Bits of Life

Christmas Stress and Anxiety

Posted on: December 19, 2016

At church this morning the sermon addressed typical reactions of folks at Christmas.

Stress and anxiety.  I sat there thinking that the root cause of these two problems is expectation.  Expectation is a dreaded emotional disease that creates upheaval in families, friends, work, leisure or any part of our life.  It leads to pain in our own life when we expect people to live up to our expectations for them.

And the really sad part is, it’s self-imposed.  I look around at the pressures people put on themselves to make Christmas so special. But special for whom   All traditions must be strictly adhered to.  Even if we don’t know why we do them.  They just must be done.  Trees, lights – indoor and outdoor, cookies, ornaments, parties, expectation upon expectation.

I watched “Kranks’ Christmas”, a movie based on John Grisham’s book “Skipping Christmas”.  The couple decided to skip Christmas and go on a cruise.  They found it difficult to forgo past traditions and then the neighborhood and work labeled them Scrooge and they became pariahs of the first order.  And why – because they weren’t living up to the expectations of everyone around them.

Long ago, I decided that it wasn’t worth going crazy doing all the Christmasey “things”.  I began dropping them one by one.  First no cookie baking.  AH!!!   Then not worrying about the time my Christmas cards or letters got to people.  Then not sending any – thanks to the computer I can send a lovely Christmas letter which I know some people hate, but I also hate getting a Christmas card from someone I haven’t seen in 10 years and all that’s in the card is “Merry Christmas ___signature_____”.  I already knew their name, I want to hear about them.  See an expectation and it frustrates me.

Next came “the tree”.  I live alone and when grandkids visited, it was fun watching them look at the tree.  One year I saved ornaments for them to put on, but they weren’t interested.  Then I moved. Now I go to their houses to admire their trees.  So, little by little I reduced another stressor – trimming the tree and the house.  I really, really hate putting all of it away.  Displaying cute Santa’s, angels, snowmen, candles, etc. all around the house means I have to put other things away and then when it’s time, do the reverse.  No more.

Now I quietly, watch old movies, make presents. Visit museums and places that have lovely displays.  I’m happier and stress-free.  I know there are people who love this time of year because of all the traditions they want to do.  I guess if it doesn’t bring you peace and joy, reduce it and then maybe eliminate it. Find the things you like the most, keep them and free yourself of what drags you down.  After all they are just things.  Don’t make yourself and others miserable living up to unrealistic expectations.




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