If You’re Stressed During Christmas, You’re Doing It Wrong

Years ago we stopped flying to the BC Coast for Christmas. With a baby, it just wasn’t a good idea. Plus, our entire family is split up, which means we had to cram three Christmases into two days.

Does anyone believe that’s a) doable, and b) fun? No.

We also stopped buying gifts for our parents and our siblings and asked them not to give us gifts. A reasonable amount of presents for our daughter? Sure! But why should all these people who, let’s be honest, really don’t know each other that well, stress out about getting each other gifts? And speaking of buying stuff…

Consumerism — that’s another thing we dialled back on. We still buy presents, but we keep ourselves in check. We don’t buy simply for the sake of buying anymore. It never felt right. Plus, holiday debt is a major problem. For every $1.00 a Canadian makes, they spend $1.67.

If that doesn’t strike you as ill-advised: Shoppers, who are out in droves on December 23rd as it is the busiest shopping day of the year, spent $993 million on Interac alone in 2014. That’s great for consumerism, but not so great for our planet. Or us, in fact. It’s been proven that buying stuff actually makes us miserable.

Breaking the festive-stress cycle isn’t easy. Sometimes it means putting up boundaries with family or friends, and sometimes it means re-evaluating our values or *gulp* ourselves. Whatever the case, you don’t want to end up like these people in Rudolph’s Rage Room.

If you find yourself stressing over the holidays because you can’t find that perfect gift for your dad, or because you know your New Year’s resolution will be putting in some overtime to pay off your Christmas debt, pause and re-evaluate.

1. It’s okay to put up boundaries.

Familial pressure can be intense, especially when guilt-tripping is involved. But if you don’t protect your wellbeing, no one else will. Take it from a seasoned boundary setter.

Gentle Boundary: “We would love to spend some time with you at Christmas. Once we have our plans figured out, we will let you know what day we can visit.”

Firm Boundary: “I understand that you would like to spend every Christmas with us, but we have two families we must split our time between. We have decided that we will alternate Christmases each year. This year, we are spending it with _____.”

How they react or feel to your boundaries is beyond your control and not your job to fix.

2. Change how you gift.

Do you pressure yourself to find the perfect gift? Do you buy presents out of a sense of obligation instead of a genuine desire to give? Are you spending too much on gifts?

Decide ahead of time that you will follow specific guidelines, and stick to them. One example is the 4 gift rule:

1. Something they want.
2. Something they need.
3. Something to wear.
4. Something to read.

You can apply this rule, or any rule you decide on, to all family members, or split it between family members (e.g., something to wear for your sister, something to read for your dad, etc.). Or, you could draw names or do Secret Santa. Gifting should be a positive experience.

3. Remember to prioritize what’s most important to you.

If giving gifts is most important to you, make sure you cherish that time by getting an early start on it and staying mindful. If woolly socks, a book, and eggnog is what feeds your soul, place that above other obligations. What about having friends over, is that what makes your heart grow each year? Then make it happen, even if it means having to say no to something else that perhaps means more to somebody else.

Self-sacrifice is put on a mighty high pedestal in our culture, but it isn’t always right.

This holiday season, show yourself some love. Feed your soul. Let yourself be unproductive. Don’t beat yourself up over not meeting someone else’s expectations. The holidays shouldn’t be about stress and guilt — and they don’t need to be.

Remember what really matters to you and let yourself have it.

— Coulee Mom

*NOTE: A previous version of this post read “Shoppers, who will be out in droves on December 23rd as its the busiest shopping day of the year, are expected to spend $1.1 trillion…” After some fact-checking, it appears this was inaccurately reported in the source article, so I have changed it here.

If this post helped shed some light on your holidays, give it a ‘like’. If you’d like to add a festive tip of your own, please do so in the comments. The more the merrier! (Okay, those puns were completely unintentional yet so perfect!)

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