The most wonderful time of the year. Everyone’s wishing you tidings of comfort and joy while elbowing you out of the way so they can get the last reduced price Xbox. Someone just asked if you’re on your way to an ugly sweater party. You aren’t. Between the endless renditions of “Santa Baby” and the 10 pounds of sugar cookie you put on, the Christmas Holiday can be trying, to put it mildly. What should you do when the weather’s awful, your in-laws are frightful, and your credit card bill is downright terrifying?
Step One: Switch to Decaf, Stat
Caffeine produces a fight or flight response: fleeing from the mall is one thing. Starting a brawl is another. So, sip your decaf eggnog latte and relax with some tips to help you make it through the holidays.
Reframe the Situation
One December, I was in a long line at a No Frills grocery store. There she was, four people in front of me. The little old lady. You know her; she’s always there when you’re in a hurry. She’s there, blocking the road when you’re late for a meeting. She’s there, in front of you at Starbucks, taking an ungodly amount of time deciding what to order when you need to get back to work.
And she’s here, slowly counting out the exact change she needs. Everyone is stressed, waiting impatiently. I was among them until I took the time to imagine that she’s someone’s beloved grandmother and she’s purchasing all the important ingredients for Nana’s famous plum pudding.
How can you be mad at Nana? Reframing the situation – or, heck, completely fabricating the situation, if necessary – can help turn a stressful day around and remind us to be more patient.
Stop and smell the gingerbread. Taking the time to appreciate the simple things helps us enjoy the season. Instead of rushing around shopping, get a mint hot chocolate and stroll around a decorated outdoor mall. Check out the window dressings, the trees, the lights – all the free “value adds” that make this season so special. And yes, magical.
Identify Your Stressors
Think about what actually causes you stress during the Christmas season. Are you overwhelmed with your gift list? Don’t know what to serve your dinner guests? Is it the thought of spending time with family? Come up with a strategy to alleviate the stress or avoid it altogether.
How? Trim down your list. Opt for gift cards to people’s favorite stores rather than specific items. Have people bring dishes for a potluck meal. Turn off your lights, lock the door, and pretend you’re not home when your family comes over.
Use Your Creativity
I know I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking I have to give the perfect gift for everyone on my list. The gift that will complete them as human beings, transform their lives, and secure my spot as their favorite person in the world, ever. There is no such gift, but that doesn’t stop us from going crazy trying to find it.
The good news is that giving does make us happy. Money can buy happiness, as Kevin Evers writes in the Harvard Business Review. But in order to feel a jolt of happiness, you need to spend the money on other people. More good news: we can buy that jolt for as little as $5. In fact, researchers note that you feel the same level of joy whether you spend $5 or $20. And it decreases as the monetary value goes up.
The lesson: with a few bucks and some creativity, you can give a great gift that makes your receiver – and you – happy. An example: a friend of mine once bought a bunch of fresh baguettes and a case of decent wine. He delivered a loaf and a bottle to all of his friends one night before dinner. Everyone loved it. It was inexpensive and easy – not to mention a little biblical. Aren’t holidays all about breaking bread with our loved ones?
There’s not much we can do about the endless loop of terrible Christmas songs, other than earplugs. Fortunately, though, we can take control of pretty much everything else and return some joy and gladness to the Christmas season. Seriously, about the decaf though. Calm down.