Surviving holiday stress is about managing our expectations and the expectations of others. It is so easy to worry so much about everything being perfect, that we destroy what could be good. We worry about so many things we cannot control—who will be offended this year, will they like their gift, will our uncle overindulge again—that we lose our ability to enjoy ourselves.
Source of Holiday Stress
As soon as we start hearing Christmas carols and seeing holiday ads on TV, we are surrounded by myths. While the holidays are often wonderful, a time when we open our hearts to others more fully, and times when great memories are made, they are also difficult. It is impossible for every Christmas to be the “best Christmas ever,” yet that doesn’t stop us from trying, taking on more holiday stress.
So we rush around, frantic, making sure the house is gorgeous, the perfect presents are wrapped, entertaining plans are in place for guests of all ages, and enough food to feed an army is at hand. We tie ourselves in knots, on the quest to create and capture “magical moments.” We do our best to ensure that every holiday tradition is honored. Our holiday stress grows.
When was the last time you asked yourself if this was truly giving you and yours a Merry Christmas?
Reconsidering our Expectations
It’s possible that some traditions that you believe your loved ones find indispensable aren’t really that important to them. Have you ever asked? Think about your own favorite memories of the holidays. What comes to mind? A perfect gift? A day spent playing in the snow? A great family trip? A quiet moment by the fire? Holiday parties with dear friends? A beautiful tree? Lighting the menorah? A hope-filled New Years Eve? A burned turkey that could have been awful and instead showed how easily your family could adapt?
As you think about these memories, ask yourself what helped make them happen. Try to see if you can tell what the critical element is that made it so memorable. Some of them may be out of your control, like hoping for a snow-free Christmas when you live in Indianapolis, Indiana. Other elements may inspire you to alter what holiday expectations you choose to keep and which ones you ditch. I encourage you, throughout this holiday season, to consider what activities just add to holiday stress and which ones are truly the joys of the season.