Taking the Stress Out of Jingle Bells

Taking the Stress Out of Jingle Bells

Siebert, Lenora

If the thought of decking your halls has you feeling frazzled, read on.

NEWSPAPERS, TELEVISION, AND Billboards Constantly Remind us that the holiday season is right around the corner. Some of us may remember a white Christmas; some will recall the air conditioning running full blast while lighting festive Chanukah candles.

The holidays make people nostalgic. We may think of happier times, when there was ruddy-cheeked Santa on every street corner, ringing a bell in a fur-trimmed red suit. His hearty “HO, HO, HO” mingled with the sounds of carolers promising joy, happiness, and peace on earth. I always loved the wonderful aromas of holiday cooking and baking that drifted from the stores as I did my last-minute shopping.

Unfortunately, as much as we love this time of the year, the holiday season still means extra cooking, food shopping, and rushing around for last-minute gifts. Although we can’t bring back the carefree days of our youth, we can do as much as possible to reduce our stress level as we prepare for the holidays.

Check your list twice

Santa isn’t the only one who should be making a list and checking it twice. Start the process of destressing the holidays by making your own listof all the holiday tasks you’ve performed in the past. Then, look the list over and decide what can be eliminated. As you list items, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Am I doing this out of habit, because it is a family tradition?

2. Do I really like, or need to have, this particular family tradition?

3. What is the worse thing that could happen if I didn’t continue this family tradition?

4. Am I the only person responsible for this job?

5. If so, could someone else share this job with me?

6. Do I feel obligated to do this task, or is it a free choice?

7. Would the holidays be spoiled if I didn’t do this?

8. Is there a way I can do this task differently, to eliminate some of the work involved?

Trim your workload and your tree

The following are suggestions for reducing your holiday load, while still making the season loads of fun.

* Have you always sent out holiday cards? Given the expense of postage and the time involved, this may be something to rethink. Although sending an e-mail isn’t as personal, if you are computer literate, you can make your own holiday card and e-mail most of your friends and relatives, sending only a few by “snail mail.”

* Instead of decorating the tree yourself, make it a family affair, or involve friends. And don’t fret if it isn’t “perfect.” If the children hang an ornament at an awkward angle, it could set a new tradition.

* Do you decorate different rooms in your home? If so, eliminate most and just do your main living quarters.

* Are there special people in your life you see only at this time of the year? Instead of having them over or meeting with them separately, why not set aside one night and invite them all to meet you at a restaurant? Call it a “special-people party.”

* If you usually buy gifts for all of your coworkers, suggest drawing names this year.

* Do you do all of your own holiday baking and cooking? Why not trade goodies with a friend or family member this year? Each of you double your normal recipe, and then swap.

* If a big part of your holiday meal involves cooking a special, traditional dish, cook only that dish and order the rest of the meal from a local catering company. One year, when our lives were in crisis, I ordered our complete holiday dinner from a local restaurant. We survived.

* If you have access to a computer, shop online and have merchandise delivered rather than exhausting yourself by going from shop to shop.

* Attending special or traditional religious services may be something you feel you must do. If so, do it with a good heart. The same goes for activities you do for children, such as attending school parties.

* Of course, you don’t have to attend the office holiday party-hut it may he just what you need to relieve some of that stress you’re feeling.

* At this time of the year, most of us have limited funds. Consider contributing money to only one special charity organization. I only give to my local MS Society.

* Last but not least: if your house doesn’t get cleaned the way you want, the people you love will not love you less.

Create new expectations of “holiday”

Most caregivers will have a different holiday this year than they did last year. For several years, each of my holidays have been very different from one year to the next. As a former caregiver, my expectations gradually faded until the person sitting across from me became a person I no longer knew.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, it is to your advantage to carry on and keep up the pretense of a happy holiday. We must create new expectations of “holiday”: not better, not worse, just different.

Hopefully, this year will bring everyone happiness, cheer, and well-being.

Happy Holidays!

Lenora Siebert lives in Beaumont, Tex.

Copyright Springhouse Corporation Nov/Dec 2004

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