The holidays can be a very stressful time! While we may love our families, they can have the capacity to drive us nuts as well. Then there's the pressure of all the get-togethers and events you are expected to attend. Seeing friends and family that you don't see throughout the year can bring it's own pressures. Questions about how your life is going or painful reminders of what you've lost in the past year. Gift buying can bring financial stress galore, especially if you have children. If you have to travel, that can be a nightmare. Malls and airports are crowded and hectic, not ideal situations for people with anxiety disorders. And on top of it all there is this overbearing expectation of happiness and glee, which can amplify any stress or depression you may be feeling.
Don't get me wrong, the holidays can be joyous and fun. If they were really all just stress and greed, why would we all continue to put ourselves through this? When you strip all the materialism and get down to the what the holidays are really all about, they can be very enjoyable. This may mean different things for different people. People celebrate different holidays. People celebrate in different ways. And people have different things that they value. Keeping those values close at heart can help the holidays to be less stressful. If material things aren't the core value you hold for Christmas, don't go beating up soccer moms just to get the "must-have" toy of the season. Focus on what is important, and leave the rest for the mobs.
For me, the holidays are about friends and family. Being with the people who really matter most to me. Being recently separated from my wife and in the process of divorce, I am particularly dreading this upcoming holiday season. At every corner there awaits a new happy memory turned painful for me. Every tradition leaves me thinking about the most important component that is missing from the picture. I have decided to attempt to strip away all of this stuff that I really don't need and that would surely leave me worse for the wear. I am going to the beach for Christmas!
This may be avoidance. Actually, there's no maybe about it. It clearly is. But I'm alright with that. I'm not one to run from my problems rather than face them, but sometimes before facing a problem you have to ask yourself "is there a point to facing this? or am I just doing it for the sake of doing it?" I am going to start a new tradition this year. My parents and my Grandmother (who has also been dreading the holidays a bit due to the loss of her husband this year) will be spending our holiday in Myrtle Beach and I could not be more excited about it!
Now I'm not saying everyone should escape to the beach for your holidays (although I'd love to see you there!), but I am saying that keeping things simple can reduce some of that holiday stress. Before going all out with something and putting yourself in a stressful situation, ask yourself if it's really necessary. Evaluate what is important to you this year and strip away all the rest. People get caught up in expectations too much and trying to keep up with the Jones'.