Holiday Stress

aka Singing the "Holiday Do's" Blues

It’s not even Halloween yet and already I'm hearing about holiday stress and the never ending to-do lists people are making for the upcoming holiday season. And this year promises to be real banner year for holiday stress because of all the financial uncertainties we’re dealing with.

Well, here’s an idea: What if we take a little time in advance to think about what we have enjoyed and remembered about past holidays? And lets also remember what we have complained and stressed out about, so we can make some new choices this year.

I don’t know about all of you reading this, but my friends and I have griped for years about how commercialized the holiday season has become and how much we dislike the holiday stress.

Autumn comes and we feel that cozy impulse to snuggle into warm blankets by the fire, sip tea or cocoa, and read or have long talks with family members. Maybe even play a Scrabble game or Apples to Apples (guaranteed to get you laughing!)

That’s the dream and it’s a nice one, don’t you think?

The reality has usually been very different.

As soon as the days grow golden, I and most of my friends begin to feel this urge to get the Christmas shopping done and the beginning of holiday stress. The stores feed into this, of course. I actually saw Christmas trees and items being put on display in some major department stores in Boise in September! The pressure to buy-buy-buy is very strong and very hard to resist in spite of whatever discussions and agreements you may have made to stay within a budget.

So many people spend this beautiful time of year fighting crowds and shopping for the latest, greatest, most-bestest gifts ever, that by the time January rolls around, we just collapse and wonder why we feel let down and depressed. Maybe it’s SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and maybe it’s just as likely to be sheer emotional and physical exhaustion!

And it’s all in an effort to have the best holiday season we can possibly arrange. (How can we talk with kids about money problems?)

How ironic then, that when I think back on past Thanksgivings and Christmases, what really stands out are the times spent with family and friends DOING THINGS together: decorating cookies, making old fashioned Hershey Cocoa fudge and taking turns “whoppin’” it, playing cards (usually penny ante poker) and laughing like maniacs at the side bets Mom would make with anyone about anything (and usually win!!) I remember the Christmas carols and singing along off-key. I remember snowforts and snowball fights.

The memories are all about enjoying time together – not about the gifts under the tree. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve received some very nice gifts through the years, but the memories are about time, not things. So this year I plan to downsize the holidays to what is truly memorable. I’ll buy plain butter cookies from my grocer’s bakery and invite all the grandchildren to come decorate them. (Much easier, faster, and more enjoyable than trying to bake them myself!) I’ll make fudge with my daughter in memory of all those years watching my mother drip boiling hot syrup into cool water to check for the soft-ball stage. I’ll seek to make memories with my loved ones with an awareness that this is my choice and my priority.

And if I find some strength added to my commitment coming from the Wall Street woes, I’ll consider it a small but significant silver lining around the cloud of our shaky economy and use it to get back in touch with what’s truly important.

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A Better Day Counseling Services & Paula Sharp, LCSW

Serving Boise, Eagle, Meridian and Treasure Valley, Idaho

Located at: 1414 W. Franklin St., Boise, ID 83702

(208) 344-4343

In the Heart of Boise, for Good!

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