project: Plotting Stage
Status: Just about ready to start writing!

I hope everyone has been having a wonderful holiday season. This time of year is a distraction in itself, isn't it? So many things to do: decorating, shopping, parties, special dinners, and more. And so much external pressure to do more, buy more, be perfect. It's no wonder so many people feel so stressed at the end of the year.

There are myriad ways to cope with the stresses and distractions of the holidays, but only one way that's right for you. I can only tell you how I cope. I used to spend hours in the shops looking for that perfect gift for family and friends. Then I began working in High Tech and with each promotion/change of job, my work life became more and more stressful and time consuming. Where I used to look forward to Christmas shopping, the idea of spending hours of my precious time outside work wandering around stores now depressed me. Getting into the holiday spirit became more difficult with each passing year.

A few years ago I decided I'd had enough. Mr. W was just as stressed as I was and, really, there was no reason for it. We don't have little kids to shop for (and I know that makes a huge difference, believe me) and we certainly had more than enough stuff ourselves--and so did our extended families. What was the point of all the shopping or thinking everything had to be perfect? We made a pact that we'd only exchange a small gift or two and that we'd limit the family shopping to gift cards or the occasional special item (but only if we happened to see something--we wouldn't go out on shopping excursions). It's amazing how little stress I feel now at Christmas.

The same thing goes for decorating. Some years I feel like putting up a lot of decorations, other years...not so much. I think last year all I put up was the porcelain tea light nativity. This year? We had a sleigh and reindeer on our front lawn, a wreath on our door, a small fake tree in a pot (the cats ignore it, where they'd feel compelled to climb a real one) and my Dicken's Village scene on the coffee table. Oh, and the nativity, of course. The house felt very festive without a lot of fuss.

And then there's New Year's Eve. Many years ago we also decided to stop accepting invitations to New Year's Eve parties, because we never ended up going--and then we just feel bad. We both hate driving on New Year's Eve--too many amateurs on the road--and the weather is invariably crappy. We much prefer celebrating together in our cozy home with our choice of champagne and hors d'oeuvres and watching our choice of entertainment (The choice this year? Top Gear (UK)!). It isn't that we're anti-social, we're just happier not dealing with the hassle on this particular night. If the night is clear, we have fun going out on our front porch and counting the number of fireworks displays we can see. The record count was last year -- it was so clear, we saw 9 different displays (I claimed 11, but Mr. W didn't see the other two)!

Obviously, I'm not saying that this is the way everyone should approach the holidays. It's just what works for me. Do I miss all the fuss? Honestly? Not really. We still watch Christmas movies and have a nice dinner, usually a steak of some kind. And we exchange our small gifts, because it's still fun to open a present on Christmas morning. Maybe it's just a change in my attitude, when it comes right down to it. I don't believe everything has to be perfect at Christmas. After all, some of my best memories are of things that didn't quite go as planned.

What are your strategies for dealing with the stresses of the holiday season? Do you pull out all the stops and love it? Or do you prefer a simpler holiday--or maybe something in between?

Deborah Wright
Twitter: @DeborahBWright


Annabeth Albert said...

I do have little kids, so I can't just ignore it. But, I do manage the craziness. In my family, we never decorate early. We put the tree up on the 15th this year (If you are FB friends with me, check out my baby-proofed tree :P)) We tossed up some lights around the rooms because that's what we like. We've never done exterior lights, but we did take the kids driving through a neighborhood with good lights. We took the kids to see Santa but we knew from past years how to time it--on the 22nd, late in the day at the carosel, not the mall. For the first time in 10 years, my entire family was together on Christmas--both my parents, both my brothers, and the new family members too. I hosted but I let Miss T handle the decor with a gingerbread house centerpiece and she did presents for everyone (ornaments she made) and I gave everyone framed pictures of the kids. I did the rest of my shopping online. Each kid got one present from us as Santa and then one each from my parents and the uncles. Not too much craziness. I got DH a star trek bathrobe. It made up for some the years when his gift came from Walgreens on the 24th . . . I have never been a New Year's party person. We don't drink, so I've tried hosting casual things in the past for families, but not really worth the stress. We will do a pork roast New Year's day with my folks and call it good :P

Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel said...

I like the simple approach to the holidays too. My grandkids have a lot of different relatives who expect some of their time around the holidays--and two of them have birthdays within days of Christmas, so there are also added expectations that come with those celebrations.

However, I learned flexibility many years ago. With the youngest grandchild aged nine this year, I gave them and my sons gift cards and took them shopping--about a week and a half before Christmas. Then we came back to my house and ate a simple meal topped with cookies. :)

Pretty stress-free and we actually spent time together. Then we just had small stocking stuffer gifts on Christmas day--everyone ended up at my house again, which was a treat!

I don't like to drive on holidays either, and I'm not much of a party person, so am very happy staying home and celebrating--simply.

Happy New Year to you all!

Sarah Raplee said...

For us, it varies from year to year, too, but leans toward the simple. We're not party-goers, so new Years is usually quiet at home.