A few weeks ago, I answered the phone only to be greeted by a frenzied “I have NO idea what to get my boyfriend for Christmas!!” It was still well before Thanksgiving, rendering the anxiety a little higher than necessary, but I understood my friend’s pain. Every year I wrestle with the desire to purchase perfect gifts, only realizing that it is essentially impossible when I find myself buying Dad yet another tie on Christmas Eve. You would think that years of failure would keep me from these exalted expectations, but I can’t help myself. I harbor the delusion that one day I will find the item that Grandma will treasure more than the macaroni necklace given 20 years ago. As a result, the holiday buildup is often more stressful than cheerful. And if you’re anything like me, the same holds true for you.
Christmas, Chanukah and all of the accompanying holidays/festivities are inevitable sources of anxiety. Even when you exclude the gift-giving dilemma, you have to consider the family obligations, the over-eating and over-drinking, the wallet strain, the unrealistic expectations and the limited amount of time (mere weeks!) that you have to prepare for the ultimate celebration. You are bound to gain weight, stress smoke, lose sleep and bang your head against a pile of gift boxes, none of which are properly wrapped, labeled or filled. The tension can kill you, ruining your holiday spirit and turning you into a real-life Ebenezer Scrooge, unless you take the steps to de-stress. Here’s how:
• Plan ahead – if you take the time to determine what NEEDS to be done and what could be skipped over, then create a schedule of when you will accomplish what, the impending deadline won’t seem so ominous.
• Delegate – don’t be afraid to ask Aunt Mildred to bring dessert or an appetizer. The less you have to do the more relaxed you’ll be and the more delicious Aunt Mildred’s cherry cobbler will taste.
• Keep your expectations within the realms of possibility – you aren’t Martha Stewart or Julia Child. Christmas/Chanukah will not look like a page from a magazine. Do what you can to the best of your abilities and be happy with it.
• Take gift ideas – you may feel like you’re failing by not dreaming up the perfect present on your own, but listening to others’ advice could save you a lot of angst. And I’m not just talking about asking your sister what she wants. Stores offer you great gift ideas, as well. Use them.
• Budget – the biggest source of “kill me now” holiday feelings is the credit card. Create a reasonable budget and stick with it to avoid debt debacles.
• Relax – if you’re constantly on the run, trying to fill every remaining second, you’ll miss the holiday season. Take time every day to breathe, reflect and unwind.
• Remember the true meaning of the season – whether you are religious or not and regardless of which holiday you’re celebrating, the purpose of the season is more than gifts and the perfect table setting. Those are bonuses – bonuses that shouldn’t make you tear your hair out.