By Robin Scott
The Christmas Holiday is an unusual time of year because it brings with it many stresses that, on their own, are difficult to handle, but combined could spell disaster. Managing the stresses that come with the holidays may be as easy as writing out a schedule or even saying “no.” Each family’s needs are different, so the various suggestions to follow may work for some, all or none. But one thing is for certain; everyone will be affected to some degree by the stresses that the holidays bring, so attempts to manage them should be worth their effort.
One main stress that occurs during the Christmas holiday season is the added burden on family finances. Gift giving is just one aspect of things that the budget needs to stretch to include. Also are decorations, holiday dinners and special meals, and donating to charity. Squeezing the many holiday financial obligations into already tight purse strings is challenging.
Options for handling the financial stresses of the holidays include a key word: Limits. Set limits on every possible financial need. That means limiting the amount spent on each person when shopping or pooling resources and drawing names for family and friends beforehand. Doing so allows the gift giver to not only focus on just one or two recipients, but even to spend a little more on each.
Limits should also be set on food expenditures. With holiday parties and holiday dinners out, the food budget tends to go out the door. Calendaring upcoming holiday events is just the beginning for setting limits on how much will be spent, either in bringing a dish to a gathering, catering a gathering or having family over to carve a turkey or ham. Again, pooling resources is an excellent option. When hosting a holiday party ask guests to bring a dish or beverage. Most people enjoy bringing something to a party and will be thrilled to join in the fun of a potluck meal.
The pressure to put up holiday decorations begins as early as Thanksgiving. It is wonderful to feel a part of the holiday spirit by draping the house with twinkling lights or by putting decorations around the yard, but it can be a very costly endeavor. One method for limiting the expense is adding to the collection of decorations each year, gradually building up to the “ideal” over time. Decide which item to purchase ahead of time so that the trip to purchase decorations won’t end up costing more when unexpected items end up in the shopping cart. Perhaps a wreath will appear on the door the first year, then lights around the roof the second, and so on. Whatever the plan, the yard will go from simple to simply wonderful, eventually, and deciding that there is no good reason to rush may be the answer.
Sometimes the only way to limit how much money gets spent during the holidays is to say “No.” It may not be prudent to attend every party or buy every second cousin or distant relative a gift. Making a list and checking it twice works for more than Santa Claus. Write out a list of people to shop for and items to purchase, and then stick to it.
Along with financial stress are the stresses caused when having family gatherings. The flood of family into the small space of one’s living room or den can be overwhelming. Alternatives are available, however, and worth considering. Break it down. Have two or more smaller informal gatherings in place of one huge over-the-top event. Not only may it be possible to enjoy the company of family and friends more fully in a smaller setting, but keeping group sizes smaller should diminish the stress of the event. And again, saying “No” may be the way to go. If requests come in to be in too many places during the holidays, choose those events that are the most special for the family. Maybe that means taking the family on a ski trip instead of traveling from house to house. Whatever it is, it should be what makes the most family members enjoy the holidays to the fullest.
Children out of school for two weeks, relatives in from out of town, and one’s time off from work may all add to holiday stress. Stress may also lead to depression and many people feel a heightened degree of sadness during the holidays. Try countering some of those feelings by helping others. Take the children to the nursing home to visit the residents, or ask them to make one sacrifice for Christmas by giving something to a less fortunate child their own age. Spend time enjoying some of the free things around town, like the children’s Christmas programs at the various schools or church services held all over town. Offer to wrap presents for another person. Kids love getting in on wrapping gifts because most of the time the gifts are for them and they do not get to wrap. Find out if someone in the church or neighborhood could use a few extra hands wrapping gifts or grocery shopping or even cleaning house.
Charitable giving during the holidays could include so much more than money. Limit the amount of money to each charity, but offer to give a helping hand. That helping hand is worth so much more than most people realize. The Christmas giving spirit is a great part of what the holidays are all about and what people look forward to the most. Don’t under estimate the excitement someone could receive by giving them a homemade pie or cookies, or some other hand-made gift. The possibilities are only limited by the imagination, but the value is limitless.