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Hacking Away at the Inessentials – A Stress-free Holiday Primer

Post Date:12/04/2019 4:32 PM

By: Lorelei Elkins

stress free holidayThe holiday season can be a joyful time of year for most people, with celebrations and social gatherings of friends and family.  For others it is a time filled with stress, sadness and anxiety.  The dizzying demands of shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining are just a few of the triggers for holiday stress.  Whatever the stressors are for you, there are steps you can take to make the holiday season more enjoyable.  The Mayo Clinic tells us to be realistic, plan ahead, and seek support to ward off holiday stress and depression.

Much of what it comes down to is being able concentrate on the essentials.   We must first ask ourselves what the essentials are for each of us, because they are different for different people.  For example, psychological studies have shown that people are generally happier when they give simple meaningful gifts, rather than falling prey to the rampant consumerism expected of us in the holiday season.  “There’s no reason for people to go into debt to find holiday joy,” says Margaret Stern of the Happiness Project.  “Instead, build simple holiday traditions that are meaningful.  Experience the spirituality of the season in whatever way it resonates with you.”

Last year, the Atlantic did a great article on “The Joy of No-Gift Christmas” that details one family’s journey to downscale their gift buying, resulting in greater happiness for everyone.  The article states that almost half of Americans feel pressured to spend more than they would like to on gifts, causing increased stress and financial hardship.

The trick is to find joy in giving in other ways and just say no to all the craziness.  Begin the conversation with your family about what is essential and what can go by the wayside for sanity sake.  Let go of the myth that you have to spend to give.  Here are some ways to give without accumulating debt:

  • Give the gift of time.Enjoy small experiences together such as baking, tossing the football around outside or watching a holiday movie together.These are often the most cherished of memories.
  • Volunteer as a family at a food bank, soup kitchen or homeless shelter, sharing your time with those who have little.
  • Make meaningful gifts such as videos, an electronic scrapbook, or simple handmade gifts.
  • Participate in a gift swap where everyone gives a possession that they already own.
  • Give to a favorite charity in someone’s name.
  • Start a small savings account for a niece or nephew.
  • Get (and give) items to Goodwill or other charities.
  • Give the gift of your experience. Are you good editing papers, fixing cars, teaching guitar, babysitting?Make a coupon for your skill and stick it in a card as a present.

Simplify by letting go of what stresses us the most and keep what is most meaningful.  That applies to all areas of our lives, but especially during the craziness of the holidays.  Lastly, reach out to someone if you are feeling depressed and alone.  has some good mental health resources for people who suffer from holiday depression and stress.  Remember to keep it simple and have a blessed and stress-free holiday season. 



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