Holiday stress is a major problem, particularly among women in the United States.
Every day of the year brings various stressors to deal with like bills, child-rearing, careers, illness (yourself or caring for others), juggling relationship expectations, commuting, and many other “big and small” trials that can affect you separately or all at once.
Decorations, Shopping, and Egg Nog
All those stresses are compounded during the holiday season.
Lines are longer, winter weather can bog up the works, people are either Norman Rockwell sweet or downright rude (they’re stressed, too), meals or events seem more detailed, and your overall daily obligations balloon out of control.
Delicious, fatty, sugary food is everywhere you turn. Holiday treats, office parties, and bake sales bombard you from every side and stores offer goodies like egg nog (that you love with a shot of rum but you know you shouldn’t be drinking it at two in the afternoon no matter how sick of your kids being home on winter break you are).
Oh yes. The children being home. Probably bored, likely stripping your refrigerator bare, and waiting for you to deliver the #bestxmasever experience or else you’ll enter the new year on a deficit. #KidsAreEmotionalTerrorists
You want everything to be perfect or maybe your mom, neighbor, best friend has tips on what you can do a little better, a little faster, or with a little less attitude.
Grit Your Teeth (They’ll Think You’re Smiling)
The rest of your world doesn’t stop just because there are light displays to see, presents to buy/wrap, massive feasts to prepare, or Santa’s lap to be sat upon.
Maybe it isn’t 100% true these days but historically, women bear the burden of holiday success or failure. We cook, clean, shop, and see to visiting relatives or friends.
It’s just the way it is, the way it’s always been. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong…I’m saying it’s exhausting on top of normal life.
You might have a spouse or significant other who lessens holiday stress for you. If so, you should dance and laugh and thank your lucky stars.
Myself and most of the women I’ve talked to (with families and without) feel the pressure is cranked up around this time of year to look festive, be merry, and (in general) channel the (matronly but still sexy) spirit of Mrs. Clause at all times or else it will ruin the holidays for everyone!
Women (being women) keep chugging along despite truly needing time to rest or relax.
Many of us will go until we quite literally drop or have the mother of all breakdowns while trying to find the gift tags you know you bought but can’t find anywhere.
That final straw in the store when the person behind you won’t stop shoving their cart into the back of your ankle and responds to your glance with a “what are you looking at” vibe.
The houseguest or in-law who gets exasperated because you forgot they went vegan or gluten-free or raw food only two weeks ago and you didn’t think to buy the specialty item they simply must have if you want them to be civil.
That moment your sweet angel dares to roll their eyes about being nice to their cranky relative for ten minutes when you’ve been trapped with the person who knows everything for ten straight hours without any backup in sight.
To Survive, You Need Three Things
I’ve been there. I get it. I’ve heard (and experienced) some real horror stories in my time but it doesn’t have to be like this. It shouldn’t be like this.
The truth is that the “holiday season” encompasses less than 6 weeks (depending on which of the two dozen possible holidays you celebrate). The other 46 weeks are forgotten during the fever.
Over the years, I’ve seen some Bizarro World families that make all of it look easy and fun and Hallmark Commercial Trophy Worthy.
I’ll be honest…I faked it. I was amazing at faking it. Most people never suspected a thing. Here are my three tips for surviving whatever the holidays throws at you (with class).
Holiday Stress Buster #1 – Say NO
You need to learn to say it like you mean it. Stick to your guns. I was a marshmallow for years when my kids were small and ended up roped into things I hated, they hated, and we still mock today. Choose experiences you like. If your kids are under three, you can cut corners (and I don’t care if I get the “worst mom” award). They will not remember.
Holidays are important to kids between 4 and 12. Before that, it’s for you so don’t put yourself in a financial sinkhole just for Facebook worthy photos. After that, it’s about cash or high ticket items they can brag about to their friends. Seriously…you might think it’s for the love and joy of the season but it’s about the “haul” to the kids so save yourself.Holiday Stress Buster #1 – Say NO! You need to learn to say it like you mean it. Click To Tweet
Holiday Stress Buster #2 – Make a Plan
I know what I’m doing for each stage of the season. Since my kids turned twelve, I outlined what I was willing (and not willing) to put on my to-do list. Don’t be guilted or pressured into adding fluff you don’t want or need into your plan.
You don’t have to travel to family if it’s not in your budget. You don’t have to host 20 people if you don’t have the time, money, or room. You don’t have to buy gifts for everyone (no, I’m serious…you don’t).
I buy for my own children (at any age) and any little people I will see within a day before or after Christmas who are younger than teenagers. I cook for immediate family. I decorate a tree because I’ve always found them lovely. Know your plan. Stick to your plan.
Holiday Stress Buster #3 – It’s 6 Weeks (Don’t Bury Yourself for a Year)
Money problems can make this time of year feel like you’re balancing on the edge of a sword. Overspending is dangerous but encouragement to do just that is broadcast in every shop window, on every commercial, and all over Facebook.Overspending during the holiday season is dangerous. #HolidayNoNoClick To Tweet
Not sure who the Joneses are but they must be living a lot larger than the average American household and why are we trying to keep up with them?
Don’t do it. I knew back in September what I was going to spend on my kids (who are adults now). I set aside a very little budget for three children under age five I’ll see the week of Christmas to get them brightly colored (and fabulously inexpensive) learning toys they won’t know are teaching them.
This is something that requires coordination if you come from (or host) a huge family. You don’t owe anyone anything and there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I really can’t do that this year.”
Breathe…the Gift Tags Don’t Matter
Let it go. I mean it. It’s small in the grand scheme of things.
Everyone says the holidays are about family but unfortunately, too many people act like it’s a marathon of overindulgence, overspending, and crippling expectations.
Shayne McClendon is an author and positivity practitioner. Shayne believes love crosses all boundaries, social castes, races, genders, and belief systems. If you are lucky enough to find soul-deep love, you should fight for it. Life-certified, reader approved.