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Managing Christmas Stress
A Homemade Christmas
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Most children can't wait for Christmas to come around. But for many adults,
Christmas has lost its magic and become synonymous with stress, financial
worries and family strife.
Establish Christmas events and rituals:
The reality for many is that Christmas is a desperate rush, where we try
to pack too many stressful activities and expectations into one day.
Overspending, exhaustion and frayed tempers are often the result.
Christmas is a very emotional time, when people experience a whole range
of emotions. We tend to associate Christmas with feelings of hopefulness,
happiness, contentment and love. But we also see feelings of loss, despair,
worry, anxiety and disappointment.
Here are some suggestions to help relieve holiday stress and to help
reestablish contact with the true celebration of Christmas.
When you ask people about their best childhood Christmas memories, they
don't remember the big presents or the spending. They remember the rituals.
Identify rituals that can build family memories. It's these warm memories
that get us through the tough times in our lives. Your children will remember
always hanging the stockings in a certain place, not what was in them. As
materialistic as kids are, they associate Christmas with family events.
These events don't need to be expensive. You don't have to go to the
theatre to see the Nutcracker every year. But you could have a tradition
of an evening of tree decorating, and a Holiday video.
Avoid the Christmas rush:
When you are in a frenzy, you lose the importance of Christmas. Shop in
small towns or at craft sales. If you have to make a trip to the local
malls, don't shop during peak hours. If possible, take a weekday (especially
Tuesday or Wednesday) morning off work and avoid weekend shopping. Instead,
use the weekends to trim the tree and for family time. Avoid last minute
shopping. You will feel more stress rushing around at the last minute, and
you will most likely spend more.
Communicate and compromise:
Discuss with your family where you are going to spend your Christmas. It's
an emotional issue, and can lead to division if there are mixed preferences
for whose family or favorite location gets the nod.
Couples need to sit down and talk, to compromise and negotiate. Set some
precedents as a couple. Alternate years between Christmas dinners at family
homes, or celebrate events with the in-laws before or after Christmas. Plan
together a new tradition that becomes your own family ritual. Remember to
build fun and laughter into the holiday season. Approach differences with
a sense of humor — try your partner's crazy Christmas tradition.
Set a realistic budget:
Families have to be realistic about what they can afford. Set an honest
budget and stick to it. While it may seem old fashioned, paying in cash
remains the best way to stay out of debt. Set aside an envelope of holiday
gift-giving cash, add to it when you can, and use it only for that
purpose — it'll force you to stick to your budget. When you run out of
money, your shopping is complete. By avoiding credit cards with those
high interest rates, you're ahead of the game. If you have to pay with
plastic, grab your debit card instead. The money will be automatically
deducted from your account, so make sure to record the amount spent.
Draw names and set a dollar limit instead of buying gifts for every
brother, sister, in-law and cousin. This not only saves dollars, but
also time. When someone suggests drawing names in a family, most of
the other family members are relieved and agreeable.
If you have the time, energy and know-how, make Christmas gifts — cookies,
jam, candles. Instead of buying a new dress for each year's Christmas party,
exchange and share clothes with friends or family for those special occasions.
Prioritize and learn to say 'no':
A lot of things are important to us at Christmas time, but we can't always
do everything and keep our heads. Have realistic expectations and set
priorities. Don't try to keep up with the Joneses. What works for some,
doesn't work for others. Try to celebrate Christmas in a way that works
for you and your family.
Learn to say no at Christmas time to the 21st Barbie set, or a Christmas
dinner. I know people who have four family dinners to go to in different
cities and pray for bad weather so they don't have to travel.
You can't be two places at once. Worrying about where else you should be
results in a constant state of anxiety. Plan to take pleasure in the present
and make a decision not to entertain guilt about where else you should be,
or what else you "should be doing."
Make Christmas Day a smooth event through planning:
Planning is crucial. Write a list of what you have to do, such as when to
start cooking, then stick to it. Reserve blocks of time for each activity
(e.g. cooking Christmas Dinner) and don't jump from job to job. Do one
thing at a time.
Co-operation is the key to a stress-free Christmas Day. Everyone needs
to help one another, rather than letting one person do everything. Agree
on what you all want to do. Try not to have expectations that are too
unrealistic and remember that if things go wrong, it's not the end of
Live Christmas through your children:
Christmas really is for the children. They are wide-eyed and excitable
and love the simple things, the snow, the lights. If you see Christmas
through their eyes you are bound to gain great joy from the season. Plan
activities to do with your children. Make a Christmas craft, string popcorn,
design wrapping paper, bake some low carb cookies (recipes in this issue!)
or sing carols.
Anticipate the Christmas let-down:
Whether you buy 5 presents or 10 presents, anticipate a let down after
opening gifts Christmas morning. This doesn't mean you should have
bought more presents. It is much more important to stay within your
means. However, to lessen or avoid this let down, slow it down a bit.
Don't rush the opening of gifts. Take your time. Open one gift at a
time while everyone watches. Comment on the wrapping. Take pictures.
Then, plan something special for after the gift opening — serve a
special Christmas breakfast, play a family game of cards or a board
game... any activity the family can do together.
Not a time for war:
Be careful not to use Christmas as a battleground for unresolved past
family conflicts. Christmas is not a time to work things through, or
an opportunity to stake claims. It is a time to minimize conflict and
to make compromises. When emotions are so high at Christmas, you will
not be successful in working things through. You can work things out
in the long run when emotions are not so high.
Avoid known triggers. For example, if politics is a touchy subject
in your family, don't talk about it. If someone brings up the topic,
use distraction and quickly move onto something else to talk about.
Take time for yourself and the things you enjoy:
You will be able to deal with the rush and hubbub of Christmas much
better if you take care of yourself. Get outside. Enjoy the fresh air.
Go skating, go for a walk, whatever relaxes you.
Remember to Laugh:
Laughter can relieve stress and hold your holiday spirits high. It
can allow you reflection, and studies show people sleep better after
an evening of fun and laughter. Plan to attend a comedy club, or
rent videos of your favorite stand-up. Treat yourself to a Holiday
comedy movie or two. Make it a point to spend a little time with
those friends who never fail to make you laugh. It's all time
Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year, so it's
a challenge to get through it without suffering any emotional or
physical ill-health. The problem is that if you don't keep things
in balance you won't have any energy left to enjoy the festivities.
But if you can get all the preparations out of the way with careful
planning, you will have more time for the really important things —
like pampering yourself and partying!
Copyright © December 2006 Lora Ruffner and Low Carb Luxury
Title photo Copyright © 2006 Neil Beaty and Low Carb Luxury