Reduce Your Christmas Stress

"It's the most wonderful time of the year! It's the hap-happiest season of all!"....right??!!???

For some the answer might be yes, while others, not so much. And for many somewhere in between. Christmas can be a mixed bag of emotions whether it is a time to reclaim the merriment of family traditions, replaying cheerful memories of the year or Christmas' past, experiencing the pain of no longer being together with loved ones lost, or the holiday simply not living up to all the hype.

I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.
— Charlie Brown

Speaking of hype and merriment, who can forget Chevy Chase, in Christmas Vacation, and his memorable battle to make Christmas merry and bright only to experience setback after setback after setback from cousin Eddie's sewage dump, hanging the lights, to the Christmas turkey.

Chevy Chase, as Clark Griswold, trying to outdo himself

Chevy Chase, as Clark Griswold, trying to outdo himself

A major challenge with Christmas is it not living up to our expectations, whatever that looks like. The perfect present, that doesn't illicit the reaction you were desiring. Trying not to disappoint any friends and make it to all the Christmas parties you've been invited to. Getting the house decorated just right in order to showcase the holiday season. No matter what you aspire it to be the reality is, your vision of a perfect Christmas will let you down. And so, knowing in advance you will be let down in some way(s), here are some helpful points to navigate a low stress holiday season.

  1. Practice Acceptance. Christmas doesn't have to be perfect to enjoy it. In other words…expect the unexpected. The decorations won't turn out just right. The thoughtful present you agonized over may not actually fit the recipient (or even be available at the store!). The children's behavior won't be flawless. Your siblings or parents behavior won’t be either. Your travel plans may experience setbacks. Your time with family won't be completely magical. No, this is not saying you have a license to be a Grinch. Repeat after me…It is not the end of the world.

  2. Practice Compromise. There is something to be said about being true to yourself and sticking to your guns, certainly your morals. That said, perhaps being so set in your ways isn’t the best answer in all situations. Christmas is a coming together of varying interests and sometimes conflicting personalities. It is also the season of giving. How can you adapt to your environment? Others? How can you move closer to a loved one in a way that is meaningful to them? What is a gift you can give that doesn’t necessarily carry a monetary value? Perhaps it is through kind heartfelt words that typically go unspoken, setting down the phone to have a quality conversation, participating in a family tradition with a smile instead of a scowl, going to a Christmas party for an hour with your extroverted spouse rather than not at all. Being so rigid and unwavering could potentially suck the joy out of the holidays for others…and yourself. Is that truly worth it? If it is, then say hello to Scrooge for me. ;) Also the stress of the holidays, especially missing loved ones, can be cause to not over extend yourself. Know your limits and be open with others about what you can and can’t do.

  3. Practice Gratitude. Focus on the small wins and be grateful for them. Finding the sweater in just the right size. Finding one can of cranberry sauce on the grocery shelf, even when you were looking for two. Arriving home safely after navigating crazy drivers for the last hour (or two). A warm house to come home to. Your health. Family. Friends. Your faith. Getting to see Ralphie and crew at the flag pole for the “dog dare” scene in Christmas Story. Yes, one of my favorites! Blessings are all around you, find them and name them. Go ahead and name five things right now. Do it out loud. Stretch goal, name five things about each member of your family. Positivity people, it is contagious! How can you light up someone’s Christmas?

May your days be merry and BRIGHT!!! House lighting clip from Christmas Vacation

May your days be merry and BRIGHT!!! House lighting clip from Christmas Vacation

Okay, I realize the holiday season is a busy time so lets wrap things up (haha, yes pun intended). In closing, I encourage you to make sure you set aside time to enjoy the season and not spend all of it trying to create or in search of the most perfect moments. Perhaps that means enjoying hot chocolate by the fire, flipping through pictures and sharing stories of Christmas past, making smores as a family, watching a funny holiday movie together, or simply sitting in the quiet glow of the Christmas tree lights after a long day.

I wish you and your loved ones a safe and joyous Christmas! Regardless what you mauy celebrate, I hope that it is filled with love!!!

My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others.
— Bob Hope