Plan now to manage your holiday stress

Holiday is a splendid word. It makes you think of turkey and dressing with all the trimmings. And playing with your cousins at Grandma’s house.
Holiday is a word that’s all sugar and spice. All smiles and laughter. Song and friendly conversation. Surprises and good feelings. Gift packages with big beautiful bows. And hugs galore.
Some of our happiest memories are from yesterday’s holidays and some of our brightest dreams are of tomorrow’s. So then how is it, I would like to know, that such a nurturing feel-good word so often turns sour.
“Holiday Blues” has become an almost clinical designation. And many people have their saddest times when they should be happiest.
Others are stressed out by the holidays. Fatal heart attacks increase during the season. Finances are out of control. Nobody has enough time. And “Holiday Stress” is rapidly joining “Holiday Blues” as a burnt-out emotional state.
It was more than 300 years ago when John Milton wrote “And young and old come forth to play/On a sunshine holiday.”
The quote may be old but the wisdom is new. For that’s how holidays should be spent. Playing and dancing in the sun, or in the snow. Making merry together. Building memories. And enjoying the moment.
It’s hard to say exactly what got us into this pickle of experiencing more holiday stress than holiday joy. But I think a women’s magazine I picked up last week at the grocery store might hold the key.
The inviting magazine tempts the reader with “26 Christmas Gifts to Make” and “350 Ways to Celebrate the Joy.” Then follows up with “22 Ways to Put Cash in Your Pockets.”
(And who doesn’t need cash for the holidays?)
The only trouble is that those three inviting articles add up to 398 things to do during the holiday season. Which is, no doubt, the reason the magazine also carries an article titled “48 Secrets for Less Holiday Stress.”
Somehow, the holidays have become a counting game. The number of lights on the front of the house. The number of people we have in for wassail and cookies. How many gifts we wrap. How many official banquets we get to dress up for. How many shopping days before Christmas.
Fortunately, there’s still time to do something about stress during this year’s holiday season. And the best way to begin is by listening to Henry David Thoreau.
Said Thoreau, “Simplify . . . simplify . . . simplify . . . .” There can be no better holiday advice than that.
You don’t need to make your own gifts, or even to wrap them yourself. You can visit the bakery and the deli when you entertain. You can leave the corners of your house dusty and the car unwashed. You don’t have to be perfect–and you don’t have to play a counting game.
There’s only one thing about the holiday season that has to be perfect and that’s having fun with the people you care about. If you can manage that, you’ll manage your stress.
So why not make a long list right now of the things you don’t have to do. And then as the holiday approaches, heed Milton’s words–“And young and old come forth to play/On a sunshine holiday.”
With advice like that, this just could be the very best holiday season you’ve ever experienced–and one you’ll remember for many years to come.

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