Holidays – Pleasure or Pressure?
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” Or is it?
‘Tis the season when our usual work and family responsibilities plus seasonal obligations can add up to an overwhelming load.
Holiday baking, gift shopping, decorating, along with entertaining friends and family while taking part in community events can interfere with the pleasures of the season. A recent American Psychological Association survey found that women, especially, feel stressed at Christmas, as they are often responsible for most of the family holiday preparations.
We all want to make the holidays the best they can be for our loved ones. We enjoy keeping traditions and making memories. Too often, we want everything to be perfect. But not at the expense of our own health, peace of mind, and enjoyment of this special time.
Seven tips for experiencing the holidays with pleasure, not pressure.
1. Don’t fall for the hype. The commercialism of the season pushes us to do it all. Ads show the myth of the perfect holiday: housewives baking umpteen batches of cookies, happy families decorating fabulous trees, parents buying tons of expensive gifts and stashing them under those trees. Pressure! The average American family spends more than $700 on gifts at this time of year. But you’ll have more pleasure if you stick to your budget. Remember the reason for the season and keep your expectations—and your expenses—realistic.
2. Make your own traditions. Unless you want to, you don’t have to bake seven different kinds of Christmas cookies. You don’t have to entertain the entire extended family for Thanksgiving dinner and then do it all over again on Christmas Day. It isn’t necessary to send out hundreds of hand-addressed Christmas cards. You needn’t carry on the traditions you grew up with—unless you really enjoy them. Have a family meeting and agree on which holiday activities your family really wants include. Let the rest go.
3. Share the burden as well as the love. At your family meeting, make a plan. Decide who will do what. While Dad and the kids go tree shopping, Mom and Grandma can start the baking. Everybody can help decorate the tree on Sunday afternoon. Dad may help wrap presents. The kids can clean their rooms and help with the dishes after Christmas dinner.
4. Stay healthy. Don’t overindulge in food or drink. Get plenty of sleep. Keep up your habit of regular exercise. Don’t let the holidays become an excuse for going off your diet, becoming a couch potato, or partying too much.
5. Get in touch with your feelings. If you’ve suffered a loss, it’s OK to be sad. If you’re alone or separated from loved ones, acknowledge the difficulty. Don’t try to force yourself to be happy if you’re not. However, do find ways to appreciate what you have.
6. Reach out to others. If you are far from family and loved ones, find a community or social event to in which to participate. Volunteer to help someone. Sing in a choir, serve a meal to the homeless. You’ll meet new people and lift your own spirits as well as theirs.
7. Take time to relax. Breathe, meditate, pray. Make space in your busy days for some down time, restore your energies. Read a book. Watch a favorite movie or TV show. Listen to calming music. Take a walk and enjoy the beauty of nature.
More Pleasure than Pressure
The holidays can put us under a lot of pressure. But we can keep our balance by ignoring the hype and sticking to a budget. We can pick and choose the traditions we want to honor. We can keep up healthy habits. It’s okay to be realistic about our expectations and acknowledge our feelings. We can reach out to others and make space for ourselves. Experience the season with more pleasure than pressure.