These expectations add a sense of immediate stress on the holidays, before we even get down to the list-making, the cleaning, the shopping, the cooking, the wrapping, and yes, untangling those lights. If only we could just get organized this year, just get everything done and everything in its place so that everyone is happy...then we'll be flooded with that euphoric sense of well-being that makes all that stress and frenzy worth it...right?
But all too often those high expectations tangled in with the more tangible stressors of getting to all those concerts and parties, remembering those extra back-up gifts for when someone unexpected gifts you, baking (and frosting!) all those cookies, and keeping the peace among the more volatile segments of your family leave us somewhat deflated when the actual celebrated day arrives. We must have missed something, we must not have worked hard enough. Better luck next year.
But maybe we are working too hard, and inviting too much stress in preparations that actually crowd out our own enjoyment of the holiday. The best way to avoid the symptoms of stress (just like any other disease) is to prevent that stress in the first place. One of the six basic philosophies of Naturopathic Medicine is prevention, a far easier mission to tackle than cure.
One way to prevent extra overwhelming stress is to prioritize. Don't try to do everything, perfection is a fantasy that is highly overrated. Now is the time to make yourself a cup of tea and take a few moments to reflect upon what is really important about this holiday. Think about what is actually important to you, not what you have been conditioned to think should be important to you. What are you celebrating for? Is it the religious significance and the quiet sanctity of that special service? Is it having all your family together in one place? Is it having that cozy, private morning watching the kids unwrap their surprises in a frenzy of excitement? Is it cooking that special dish that reminds you of grandma? The magic of the holiday can be found in the memories of these moments and the joyful anticipation of new moments, as long as we are careful not to crowd out those moments with too many “to-dos”.
So when you make that list of things to do, put those most important moments at the top and think about what really needs to be done just to create those moments. Maybe you don't need to bake four kinds of cookies when one will do, since you are really more interested in seeing your grandkids from Minnesota. A few piles of clutter in the guest bedroom is really no problem for your nephew (have you seen his dorm room?) Staying up all night wrapping isn't worth missing that candle light service, or worth the lack of sleep the next morning if you fall asleep watching them be unwrapped. Go ahead and pay the charity at the mall to wrap them for you. Cross a few things off of your list before you start this year, and don't look back. Maybe the lights won't make it around every pine tree in the front yard, enjoy coming home earlier to a lit wreath on the door. So when you pick up that impossible ball of lights (how does that happen?) give it five minutes, maybe ten for those of you who really like a puzzle, then have a laugh and shrug it off. You'll already be shrugging off a bit of that holiday stress (and keeping that blood pressure down).
Stay tuned for more naturopathic ways to beat that holiday prep stress! (Because let's face it, we won't be able to prevent all of it!)
(Photo from http://mutigergarden.wordpress.com/tag/christmas-lights/)