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Christmas is approaching and many of us begin to feel that inevitable stress that paradoxically we suffer during the season, which is supposedly the happiest of the year. And we have grown up with the idea that in December being happy is mandatory.
The concept of Christmas and what it represents – lights in the houses, many kinds of cookies, multiple social gatherings, family gatherings, hope, rich and abundant food – excites us. But since nothing is free, in the end we end up liking theory more than practice.
Part of Christmas, sadly, has become commercial. Now, much revolves around what we want and are going to receive in material gifts, as well as the obligation to fulfill with those who expect to receive from us. The lists for Santa are kilometers long – what the children do not ask for, we add the parents – and the gift exchanges are increasingly exaggerated – that of each classroom, that of sports, that of friends, that of family members-. We do not set limits and we are afraid that a small detail is frowned upon. Writing only a thank you or affection note is unthinkable, so we go into debt to give as gifts.
Curiously, the “best” time of year is the one that generates the most madness and stress for us. Why? For pleasure or fear of not belonging. Passing it “like a whistle whistle” is entirely optional, but almost always we decide to complicate our existence. By the way we make life more difficult for others since our material generosity generates obligations for those who receive it for the following Christmas.
It works more or less like this. We make a list of people we “have” to look good with. Then we think about what to give to whom and find where to get it. The endless trips to the stores continue. Since we buy things we have to wrap them. All a logistics that involves super special paper –which is sold only in a certain place and costs a fortune-, ribbon or bow that must be rigorously combined. We are not done yet. There are still laps to send and collect the cards with the family name and Christmas design that go on the gift. Have you already figured out how much time, traffic, money, gas and stress we have been carrying up to now?
And we still haven’t talked about the pine tree, the festivals, the posadas – which require a trip to the salon to do your hair and visit the supermarket for the ingredients of the salad that you offered to bring -, Santa, cookies, dinner or Christmas lunch, the postcards with the Christmas photo – by appointment with a professional photographer – that go by mail. Ah! by the way, all this in addition to your daily obligations. Did I manage to stress you more than you already were just by thinking about everything that is coming your way?
But don’t be discouraged… We can avoid a lot of stress here.
Start by getting ahead of Christmas day and visualize the moment you deliver the gift. All the effort of the wrapping is destroyed in the few seconds it takes the person to open the gift. If you were lucky, he noticed the care and made a comment before throwing everything into the garbage bag, which undoubtedly already has that aunt who always says “throw me the papers at once so that it does not become a mess.” A good chunk of your time, energy, and money literally ends up in the garbage can. Unless the aunt is also one of those who rescue the paper and the ribbons for the next year.
One of the most incredible things we have is the ability and freedom – believe it or not – to choose. You can deliberately make the decision to simplify and bring Christmas back to its true meaning. From the outset, save yourself everything that has to do with wraps. Use newspaper or brown paper for the gifts and ask your children to decorate them with crayons. In those drawings I assure you that the others will notice. If you feel sorry or the idea bothers you, announce that you are being generous to the planet. Being green, in addition to being the right thing to do, is in fashion.
Be more selective about the invitations you accept to social events on these dates. Reduce the number of engagement gifts you “have” to give. You can have a detail with people who really need it. In your family surely no one needs one more gift – they will receive too much. Better focus on one or two people who will not have the same fortune as your friends or family.
Defer some gifts and details for February or March. You can show love and affection in other months of the year as this should not be exclusive to the Christmas season. You will have more time, the shops and streets will be less crowded and the effect on happiness will be greater because it is a surprise. Instead of saying “happy no birthday” you can say “happy no christmas”.
Talk to your family, make agreements to be simpler, put on the table the fact that it causes the same stress for many as it does for you to look for that gift that you feel you should give. In my family we already did. We love each other more than ever.
Christine Carter has an excellent three-step plan to enjoy this season: prioritize your social connections, schedule and block time in advance to do what you really want to do these days and practice gratitude. Here is the link to your article.
Spend a really happy Christmas with less stress, simplify, dare to say NO to self-imposed obligations and put your attention on what is truly important. Do it for your peace of mind and that of yours.
Merry Christmas without stress.