This is a funny time of the year. On one hand, it’s the season of family gatherings, festivities, and cheer, and on the other hand, it’s a time that can cause high stress and anxiety as people stretch themselves thin and try to pull off the perfect gift or party. The rampant consumerism and commercialization that dominate doesn’t help, either. There was once a time when holiday specials weren’t unleashed until after Halloween but now we see them in full glory well before October 31. We are, after all, a nation driven by the dollar more than anything else, so this is not surprising. That said there are things that you can do to try to make a change and have a calmer holiday season, even if only within yourself and close circle of friends and family.
Here’s what to do:
1. Know that you are not alone with your beliefs. Test it out – go and poll 10 people about the holiday season. Ask them how they feel about gift buying. My guess is the majority would like to spend less and make it more about people than about the gifts.
2. Reject materialism. Accept the notion that materialism is not an expression of what the holidays truly represent, nor do extravagance and expensive gifts equal happiness. These ideas are driven more by Hallmark and Hollywood more than anything else.
3. Make a choice: participate in it or don’t. If you’re having money woes, then be creative and spare the craziness of the shopping malls. Set an example for friends and family by doing something that reflects your beliefs. Be creative by making greeting cards and giving homemade gift certificates to your friends and family spelling out how you’ll treat them. For instance, offer to spruce up your parents’ yard come Spring time or help a friend with babysitting. In lieu of cheesy grab bags at the office party suggest donating to a worthy charity.
4. Give the gift of an experience. Keep in mind that the most memorable gift you can give someone is an experience, not a material item. People remember activities and experiences long after the fleeting excitement of a toy, article of clothing, or other material gifts. For example, on my birthday I was given a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY that provided lasting memories well beyond what an article of clothing would ever provide.
5. Gain control. Know that you actually have control over what you participate in and what you don’t. Ask yourself: do I have to attend every party or am I saying yes because I feel pressured to do so? Don’t feel compelled to accept every invitation. Get comfortable saying “no” to what you don’t want “yes” to the things you truly believe in. Doing so will help you to feel less resentful and stressed and much calmer during the holidays.
6. Examine your negativity. Scrooge isn’t just a fictitious character. There are some who strongly believe the holidays are nonsense and serve no purpose. Think about it, can you glean something positive from the season? By making small changes to how you think, you’ll be able to make big changes in how you feel.
7. Volunteer to take the focus off of yourself and more on those in need. And of course, remember the tried and tested stress management essentials: eating healthily by setting limits with your intake of holiday spirits and food, exercising to burn stress, getting proper rest, and being flexible with your schedule.