De-Stess the Holidays Before They Arrive

Thanksgiving is upon us and Christmas, Hanukkah & New Year’s will be here before we know it. For all too many, this will be not the “season of joy” but rather “the season of stress.” At middle age, you’ve been down Santa Claus lane a few times before. Ask yourself this question: “Do I look forward to the holidays this year with joyful expectation or am I dreading all the things I need to accomplish just to get ready?”

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • You’re scrambling around to clear the clutter and get your house all clean and spiffy before Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas overnight guests arrive.
  • You’re charging down supermarket aisles, rushing around the mall to find Christmas gifts, then waiting in long check-out lines. (‘Why was I crazy enough to Christmas shop on Black Friday again this year?”)
  • You will spend all Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings cooking the holiday meal for a large group of relatives, then after dinner you get to wash the dishes all by yourself.
  • You are hanging outdoor Christmas lights haphazardly on a bitter-cold late November day, trying like crazy not to fall off the ladder.
  • At the last minute, you’re frantically mailing cards and gifts to everyone on your list, making certain that no one is left out.
  • You’re rushing to catch a flight or gassing up the old SUV, then struggling through airport security or creeping down a clogged highway made worse by the 6-10″ snowfall from the night before.
  • You’re dreading how you’ll respond at Thanksgiving dinner when your mother-in-law or Uncle Fred, as they always do, says something mean that gets your goat.

Not one of these expectations sounds very appealing does it? I know this sounds crazy, but each year when Christmas finally arrives I find myself exhausted, bored, almost let-down because I have nothing else to rush around to accomplish. My wife Gloria and I generally spend the week between Christmas & New Year’s mostly de-compressing from pre-holiday stress, generally too worn down to enjoy our company. CRAZY, isn’t it?

What if this year the holidays could be less about stress and more about celebration? Here’s an even better idea: Let’s make this year’s holiday season a positive dress rehearsal for stress-free living throughout the coming year!  Everyone has his or her own formulas to remain calm under pressure but here are my “10 Commandments” for the holidays:

  1. Plan out your pre-holiday and holiday routine well before the actual day arrives. Set goals not just for yourself (and not simply to ‘survive’) but for every guest and family member. What positive experience will each one to take away from your time together?
  2. In what ways do you love, respect and admire each person you will have contact with over the holidays? In what ways can you demonstrate love, concern and affection?
  3. List the good points of everyone who will visit and how you might ‘make their day.’
  4. Make peace with yourself. Love yourself so much that that love and compassion will overflow to others. This may sound selfish, but it follows Christ’s command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
  5. Refuse to feel and act like you’re under another’s microscope. You’re not perfect and neither is he or she! Brush off criticism lightly and without malice, then move on.
  6. Never set holiday expectations too high. Simply because Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s are designated as holidays doesn’t mean they always will be the greatest day of the year. Each holiday, sit back, relax and enjoy a quiet yet fun time with close friends and family, Who knows, February 20 and May 12 might turn out to be your best days of nest year!
  7. When pre-holiday crowds get to you, find a quite corner and take deep breaths. Shopping and travel are not life or death experiences after all. If you miss out on that gift or miss your airport connection, it won’t really make a lick of difference to your long-term health and wellbeing?
  8. To make this holiday season truly special, give some time and money to those less fortunate. Volunteering could turn out to be your highlight of the season.
  9. Ladies–don’t hesitate to ask others for help preparing holiday meals or cleaning up after. Genuinely caring friends & loved ones will willingly pitch in and likely will benefit as much as you.
  10. If at all possible, find a way to include children in your holiday. Thanksgiving and Christmas simply aren’t the same without the expectation, joy and enthusiasm of young minds, bodies and spirits!

Let me throw in three bonus suggestions:

  • For every planned activity, always have a backup plan in mind. If the mall is too crowded on Saturday, address Christmas cards and return to shop after work next Tuesday.
  • Shop or travel with someone relaxed whom you love or admire. When things get too hectic and lines get too long, smile, chat and enjoy each other’s company.
  • Plan as many as possible fun activities that don’t involve food. You don’t want to fight the battle of the bulge throughout the early part of next year. (P.S: if you attend a holiday movie, no buttered popcorn!)

One other suggestion: if you’re a person of faith, try not to forget the reason for the season. (Hint: Christmas time is not just about the jolly little fat man in the pretty red suit.)

In conclusion, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s are meant to be joyful times, peaceful, warm and loving. It makes absolutely no sense to wear down or stress yourself out preparing for them! Therefore, I strongly urge you to plan in advance then take it easy and have a jolly good time. Let’s make this a year when on January 2 you don’t sigh in relief, glad that the holidays are finally over until next November!

Care to learn more about de-stressing the holidays? Tune in to the Monday November 24 edition of my weekly Internet radio show ‘Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age.’ Our expert guest Dr. Elaine Ferguson, M.D., author of the acclaimed book SUPERHEALING, will present some powerful keys to remaining cool, calm, collected–and joyful–before, during and after the holidays this year. 







I know it’s not fair, but you ladies tend to bear more than your share of the holiday preparation

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