Stress Free Holiday

| December 5, 2013 | 0 Comments


Dove Kirby enjoys a stress-free holiday season.

Dove Kirby invites readers to create a stress-free holiday season.

by Dove Kirby

The day after I took down my Halloween decorations, I heard the first Christmas music of the season. It was coming from a dainty little music box sitting within a display at Nordstrom. Minutes later, I realized that I was still standing there staring at it, trance-like, but the tinkling sound had transformed into a raging swarm of thoughts swirling in my head—the cards, the gifts, the dinners, the parties, the cookie baking, the travel, the decorations, the obligations, the stress… the holidays were rushing at me like a freight train full of mistletoe.

I snapped out of it and moved on, but that feeling—something akin to standing atop an extraordinarily high precipice and looking down—stayed with me for the rest of the day. It was only November, and the pressure of “the holiday season” had already begun.

That night, as I lay in bed still swimming in the lists of things I had to accomplish in the coming weeks, I felt a mad desire to renounce the entire thing and run off to a tropical island for the next two months. But slowly, a more realistic idea began to form: What if I cut out anything that isn’t bringing genuine enjoyment to myself or my family?

It can be hard to differentiate between the things we do that truly fulfill us and the things that we just feel we “should” do. I started asking myself: which items on the list were working toward the purpose of spreading comfort and joy, and which ones were just because I felt I was supposed to do them?

As I began to weed out the “shoulds,” I noticed my anxiety level dropping already. Gifts for loved ones are a no-brainer; they bring joy to both the giver and the recipient. But for extended family that I rarely see, a card will suffice. Having friends over for nights of eggnog and laughter is what it’s all about. But that dinner party that a second cousin’s fiancée is throwing? I’ve decided to pass (being sure to thank them for the kind invitation). Having a tree is a given. But… all new ornaments this year? Not going to happen, and that’s okay! My sanity is more important than attending every single gathering, or making every little thing look Martha Stewart worthy.

The following morning, I put my thoughts to paper. I wrote out only the items that made the cut; naming my list Things I Want to Do for the Holidays, rather than what I had to do. What was left over after the culling was still a fairly long list, but there were far less items on the list than days I had left to do them. I felt a wash of relief and formulated a plan. Each day I would attempt to accomplish just one item, which I would then cross off the list (arguably one of the most gratifying feelings ever). For every holiday-related job I got done, I would do something for myself: such as a walk with my dog around the neighborhood, a soak in the tub, a workout in the park, or coffee with friends.

These pursuits, whatever activities we enjoy, are crucial to maintaining our morale and keeping our stress at the low end of the spectrum. They recharge our batteries, rejuvenate us, give us the energy to carry on without getting overwhelmed.
I have already crossed off three items on my list. I’m well on my way to a joyful, stress-free (or at least, less stressful) holiday season. I plan to enjoy myself and take breaks along the way. I’m sure my family will enjoy me more if I’m not hyperventilating because I have too much to do and not enough time to do it.

So as the holidays approach, breathe. Try making a list of the things that will truly fulfill you, and chuck the “shoulds.” Use any extra time to do things you really enjoy doing. Create your own holiday season, made up of the things that bring you joy. That joy will spread to everyone around you, and those are the moments that create the happiest Christmas memories.

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General articles by the Presidio Sentinel and Associated Partners.