Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Stress: How Much is Self-Imposed?

Each year about this time do you feel stressed? I'm not talking about the every day hurriedness involving your normal activities, such as job and family demands. If you're celebrating this holiday season, are you feeling any additional pressure to have the perfect Christmas?

After nearly 33 years of marriage and a couple of children--almost grown, but not quite--I ask myself this question every year when December rolls around. The answer is usually a big 'yes' and then it dawns on me that I've let this happen to myself. No one is imposing demands that I must have everything done immediately or that some of the things I've always done must be done at all! When I seriously consider the traditions that I follow each Christmas, I realize that it's not a life-or-death requirement that I do exactly what I have always done!

If you find this year that you are feeling overwhelmed, take a minute to reflect on what's most important to you--and start with those things. Scale back your decorating, baking and shopping. Make choices that are meaningful rather than self-imposed 'have-to's'. If you want to do more, fine. But just remember, no one but you can put extra demands on how perfect everything needs to be. The fact that we have family and friends is reason enough to celebrate and become motivated to carry out some of the holiday traditions. Anything more is icing on the cake, but remember, it's not an absolute requirement to do it all.

So take a breather and set some boundaries now. Make up your mind now to view things with a less-perfectionistic attitude. In my experience there is no person currently on earth who shows real perfection so no matter how hard you work you will never reach it. Slow down now and enjoy each day for what it offers. The season will be over before we know it and we will risk the chance of overlooking the small gifts that abound each day, gifts that may be the most important of all. Like the touch of a child's hand, a soft kiss on the cheek, a falling leaf, a frost-covered rose. Life moves so quickly. Please take time, every day, to appreciate the blessings in your life.

Today I am thankful for the realization that if I skip a few self-imposed 'musts' on my to-do list, the holiday season might take on a less-rushed feeling and I might experience, more fully, the joy and true meaning of this Christmas.

Words and photos ©Thanks for today.™, by Jan Huston Doble
Written by Jan @ Not to be reproduced or re-blogged without express permission of the author.


  1. Great post, and something for us all to remember and implement in our own lives. It is ok to say no. It is ok to let go of always doing too much.

    Enjoy your more relaxed holiday.

    Hugs ~ FlowerLady

  2. Good advice. My husband and I are working to achieve that and have made a pretty good transition. Plus, I'm more organized now with lists of things we always need for Christmas to save on extra runs here and there.
    The one thing I would add is, if you choose not to do something or just didn't get something done, don't be a downer to everyone else by constantly complaining. Every year, I hear people, "oh, I just didn't didn't have time to send cards, etc." Don't make excuses. Enjoy the holiday moment and the people you're with!
    Merry Christmas.

  3. Always try to streamline life....just do what I can (or want). One year there was no tree--the world didn't come to an end. The next year it was a treasure trove of goodies unwrapping ornaments, as if they were all new. Keeping it simple.

  4. This is a good reminder that we need to look at what we do impose on ourselves. Cards and baking are two things that always make me stressed out. Both are definitely self imposed. I've already decided that I'm okay with not getting cards out this year, if I do find time I'll do it, but it's very low on my list of what "needs" to be done. Just having time to spend with my family and having that time be fun is much more important.

  5. Words that are so very true. I like the images of your cat to illustrate your points. The one up the tree is how I feel often.

  6. Oh Jan, I am way ahead of you on this train of thought. I refused to bring all of the decorations up from the basement...I decorated very little and it is so cozy without the crowded the lamp on your head!

  7. Wonderful, wonderful post, Jan! I, too, have always been of the Christmas-must-be-perfect camp, and I have relaxed (a bit) over the past few years and focused on what's really important. Thanks for the very timely reminder!

  8. Great advice Jan and a good reminder for us to focus on what is really important in life. I've been so busy this year that I don't even have my tree up yet (but starting it today). I'm not going to stress out about it though.

    PS - Love the light fixture above head. At quick glance I thought you were actually wearing a hat. LOL I once had a picture taken of me with a feathers coming out of my head from a nearby flower arrangement. Too funny!

  9. You are so right Jan. I tend to get that hurried and stressed out feeling and then I have to step back and re-evaluate things. I then let some things just go and if they get done OK but no big loss if not. Thank you for this reminder and maybe we can all enjoy it a whole lot more.

  10. Good words, Jan!
    I use some ways to make it easy: starting making and mailing cards in October or November, buying gifts in advance, not planning many activities for December... DH helps a lot. I don't read magazines with perfect images of a perfect holidays. Our holiday decorations are simple and our table never looks like those in the magazines. I think the fact that our boys love to stay home during the holidays tells a lot.
    BTW, I love your 'hat' in the first picture! Stay warm and enjoy the Holiday Season!

  11. Dear Jan, There is so much pressure from every quarter to 'make things perfect', whatever the occasion and it really is, as you say, so unnecessary. Keeping things simple is a path I have always preferred to take and one soon realises that very few things are essential to enjoying the festive season. Good company of family and friends is the most important ingredient.

  12. Thanks for your sweet comments, friends! I have scaled back a lot in recent years. But I still have to give myself reminders about what really matters.
    So many of you commented on the 'hat'! I hadn't even noticed it. I was focused on my face...which looks like I'm going crazy! This is last Christmas prior to making our 'candy house' (the box you see on the kitchen counter served as the base). I couldn't believe what a horrible photo that was of me, but it seemed to fit the theme for this post;-)

  13. I love this post Jan. I used to get a wound-up trying to make the holidays just so, but after a few life-altering events, and an absurd amount of stress, I've finally learned to 'let go'. I did finally get the tree up yesterday, but the holidays now are more about relaxing, and being together with friends and family. I haven't started shopping yet, and honestly, have decided not to do very much this year. Instead, we've chosen to give the gift of our time to those who need it locally, and best of all, there's no wrapping involved! Wishing you a peaceful, restful holiday season.

  14. A wonderful post Jan and I whole heartedly agree. I have had willow twigs for a tree for the last 4 years now (same ones) and they look great with the fairy lights and decorations. I like minimal decorations too.
    I was going to comment on the 'Hat' but got beaten to it ha ha. BUT I did notice that Santa had hung himself from your kitchen ceiling, to much stress for him as well !!!!
    I'm having a different kind of Christmas this year by helping out in a day centre for the Homeless on Christmas day and again on the 27th Dec.
    M x

  15. I'm about to leave the house to accompany my husband to the dentist....three root canals.

    I'll most certainly come back to this post, Jan. It deserves more of my time and I think you've been reading my mind. Love your blog.


  16. Gracious words of wisdom Jan. I love the napping and playful kitty illustrating your thoughts. In my opinion perfectionism is a disease that may be cured simply by climbing a tree or taking a nap. Following a kitty around a bit can teach us a good deal. So true it is a shame to rush ahead to one day, while missing precious moments along the way . . . of many other days.

  17. Hi Jan..wonderful post..powerful...beautifully written and well said..I so agree...and love living in the spirit and flow of it all..simplicity = magic! Gorgeous photo of the cat on the!

    Have a sparkling day..and thanks so much for your super generous words on my touched my heart! Thankyou!

  18. Great reminder. I am in full agreement - now to put it into practice! I'm determined to enjoy the time I have left with my kids at home.

  19. Wonderful advice, Jan! I used to be so stressed out over the holidays when my children were younger because of all the activities and work demands. But now that I'm retired, things have slowed down, though sometimes I think I have no excuse not to have everything perfect for Christmas. This year I'm a little more laid back--somewhat like your sweet cat:) I hope that you have time to enjoy the little things this season, Jan, and have a joyful Christmas!

  20. True, you don't have to do it all.
    I find myself doing less and less each year.
    This year maybe nothing...getting work done inside the house.

  21. So true! Our main festival is Deewali, and as soon as it approaches I am filled with a mixture of excitement and dread. There is the pressure of achieving perfection. I want to give the house a perfectly burnished look, but in the process, sometimes, i forget that the Festival is there to be enjoyed and not a competition or some work ritual which one has to get over with.

  22. I'm skipping the madness this year, though I did promise to make some food for Christmas. After all, this is the time of year where I need more sleep, not less. Glad I'm not alone in considering what makes sense.

  23. Your cats are beautiful. Our family had an adopted Birman that had an accidental litter of 3 kittens, and one of them looked a lot like the one climbing the tree. We kept the kittens and he lived to be 20 years old. He was just like a Ragdoll cat.

    We've taken a low key approach to the holidays for the last few years and I definitely prefer it.

  24. Jan I can seriously tell you .. I have scaled back so much (that I can't actually tell you !! LOL)
    I'll just say we are having a great turkey dinner .. and that is that !
    wink wink
    Joy ..really .. first time in my life we aren't going down that road .. no young kids here and the "management" is still trying to repair herself !

  25. Despite your sound advice, I have grown to dread this season, perhaps working in retail has done it for me. I am not so stressed about having the perfect Christmas, but regret the lack of time to enjoy what should be enjoyed or time to make more meaningful gift choices. I look forward to the time after the 25th when I can finally put work behind me and the run-up to the big day is over. Then it is family time.

  26. How right you are on self imposed stressors. It is an especially troublesome quirk we women tend to deal with daily. I am going to take a conscientious moment to relax and do what is only important to me. Definitely time to destress not stress!

    Thanks for your kind offer. If I ever make to Virginia I'll surely email you ahead of time so we can meet you can be sure:)

  27. Good advice Jan, I must say I've cut back quite a bit the past couple of years. And you know what? My family hasn't even complained once. It was all about me pressuring myself. This year I'm just enjoying being with them. :)

    P.S. Love the cat napping in the decorations box. lol

  28. Wonderful advice Jan. I try to keep the holidays as simple as possible. And also try to keep focus on the Reason for the season, which provides perspective. I also do almost all my shopping online. No crowds or craziness for me.


Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to comment! Please enjoy your TODAY and all of the gifts in YOUR garden of life!


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