Sunday, December 18, 2005


Dateline NBC and Prevention Magazine say 41 percent of people polled find the holidays as stressful as a job interview. Other conclusions from the poll: money is the #1 cause of stress, and women are more likely to stress than men.

It's been a while since I had to put on a suit, but I remember job interviews being a lot easier than the holidays. You go in, you hand over the resume, answer a bunch of silly questions, smile and hope there is no spinach in or lipstick on your teeth, a handshake and you're out of there. Little to no shopping, baking, visiting and wrapping involved. You can always get another job interview, too. There are no second chances or do-overs for a holiday.

I've learned over the years to reduce the holiday stress to a manageable level by simplifying and preparing. Some tricks:

1. Gift shortcuts: Wrap and bow gifts as soon as you bring them home. If you don't think you can wrap it attractively, gift-bag it. Keep at least two generic gifts on hand for when someone in the family says "I need a present for So-and-So in five minutes."

2. Fast food: keep a box of Rice Krispies, a bag of marshmallows, and a disposable sheet cake pan on hand at all times so that when someone needs a kid dessert in a hurry, you can make Rice Krispies treats. For grown-ups, keep a bag of big corn chips, salsa and your favorite cheese on hand to make nachos. One of our favorite simple fast meals is salad, grilled cheese and hot tomato soup.

3. Time: When you are completely stressed, give yourself a time out. Sit somewhere peaceful by yourself, stop by church to pray, go to a library, or strip and take a hot bath. If circumstances don't allow a time out, have a peppermint or drink a cup of chamomile tea (both are natural soothers.)

4. Skip stuff: If you've got too many events to handle and/or attend, consider shortening the list and doing only what really matters to you. No one will give you an "F" in party-going.

5. Get involved: If you're alone for the holidays, don't sit around feeling miserable. Volunteer your time to a local church or charitable organization. Offer to babysit for busy relatives or neighbors. Make dinner for other single friends who are also alone during the holidays.

I think it's also a good idea to make some new traditions, because keeping up with some of the old is often impossible, exhausting, and makes no sense. Example: when we were kids, me and my guy rarely spent any time on Christmas Day with our mothers, because they were always in the kitchen making the traditional Christmas meal, which was generally a clone of the traditional Thanksgiving meal. We both hated this, so one of our new traditions is that neither of us cooks on Christmas Day; we spend it with our kids. I do make a couple of family favorites ahead of time, but we usually pick up seafood platters, sandwiches, cold salads etc. the day before and have a buffet-style dinner (also great for unexpected visitors.)

What are some of the ways you guys de-stress during the holidays?


  1. Anonymous2:02 AM

    Send the kids and hubby out to play (they all like to ride). Ignore the phone/fax/cell phones (except for hubby's number in case of emergencies) and have some alone time. I'd say read a book, but I find when I'm that stressed out, I don't want to read. It always lessens the enjoyment of the book. I let my mind vegitate and watch a comedy.

  2. I avoid the mall completely.

    I buy all my gifts in one shot early in the month (usually books and DVDs), online.

    If I do have to buy something that I can't get online, or I want to window-shop, I don't go to the mall. I go downtown. I specifically visit mom n' pop stores and spend my money there. Quite often they are not nearly as crowded or hectic as the mall, their staff is friendly and knowledgeable because they aren't teenagers who were hired just for the November-January crush, and they often giftwrap for free.

    Of course, it took me about ten years to figure all this out. I haven't mall-shopped for gifts once this season. It's mah-velous.

  3. Do the 'go somewhere quiet' and sip my wine. I sit on the balcony, listen to the surf on the shore, the breeze through the trees, the call of the birds and block out the shouts, whining, cries and temper tantrums of my siblings' children - and be thankful they're not mine, or by heaven I'd...

    Ahem. This year, it's just my mother and me. No stress, no mess, no fuss, and a couple of bottles of the good stuff.

    Oh, and thinking 'this too shall pass'. It's what gets me through when the relos come to visit - that and a good belt of Jack.

  4. This year we decided we were going to make, rather than buy presents for people. So no fighting the crowds to spend huge sums of money on presents no one actually wants or needs. Anyone who doesn’t like a homemade gift doesn’t deserve to receive anything.

    And on Christmas day it’s just She Who Must, the cat and me. No relatives (except on the phone). Nice leisurely day of hanging out, cooking, drinking, chatting and playing with the cat. Stress free with a hat on.

  5. Anonymous7:38 AM

    opt out. I gave up trying to bend myself sideways to send cards/gifts and the cost of them, even modest gifting.

    A couple people get a card. a couple a letter, we drop some donations in the food bank bin and retreat till it's all over.

    For me, christmas is just too amped up, too crazy, too stressful and even as a kid, I dreaded the holidays for the forced church attending, the constant socializing, the travelling across the snowblown praries in an unheated truck to cram in visits with as many people as possible.

    Best "christmas". Out of contact with everyone, on venice beach in warm weather with toes in the water. It was peaceful. and calm. and happy.

    i tend to keep in touch and randomly gift people thru the year and all that sort of good stuff.

  6. Wish I could do as nico the heathen, but I haven't been able to opt out yet. Hard to do when one has kids.

    But this year the DH has done almost everything. I've done cards (which I like to do) and organized (which I always do for us no matter what) and haven't been too terribly stressed about much. I like the idea of staying away from the malls and shopping on the internet and at mom and pop places instead.

    I spent yesterday in L.A.'s downtown fabric district with my DD and her friends looking for material to make a regency dress and spencer jacket. The real work is ahead of us, but it started out with a fun afternoon of ramen noodles and walking through row upon row of fabric stores.

    I'm also knitting someone a scarf this year. I do like making things for Xmas.

  7. I am SO not into Christmas this year. My family is all in Canada so it sucks. So I'm going to visit a niece who is in Montreal for four days, beginning on the 27th.

    I plan on doing lots of writing and reading. Those are my destressers.

  8. Anonymous11:59 AM

    I love to cook and I love giving presents, so the holidays are great for me. I'm knitting scarves this year - so anyone on my list, you know what you're getting. We're going to visit friends and family, sharing laughs and good food - what's not to like?

  9. It's been our tradition for years now to have pizza on Christmas Eve. We get a large vegetarian, mid-afternoon before our local Pizza Hut closes. At supper time we each "dress up" our slices with our favorite extras and pop them in the toaster oven. Then we eat around the tree with milk in my best crystal wine glasses--it's the only time those ever get used.

  10. Anonymous5:36 PM

    I buy all my gifts online. It's so much better than driving half an hour to the mall to maneuver through the holiday crowds (I hate crowds, by the way) and look for things that the stores might not even have. I was able to buy all gifts but one on this year, and was able to buy that last gift online as well.

    Also, my family doesn't do the extended-family thing. We haven't gone to my grandparents' house for Christmas since I was about ten. So it's just me and my mom and dad (though my parents have decided they don't like doing Christmas anymore, so I'll be spending Christmas with my boyfriend's family and doing a low-key thing with my parents on the 26th). Maybe it's kind of selfish, because I know they'd like to have us there, but at a certain point it became an either/or choice - either we could make the holiday more enjoyable for them, or we could enjoy it ourselves.

  11. Anonymous8:15 AM

    De-stress? Is that anything like distress?

    I haven't quite figured out how to de-stress yet. I think that will come Friday, after I drive to my parents, herd my feline trio into the house, and collapse on the couch and never move again for the rest of my visit home. *-*

  12. I didn't celebrate christmas as a kid so I never got into all the hoopla, and I don't find the holidays that stressful. Usually.

    This year is an entirely different story.

  13. My family has one "tradition"--Don't have rigid traditions that you MUST do every year. Each year we pick and choose the things we want to do. So, no one gets stressed because there are no absolute expectations. We like not knowing in advance exactly what will happen and planning the combinations of old and new things to create unique holidays. It's fun to have things like singing in choirs that you do every year and new things, like going out to breakfast the day after Christmas because you can't all be there for a homemade brunch like I cooked two years ago, become something you remember.


  14. Anonymous3:01 PM

    PK the Bookeemonster:
    This year is a little stressful with my husband's extended family coming over for dinner and presents. However, I am an avid reader and everyone gets books from me as gifts which keeps the price fairly reasonable since money is tight this year. For the past two years, however, I count my blessings that I'm not managing the kids photo studio anymore -- that was beyond stress!

  15. I'm a scrooge. And I'm with Stephanie--I do 80% of my shopping online then I get up early and knock out the rest before teh stories get to crazy. I also make it a point to be extra nice to clerks and my fellow shoppers because EVERYONE is stressed and frankly I'm just not in that much of a hurry. I skipped doing cards this year though which I love, but I just didn't feel like it. I also took a week off of work, and sent the kids to daycare which helps.


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