The Psych Central Report

Reducing Holiday Stress:
One Woman's Story

by SS8282
December 2005

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(Please note: Although the word ‘Christmas’ is used here, the author includes all the various holidays and spiritual faiths/customs here that occur near the end of the year.)

It’s in the commercial; they’re playing it in retail stores, which also have numerous decorations and signs. The music and the surroundings are constant reminders that Christmas is approaching - fast.

It’s amazing how quickly the year has gone by. I’m not ready for Christmas. Nope - definitely not. I try hard not to think about it. I ignore all the signs, music, and decorations from stores. I change the channel when a Christmas commercial comes on, and I try not to look at the month on the calendar. I even go so far as to believe that all those decorations that people have around their house have been there all year round and they are just too lazy to put them away.

Alas, a little voice inside my head tells me that eventually, I’ll have to pull my head out of the sand and face reality. Christmas is coming; Christmas is HERE!

Although it comes only once a year, the stress this holiday can put on people is incredible, and not just financially, although that is a big stress on its own. I’m talking about the stress of buying presents, decorating the house, party planning, the fights to get parking spots at malls, etc.

Since I’ll have to do it sooner or later, I’d rather do it sooner, and get it over with, so I take some time on the weekend, and, with a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows, sit down to think and take notes.

First things first – presents – and I smile. Starting from Boxing Day (December 26, which is a holiday in some countries like Canada and UK,), there are a lot of huge sales, and I would buy some presents, for birthdays and Christmas. All through the year I would buy presents – when they’re on sale. This way, I won’t have to run around looking for those perfect gifts and giving the cashier the numbers to my bank account.

Instead of looking for ‘just the right size’ boxes and wrapping paper, I would go to dollar stores and buy gift bags and tissue paper. Those stores do have some very nice stuff. Okay, call me cheap, but my bank account IS something to sneeze at. The way I see it is, you don’t have to lose an arm and a leg to get nice quality wrapping stuff.

After presents come parties. Besides being cheap, I’m also lazy. I am picky with which parties to go to – family and what few close friends I have, and, of course, the company’s party. If each of my close friends is having a party, I’ll feel overwhelmed, so I will choose to attend the one or two friends’ parties where I’ll see all my other friends. I’ll decline other invitations, saying I can’t make it, and say I’ll see them at so-and-so’s party.

To me, going to one friend’s party and not the others is not rude. It’s called taking care of myself, and keeping my sanity intact. I’ll also consider alternating. If I go to one friend’s party one year, I’ll go to a different friend’s party the next. I try to space out the parties, so that I can have a breather in between.

If I am going to have a party at my place, I will prepare some food the day before the party; have some take-outs, and lots of appetizers. The appetizers will keep the guests from going hungry, and the take-outs will save me from doing a lot of cooking, and blowing the fuse while doing just that.

Along with parties are people. If there's anyone who gets under my skin, I’ll try to avoid him or her, or if I can’t, I’ll just keep repeating to myself, “It’s Christmas, be nice”, or “This comes only once a year – that is one day out of 365 days (366 if it’s a Leap Year).”

Next thing on the list is decorations. Tree – yes I do have a decent one. Lights – yep, they’re fairly new, so they’ll work. Ornaments – oh yeah – boxes and boxes. So what if they’ve been around 20 years. They’re still in good shape.

I like simplicity, so the tree is the main thing. I’ll just put out a few Christmas waterglobes and other decorations around the house – just a couple of things in the rooms where guests might go to. I’ll also have Christmas songs playing to make it more festive.

All this thinking gives me a headache, and makes me a bit stressed out. I look out the window – uh oh – snow. The child in me takes over, and I go outside to make angels in the snow. There’s not enough to make a snowman.

When I’m done rolling around in the snow, I come back inside and have another mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows.

I look at my notes and wonder if I should think some more. I decide that my brain has had it, and I've got enough notes. I figure that if I look at my notes every so often, as a reminder, and if I start early enough, which I think is a great stress reducer, I’ll be just fine. I’ll survive this crazy, hectic holiday season. Advance planning, that’s the trick.

As I put my notes away, something very important pops into my head. I add one more thing in big letters – give myself a present. Now I can stick my head back into the sand.

Last updated: 2 Dec 2005
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Dec 2005
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