Agh…it is mid December already!! How did that happen? The Holidays are here and as I sit down to write this I am thinking of all the things I want and need to do. Christmas is coming at me like a freight train and I don’t think it is the Polar Express with a mug of hot chocolate. Instead I feel like I am tied to the tracks. Oh don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays but it seems like the season starts earlier and earlier each year and I feel like I have less time to get everything done. Anyone else feel the Christmas stress like me?

Now there are those of you have your decorations up, shopping all done and a relaxing plan for the rest of the month and that is fantastic!! I, however, am not there yet. But I will not to be stressed about it. I have been there before and choose not to go back! What gets done gets done and what doesn’t well….well…Fa La La La La, La La La La!!! Isn’t it “the most wonderful time of the year”? A time to celebrate faith, spend more time with extended family, sparkling decorations, delicious food, giving and receiving gifts, festive gatherings, and the anticipation of the big man in the red suit.

Many people do get stressed out during the holidays and for many different reasons. There are extra responsibilities and commitments, finances that are stretched too thin, searching for the perfect gifts and then not having the money to buy them, dysfunctional family dynamics or expectations, travel, kids bouncing off the walls just to name a few. Already this year I have witnessed several cases of road rage, parents being short with their kids, cranky sales clerks and impatient shoppers.

low stress christmas simple holidaysMuch of the Holiday stress is of our own creation, self-imposed or society imposed or advertised. Our expectations, or worse….other’s expectations, of what our Holiday should be like have morphed over time. In the late 60’s, when I was a wee tot, we had a silver metal looking tree that was made of tinsel and it had just a very few gifts under it. We were not poor that was just how it was and it was great!! Fast forward to today….and it seems so much more complicated. More Christmas lights (some even digitally choreographed to music), more advertising, more presents, more food, more email with online coupons that began the Monday before Thanksgiving because this year Black Friday was a week long for some retailers. So we have more available to us than we did 40+ years ago but are we merrier? Not really, in fact, we as a nation are more anxious and depressed than ever before! Statistics paint a grim picture of our mental health in our “new and improved” modern society. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) 1 out of every 10 adult suffers from depression. Antidepressant prescriptions have increased 400% since 1988. Most alarming is the rising rate of depression and anxiety diagnoses in children and teens.

I wonder, has our more modern society raised our expectations and subsequently, increased our disappointment? I don’t know. There are multiple and complex analysis of these statistics but that is not the focus here…back to Christmas.

So who needs added Holiday Stress? In our attempts to create a “Very Merry Christmas” for your family do not create added stress for yourself. In fact, lower your expectations. The result may surprise you!! Consider simplifying your routine or traditions. Do what brings you and your loved the most joy. Try rearranging your thinking about what your holiday is suppose to look like. Prioritize what is MOST important and let the rest go. Learn to confidently say “no or no, thank you”. Adopt a “less is more” attitude. Get rid of the “should” and stop trying to keep up with the neighbors. Relax and enjoy their lights or light show from your yard. Count your blessings and reach out to those less fortunate. Teach your children to do the same. Breathe slowly and deeply. Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Focus on the real meaning of the Season!

Merry Christmas and Peace to you all!!!