Is it that Christmas is tied to the end of the year, meaning taxes and tax preparation, as well as events tied to a new year? Or that New Year’s Eve follows with all of its celebrations? Or that we tend to review at this time of year the preceding year’s ups and downs? Or that the weather changes and it is
cold? Or is it just Christmas that brings the stress of buying gifts, who to buy for who not to buy for and how much to spend? The question is whether the stress is the result of the struggle of getting gifts for your loved ones, getting the right gifts, making the budget stretch to accomplish this task. There is definitely a challenge to finding the best gift at the best price although things are easier these days with the internet. The problem is that the more energy you devote to getting the right gift the more that you need the person to be really excited about the gift they receive. I call it the "wow”
effect. The “wow” effect has to equal the effort you spend. So if you spend ten hours standing in line to be the first one at the door on Black Friday you need a really big “wow” effect. Then the
question becomes if the receiver of the gift you labored over can give you enough “wow” to equal your time so that you feel satisfied. Maybe this whole process is too labor intensive. Maybe it is more helpful to get lists from people rather than guess what they might like to receive and be excited about receiving. Maybe we just do our best and let it go from there. Many people love to go to the store on the 26th of December and shop. Somewhere along the line we lose the spirit of the holidays and lapse into the frenzy of what is required of us in terms of entertaining and gift giving. This is similar to Thanksgiving. You spend all week shopping and cooking for a meal that is eaten in 30 minutes and if you are lucky, 60 minutes. Clean-up takes another two hours. You probably did not have time to enjoy the parade or to remember what Thanksgiving is even about. Holidays, I assume, were initially established for recognition of those special occasions however as you all know we lose sight of this in the labor intensive mission to get through the day and accomplish the task whether it is cooking a meal or purchasing gifts. Holidays are known to put stress upon a marriage. Statistics show that the number of divorces filed around Valentine’s Day increases by forty percent. Valentine’s Day is the marker for promises made during Christmas and New Year’s did not materialize and life remained the same. Depending upon the actions or gifts received at Christmas, partners decide whether to stay or file for divorce. Likely the stress of Christmas and seeing the extended family brings out the positive and negatives of the marriage. It certainly triggers feelings of whether one is happy or unhappy. Stress around the holidays can arrive with the difficulty of hanging Christmas lights, purchasing and putting up the tree, dealing with extended family and in-laws or opening the Master Card bill. Research suggests the impact of stress upon emotions and physical health; increased sadness at 59 percent, sleep problems at 56 percent and lack of energy at 55 percent. Other surveys report problems of lack of time (up to 69 percent) lack of money (up to 69 percent) and pressure to give or get gifts (up to 51 percent). More women appear to be stressed around the holiday than men. It is well known that stress affects one’s physical health and certainly increases the presence of symptoms of disorders that are already present. So how do we get back to what the holidays of Christmas and New Years are about and get away from the stress that is created by the demands of tradition and family requirements? First, the task is to enjoy your extended family. Too often we arrive at extended family gatherings carrying the baggage of our childhood. What if you arrived with no history and you are meeting these people (who happen to be family) to enjoy a nice time. If it is not a nice time you can certainly cut your visit short. Remember leftover child memories are left over. So does it really matter if you do not find the right gift? If the receiver is not thrilled and does not have the “wow” effect? If dinner does not work out as planned or there are not as many lights or decorations as you would like? You have the option of moving through the holidays gracefully and without stress, enjoying the festivities and the beautiful displays seen on houses and in our cities. Remember that Christmas and New Years are times of beginning not endings. They offer the opportunity to make our life different, the reminder that things begin anew and that we can start over and have a re-do. The holidays are a time to feel warm, to watch old movies that repeat throughout the day, to pack away old hurts and embrace those around you. Just as the songs suggest, life moves along and offers all of us new hope for things to get better than they have been. What is it that makes the holidays so stressful? Many, many things, which we have the ability to take charge and control to make this next holiday season the best ever!