This is a season of joy, but for some it is also a season of pressure and depression. We often hear, “I just want to get through the holidays.” The frequency with which we hear this statement is a sure sign that something is wrong with our approach to Christmas.
The pressure that many feel at Christmas is real, but mostly self-inflicted, reinforced by unrealistic expectations and social media images of perfection – perfect trees, perfect tables, perfect families, perfect holiday vacations and perfect lives.
The pressure is compounded by stress mostly connected to buying presents. We tend to think too little, buy too much and end up with a credit card hangover in January. Here is an interesting experiment – what gift did you give or receive two years ago that is still memorable? For most of us, the answer is none. This doesn’t mean that the gifts were not well-intended and well-received, it just means that compared to really caring for friends and family, the gifts just aren’t that important. Make your best decision on presents and then move on, do not stress.
Another partial solution to gift stress is to spend time reflecting before you buy. Create a budget for all your purchases before shopping and then seriously think about the interests and tastes of the people that you want to receive gifts. Stick to your budget and when the cash runs out stop shopping.
Another way to reduce budget stress is to use rewards points that have accumulated on credit cards and frequent flyer programs. These points do not get more valuable as time passes and are often devalued by the issuers. Use points to buy as many gifts as possible as this will save cash and reduce your January financial stress.
One of the best gifts that you can give is the gift of time. Invite friends and family members to join you for Christmas caroling, church musicals or a walk in an area with Christmas lights followed by coffee and dessert. Be sure to include yourself in this gift of time by not over scheduling and allowing for down time to reflect and relax.
Christmas is a time for believers to celebrate the birth of Christ, who spent his entire life teaching about loving God and loving one another. To celebrate Christmas in that same spirit, give yourself and your family the gift of peace by spending less, scheduling less and thus allowing time for quiet talk, reading, storytelling and meals together.