The holidays can be a time of joy for many, yet a time of stress for others. Christmas time comes but once a year and with it comes expectations, many of which we tend to impose on ourselves. We say we want to remember the true reason for the season, that we want to make it less about expensive presents and more about traditions, creating new memories, and helping others ... and yet, we still find ourselves standing in long lines at the stores, planning menus that Martha Stewart and the Pioneer Woman could be proud of, and decorating our houses and shrubs with yet one more strand of blinking lights. Somehow many people feel they have to top what they did last year. But why? Why should we stress ourselves out to the point that we have headaches, sleepless nights, mile-long To Do lists, and wrapping tape stuck to our slippers? What's the point? Will all that make this Christmas better than the last? I doubt it.
I heard a quote on the radio the other day that said, 'The best way to eliminate holiday stress is to lower our expectations.' It made me think a couple of things. The first being how sad it sounded and the second being that it had a lot of validity to it. We are the ones who expect more from ourselves than most others expect of us. I'm the one who writes my endless lists. I'm the one (with some requests from my family) who picks my Christmas menu. I'm the one that wraps one last gift and then says, 'That's it for tonight. Tomorrow is a new day.'
So if you're like me and you get to make some of those choices, then why do we still reach our levels of feeling overwhelmed? Sure, there are many outside elements that we don't control; the amount of work we need to do for our job, the traffic we'll need to be patient in to get from point A to point B, the lines we'll have to stand in at the grocery store, the number of hours in the day, the number of days in a week ... and so on.
My point? If you find yourself starting to feel overwhelmed or stressed or tired or even just plain cranky ... take a break. Take a deep breath, take a walk, have a snack, fix some tea, or call a friend. Sometimes just stepping away from the stress for a few minutes is all it will take to refocus and regain your holiday momentum. But don't get so busy or so stressed that you forget to enjoy the season, the holiday, and your family and friends. It should never be about baking the cookies that you won't eat, buying one more needless gift, or sending a Christmas card to someone that never talks to you.