The holidays can be an exhausting, emotional, whirlwind that creates the perfect storm for stress overload. How do I survive it?
Deep breathes and perspective.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of the holidays when the stores are filled with frantic energy of shoppers, bright lights, loud music, and new products. I am of the generation that came from the Age of Materialism and so the excitement and push for more creates a certain level of “have to buy” sensations. This creates a good deal of pressure and anxiety during a time that should be reflective and gratitude based. Not that buying gifts is bad – I LOVE to buy gifts! Holidays and birthdays allows me to spoil and display my love guilt free. However, when I can’t buy what I want, or join in on all the frantic excitement of boundless shopping, it can make me feel depressed and even guilty. I’m pretty sure that’s not what holidays are about.
So, how do I balance out the negative, self-depreciating thoughts and feelings? By putting things back in perspective.
As my family dynamics once more changes (one of my children has moved away) I am left to appreciate the time I have with my family. Though it’s fun to give gifts, and they will still have some, I simply want time. I didn’t know that last Christmas would be our last “traditional” Christmas. That’s the thing about life, you never see “the last” coming until after it happens.
As is the way of life, things are always changing, and it’s important that you take time to just enjoy some of it. Breathe. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds of laughter, the voices of children playing, the stories of the elders. Take it all in. Savor it. Hold tight to it for it is truly precious. The presents we get and give at Christmas can be separated from us – some will be cherished and spark precious memories, many will be discarded, break, or forgotten. But the sounds, the smells, the vibe of the day – that’s what we carry with us always.
I know many of my childhood Christmases are morphed together. There are a few precious gifts that I can still recall with fondness, but they are linked to very specific people and mark a moment in my life that defines me or creates a memory. After numerous Christmases, only a handful of gifts in years worth of holidays are recalled vividly, probably only a fraction of what I’ve received 48 years remains in my possession. It’s not that I didn’t like them or appreciate them, just time happens. And that reminds me to give quality, not quantity. It’s not about having 50 gifts under the tree, but giving “the gift” that can maybe trigger a memory or be a physical testimony of the endless love I feel toward an individual. It doesn’t have to even cost a thing – a heartfelt letter, a drawing, a tin of home baked cookies – sometimes simple is best and cherished the most
I love spoiling my kids! And the holidays puts me right there with everyone else wanting to buy, buy, buy. But I also need to be practical. There’s bills to pay. Food to buy. And 11 other months to the year. If I’ve done my job right, the kids will know I love them no matter what is or is not under the tree, and they will show appreciation all the same. The best gift really is time together. It’s watching a movie, playing a game, inside jokes, and heartfelt talks. Some of my favorite moments of Christmas is having hot chocolate and just talking.
It’s hard to break out of the mindset of materialism, but perhaps in light of the after effects of the pandemic and the changing economy, it’s time we get back to simple. In a society that seems to be breaking from the pressure to keep up, I think simple is something we could all use more of. Focus on what you have, not on what you want. There may be some growing pains as you first transition into this new mindset, but with practice and patience, you and your family can get there.
As I look around and see daily people without homes, not knowing where they will sleep, or when they will eat next, those struggling with health issues, loss of loved ones, infertility, and on and on – suddenly, not being able to shop like I want doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
So, I will say it again. Take deep breaths and prioritize.
Don’t let commercialism and the hype make you feel like less of a person, a bad parent, etc. You are wonderful. You are trying. You are all that your children or loved one needs. Give a hug. Give time. Give a memory. That will last far longer than any game system, phone, or toy.