I absolutely love the holiday season. I am the person who starts pulling out the Christmas decorations the day after Halloween. There is a house in our neighborhood that leaves Christmas lights up year round and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. But as much as I love the season, I inevitably get stressed out. A Christmas-related freak out is as much a tradition in my house as making cookies for Santa. There are some things I’ve learned over the years that help reduce holiday stress.
Gifts are supposed to be a wonderful expression of friendship, community, love, or appreciation. And yet they can cause an awful lot of anxiety. It can be hard finding the right gift and if you have a lot of people in your life, it can get expensive. Some good tips I have learned are:
Don’t put too much effort into finding the “perfect” gift. Especially for lower priority gifts like things you get for a coworker, mailman, or your kid’s teacher. This is why gift cards exist. Or you can always go with a consumable that most people like. Focus your attention of the more important relationships where you can pick out something a little more unique and meaningful.
If you don’t want to break the bank, homemade gifts are almost always acceptable and appreciated. I have gotten the most compliments after giving away packages of homemade holiday treats. This is an especially good gift because you can spend a Sunday making huge batches of treats. Then buy some cheap tupperware or cookie tins, dress them up with parchment paper inside and ribbons outside and you can put together gifts for most of the people on your list.
Receiving gifts can also cause anxiety. I get uncomfortable opening gifts in front of everyone. I feel pressure to give the person the reaction they want and also I always feel bad when someone spends their time and money on me. I like to remember that people who give gifts do so because it makes them happy to show their appreciation for other people. So I make sure to open the gift, show it to the room if others are around, and give the person a sincere thank you. If it’s particularly special, I will follow with a note. But generally if both people exchange gifts, I don’t think thank you notes are needed.
Learn to Say No
You don’t have to go to your second cousin’s company Christmas party just because she asked. You don’t have to choreograph your niece’s preschool holiday pageant. Be realistic about your holiday obligations and don’t commit to more than you are comfortable doing.
Let go of the idea of the perfect holiday moments. Life isn’t a Hallmark movie. Daniel and I spent about 10 minutes trying to get a photo with James on Thanksgiving where we were all looking in the general direction of the camera. At some point, I started to get frustrated but then just remembered how silly it was trying to get a 14 month old to pose for a picture. I look back at the terrible photos now and it is still a happy memory. Try not to cling to expectations about how everything is supposed to go. Just enjoy the time you have with the people you love. Try your best to have happy holidays.