Holiday Stress

Last night (12/18/2012) I was a guest on  the “Your Weekly Checkup” radio show in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  We had a great time discussing Holiday Stress.

Since Dr. Stockwell was excited about my comments I decided to share with you.

Holiday stress is caused by fear.  We are afraid that we won’t be liked or loved if we don’t have the right decorations, gifts or food.  We have convinced ourselves that our family is like a commercial or movie where everything goes wrong.  Often in a commercial or movie when things go wrong, the loved one is the first person to walk away in frustration.

Real love refuses to react badly when the turkey is dry or the decorations are less than perfect.  Most families are much more interested in relationships than they are in something external that will disappear by February.  Most of us would rather know that we hold first place in our family’s eyes.  We want hugs, laughter and genuine affection.  We want respect, to be honored and included as part of the family.  We want to belong.

None of those needs can be found in expensive gifts, perfect decorations or delicious food.  I’m not suggesting for one moment that you eliminate those things from your celebrations.  What I am suggesting is that you start a new trend.

#1 Holiday Mommy Detective Rule…..

Christmas is my favorite holiday.  I love to decorate from Christmas.  One year when I was especially tired and cranky, I asked my sons if they liked the fact that the candles matched the holiday napkins.  They reluctantly admitted that they hadn’t noticed.  I pushed on wondering if anything I did mattered.  One son put his arms around me and said, “The best you could ever give me would be to see you smiling, giggling and enjoying the day as much as we are.”  That’s when I made the rule.  No holiday “fixings” can be cooked, cleaned or decorated – unless I can do it with joy and laughter.

I love to set a beautiful table on Christmas Day.  I have special Christmas dishes, special napkins, a table runner, candles and a centerpiece.  But… the time I work on the table, cook the dinner and get everything ready – I’m exhausted!  I’m cranky, my feet hurt and I’m snipping at everyone.  One by one I eliminated all the decorations in hopes that it would relieve me of the stress.  I still remember the year my table only included the dishes and we used bargain basement white paper napkins.  “sigh”

One year my boys decided to eliminate some of the “cooking” stress.  They made the two casseroles that are never made at any other time during the year.  I protested at first because we save those recipes for Christmas only.  I didn’t want to take the chance of not having them for our special time.  Eventually I gave in.  One of the casseroles was inedible.  It was awful!  But guess what?  We laughed and giggled about the mistake.  We made a huge joke of it.  To this day – almost ten years later – we still spend a little time every Christmas discussing the casserole disaster and laughing at our shared memories.  Letting go of perfection gave our family a humorous memory that will last a lifetime.

Gradually, I made some changes that helped the day go smoother and eventually added my decorations back into my holiday preparations.  Now, the table is set the day before.  Extras like pies and cakes for our dinner have to be made several days before and I’ve learned to schedule my time so my Christmas is filled with joy!

Maybe you hate to cook.  If so, go out to eat or order an already prepared meal.  It’s much better to share love and joy with your children than it is to be cranky all day.  I know three women who “exchange talents”.  One likes to cook while the other likes to decorate and a third likes to shop.  Through the holidays they bounce back forth between houses enjoying what they do best yet avoiding the things that make them irritable.

Holiday stress is eliminated when we concentrate on our “real” desire.  Make a list or design a decoder map with your individual needs and wants for the holidays.  I bet you’ll find a way to cut down on the stress and make this holiday the best ever!


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