Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Stress Got You Down??

I love Christmas. Why is it that so many people are so cranky at this time of the year and dread the holidays? I read that more than 20% of Americans find the holidays more stressful than enjoyable. According to surveys, Christmas is right up there at the top of the list, after financial worries, of things that cause us stress. It's not difficult to understand stress that's caused by the loss of a job or a loved one, divorce or health issues. But stress just because it's Christmas?


The Christmas season is my favorite time of the year but over the years I've learned I need to set priorities in order to enjoy it more. Sometimes you have to or you'll go nuts. I wish I'd been able to do this years ago when my kids were young. Those were stressful Christmas years, trying to get everything in and create the perfect holiday for my kids. I've since learned that no, I sure can't get everything done. I can't always have everyone over, the cookies may be eaten before Christmas gets here, the gifts may not be perfect, the store may be out of that special item because I put my shopping off too long, the cards may be late and all of the decorations may not get up.


I'm no authority, but here's what I do to try to control it a little: I pick just a couple of things to do that make the season special. Not too many or you'll surely feel stressed. We used to get dressed up and go to see the Nutcracker every year (until the "boys" in my family started bowing out, pretending to be sick . . . ). Or we'd take the train downtown and stand in line forever to have lunch in front of the tree in the Walnut Room at the old Marshall Fields downtown. Nice, but crazy. Worth the stress?

Now that the kids are grown, I still try to find a Christmas concert or other event to go to to get into the spirit - just one at least and it doesn't have to be fancy. We went to a service at our church a few nights ago and sang carols for half an hour. It wasn't exactly the Nutcracker, but it felt really good. We also get together with friends at a restaurant around the holidays if neither feels like entertaining. I always get together with good friends to exchange gifts and if it happens after Christmas, so be it. We never miss, though.


Decorating can sometimes cause stress. Wouldn't it be nice to have the perfect Christmas house, decorated by Martha? No time, money or room for a tree? No excuse, get some poinsettias and place them around the house. Or put a wreath on the door - so you can see it every time you walk in. No energy to get out ALL the Christmas decorations? Pick just a few things and be done.


I still have 2 boxes of decorations I haven't touched, but I did put out a few of my favorite ornaments and Santas. No one helped me this year, everyone else in the family was too busy or stressed (or lazy perhaps??). I could have just let it go, too much work. But it REALLY makes me feel good to have the house decorated even just a little and I know my family appreciates it. So, last week, I put on some Christmas music and went at it. Even at 17 and 22, my kids got into the spirit really fast after that and I could see their faces light up the way they did when they were young. A little decorating helps a lot to bring some Christmas spirit into your home.


Christmas is supposed to be when you make time for others but try to make time for yourself as well. I like to go for a walk in the snow if the temperature permits. I get some exercise and the cold air clears my brain. When I do go out shopping I always get something for myself too, LOL. Nothing expensive, just a little something. Sometimes I stop everything and take a little tea or coffee/cookie break.

If you need to worry about finances (don't we all these days), stick to a budget - don't let the media make you feel like you're disappointing people if you don't get them the things that are on Oprah's Favorite Things list. Gifts don't always have to be perfect or expensive to bring a smile to someone's face. Or, give special, homemade gifts. The year I made Ingrid the pom-pom to replace the one that the dog chewed off her hat still makes us laugh.

I can hear my family and friends now - Oh no, more homemade gifts - Kathy's making us earrings again?? Why can't we just get a quilt?? Hint: it won't fit in the cute little box.

If you hate shopping, avoid the crowds if you can. I rarely shop on weekends - it gives me a headache. On weekdays, if I'm busy during the day or working, I make a quick supper (can you say frozen pizza or soup??) and then head out for a few hours in the evening before the stores close. No crowds and I can take more time to browse. Or, shop online - I did some of that this year. Many stores offer free shipping during the holidays.

Christmas dishes always perk me up.


I bring out our everyday holiday dishes and use them for a few weeks during the season. Every year I want to buy new ones but I'm still not tired of these Debbie Mumm plates I bought at Target years ago. They make me smile. Even if I'm just serving grilled cheese sandwiches . . . .


What else helps to get into the Christmas spirit and ease the stress? I was reminded of this one at church: Is there a relationship in your life that needs mending? Making the effort to resolve that with forgiveness and loving thoughts can sometimes go a long way toward easing the stress you feel inside.

Finally, I can usually get into the spirit by making time for music, reading an inspirational book, and watching my favorite Christmas movies. So slow down and don't let stress and irritability get the better of you - let's bring back Christmas as that "most wonderful time of the year."

                                                 Merry Christmas!

21 comments:

Quiet Quilter said...

Thank you for your post....I am just now starting to put out a few things for Christmas...I don't call it decorating because it's just stuff I like....and it may stay up until the end of Jan...We bought 2 small cedar trees to plant in our front yard in January and are using those (sitting together) as trees this year.

I plan to re-read this post a couple more times before Christmas...and sit in front of the TV and watch a couple of shows of the season.

Linda said...

Wonderful post. Merry Christmas to you!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Kathy!!! I am trying to relax and enjoy the holiday season. I am even toying with the idea of sewing a few small Christmas gifts in the next few days. My knitting needles are clicking away as we speak.....
Happy Holidays Everyone. Happy Sewing too.
Julia

Anonymous said...

Kathy,
I am so excited about your book. I can't wait to read it and drool over all of the beautiful quilts you designed. Yehaw!!! your devoted fan, Julia

Carolyn said...

Thank you for a timely and thoughful post. As you have, I've pared down a great deal. A few decorations up, smaller Christmas Card list, fewer, more meaningful gifts. When my husband gets home tonight, we're heading out to finish up a little bit of shopping. The season is much more peaceful...

Cheryl said...

Thank you for such a wonderful perspective on it all. When our tree went up, my mood changed. I do like the everyday Christmas dishes idea (maybe because I have a dish fetish!) But especially, I like your idea about mending a relationship with forgiveness! And nothing puts a smile on my face like picking up my 'Angel" and then shopping for warm clothes, shoes, a toy for a child less fortunate than my own. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Sue said...

That was the most wonderful post and so full of good insights. As I've gotten older I don't stress about the Christmas hustle and bustle like I used to when I was younger. The most important thing to me is spending time with family, even if it's just to play board games :) Christmas decorations are always a must, but there are some boxes in my basement that didn't get touched this year as well.

I lost my father last December 31. So this year I am reflecting on his life and all that it meant to me. I am sharing this by way of memory quilts for my siblings. So spending time with those that I love is what means the most to me.

I love to go to the Christmas Eve service at church and sing the carols, then come home to a nice cup of hot chocolate while I relax in my warm pajamas all the while sitting and just staring at the Christmas lights. Lights that remind me of THE Light that came into the world long ago to reconcile man to God :)

It's sad that so many are stressed this time of year. My prayer is that we would all enjoy this wonderful season...a season of HOPE for all who will grasp it.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts today.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Kathleen Tracy said...

Thank YOU, Sue. Merry Christmas to you and your family too.

Jeanne Lex said...

Kathleen, please come decorate my house for me...

sunny said...

Great post! I think too many of get too wrapped up in the 'have to's' to really get any enjoyment out of what we're doing. I love your framed "Merry Christmas"!

supergoof said...

YES! You are so right!

Quiltbenaco said...

Una sola parola di commento a questo post:
G R A Z I E !!!!!!

Ciao ciao Domenica

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with you. Some weeks ago, I bought the Christmas tree and decorated the house (not so much, but few things here and there). Everybody at home laughed and said : but, it is too early ! But on Sunday evening when we were all sitting and had a drink together, even my husband said it was a very good idea. We all felt the spirit of Christmas and were just happy to be together.

Merry Christmas to you and your family !!
Corinne.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post Kathy, I have decorated only sparsely this year as well and have a couple of my Christmas quilts on the wall where I see them everytime I pass by them. I also bring out some Chrissy crockery etc, it's nice to use them for a few weeks a year. The family will be having Christmas at my brother's house this year, he has small children, it is so exciting for them, they really get us adults enthusiastic about it which is great. I wish you and your family a safe and happy Christmas holiday season, and thankyou for all the inspiration you have given to those of us who admire your work. I wish you well for 2011.....Merilyn

Hillbilly Handiworks said...

We have very stress free Christmases. I like it that way. IF we exchange presents, we only allow each person to buy each other person one present.

Our kids are 20, 13 and 1. Money is quite tight this year...more than ever in our life...so we opted for no presents this year. I want to make it fun and let them see that Christmas isn't about getting.

We moved and my husband forgot to pack all the Christmas decor. So, we are starting all over. I hosted an ornament exchange on my blog and it has been fun getting all the homemade ornaments in the mail. I think I will continue it yearly and not ever have store bought ornaments.

Finally, this was a good post. I have read so many with people grumbling and saying that they just aren't "into" Christmas. I will be blogging about it soon. Probably Christmas day.

Merry Christmas!

Connie204 said...

Your post got me to thinking. I started to ba hum bug, but thought better of it. Thanks, I will probably have to keep reading your post. Merry Christmas to you and yours. Connie204

Brigitte said...

Thank you so much Kathleen !!
This post is all I needed...I was a bit too lazy, too much "fed up", to decorate an prepare spirit of Xmas !
I think it will be better with you and thank as well for the "book of gratitude"..;
Brigitte

marian said...

What a delightful post Kathy!
it's so important to put things into perspective and i refuse to get sucked into all that media hype!
i LOVE getting out all my vintage Chrissy decorations and listening to the carols..and spoiling myself with a treat or two, just like you :)
Wishing you all the joys of a wondrous Christmas xx

Ingrid said...

Really loved this post! It put me in the Christmas mood! Whenever I come across that pom-pom it still makes me laugh. I never got to put it on the hat because Tinsel (the puppy) demolished the hat.

ohiostar5 said...

Wonderful post. I am doing less, not decorating the whole house, decided not to bake cookies, that is why they have bakeries, and fewer cards. Christmas should be about family, church, and friend, not the endless lines at the department stores. Thank you for sharing.

Daniƫlle said...

Great post!! Nothing more to add to that! Have a wonderful, stressless time this season!!!! Preferably doing just a couple of stitches perhaps hihi?! XXXD

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