5 Rules for a Stress-Free Christmas

The holidays, with all of the gift giving and party attending, can quickly morph from a wonderful opportunity to see family and friends to a dreaded occasion to stress out about. No one wants to be a big stress ball during the holidays, and for those with lupus, it’s just not good for us. So here are 5 things that I’m doing to avoid the stress and get back to the fun part of the holidays.

  1. Avoid shopping at the mall.

With Christmas less than a week away, I spent this past weekend shopping for presents and finalizing plans. Magically, I’ve somehow managed to avoid the mall, and now that I know what a difference this makes in my stress levels, I may never purchase Christmas presents at the mall again. If I hadn’t procrastinated until the weekend before Christmas, I may have opted for online shopping. But I like actually feeling the object that I’m about to purchase, so shopping at individual shops in strip malls, etc., gives me the tactile satisfaction I seek without enduring long lines and shopping elbow-to-elbow with crazed customers.

2.  Make plans you can live with.

This year my holiday plans are atypical as compared to my usual: Instead of having a large get together at my in-laws’, my mother-in-law has opted to work on both Christmas Eve and Christmas day (she’s a nurse). My family lives about 9 hours away, and since my husband is looking for work, we didn’t buy plane tickets because we weren’t sure what city we’d be flying out of. With that said, my sister-in-law offered to host a potluck dinner on Christmas Eve, and until last weekend, that was our only plan. We were almost giddy at the prospect of not having anything to do on Christmas day. The possibilities seemed limitless: Should we go to a movie? Should we go on a hike? Should we sleep in and just laze around all day?

Then my mother-in-law “reminded” me that we’d been invited to have Christmas dinner at her step-sister’s. I appreciate that they extended an invitation to us (albeit indirectly), and there’s nothing I’d rather do than spend the day eating comfort food and making forced conversation with people with whom I have very little in common. However, our alternative plans are so alluring.

So my husband and I discussed the pros and cons and came up with a solution we could live with. We’ve decided to stop by and visit for 2 hours, and then we’re out of there. To do what, I’m not really sure. But this way, we’re being dutiful without being railroaded into doing something unnecessarily painful. Either way, it’s important to not stretch yourself too thin with obligations (between cooking, cleaning, and visiting, you can quickly run out of spoons)–only you know and can voice your limits.

3.  Give gifts that are meaningful.

Each year my husband and I keep notes in our respective phones regarding any material thing the other mentions they would like. When a birthday or Christmas comes around, we’re both fully armed with an arsenal of now-obscure wishes. So by the time one of us has been granted said obscure wish, it’s a pleasant surprise–it’s a fantastic system.

At least one of us has been a student since the late ’90s, and we’re currently living off of one person’s income sans student aid, so this year we’re having a lean gift-giving season. Nonetheless, it’s important to me that we each get at least one present because it’s so depressing to have nothing to open on Christmas morning. Since there’s a chance that my husband will read this post before Christmas, I can’t go into details as to what I’ve gotten him, but I can say that his gifts are inexpensive but meaningful, a combination of wished-for and complete surprise.

When Christmas comes and there’s not that much under the tree, the quality of each gift will more than make up for the lack of quantity.

4.  Give to strangers. 

There’s been a lot in the news recently about secret Santas anonymously paying off Kmart layaways that include children’s toys. Recipients often are just about to lose their layaway items for falling behind on their payments. These lucky people have burst into tears of joy at the knowledge that their children will have gifts for Christmas.

I don’t have the money to pay off anyone’s layaway (see #3), but I recently went out for a drink with my sister-in-law, her girlfriend, and some of their friends. Two things happened that evening: First, I paid a genuine compliment to a drag queen, Roxy/Roy, telling her that her legs were amazing and so were her leopard-print platforms. Second, I donated what little cash I had in my wallet to a roving duo purportedly from a local deaf organization.

The group I was with could hardly believe that I’d done either act, but Roxy/Roy’s face lit up when I complimented her gams. She seemed genuinely happy and wished me a merry Christmas. The cash I donated also made me feel good. I don’t know for sure if the people collected donations were legit, but I know of the organization and I studied sign language for enough years in college that it just felt right to donate. Everyone had to pitch in to buy a pitcher of beer because of my decision, but sometimes it takes a village…

5.  Be grateful for what/who you’ve got.

Despite my aversion for spending the day with my husband’s extended family, I’m grateful for them. They’re not perfect, but neither am I. Even though I won’t be seeing my family, I’m grateful they’re healthy and have roofs over their heads. And my husband is my greatest source of happiness. As long as I’ve got him, I’ve got everything I need.

One of my friends from college has a two-month old son, and her husband’s body is rejecting a lung transplant. As a result, she is spending much of her time driving back and forth to a hospital out of the area to visit him and is helpless as she watches him drastically lose weight. They’re looking into another lung transplant. I have no doubt that she knows exactly how much her family means to her. I honestly don’t know how she’s holding it together, but I think she may be one of the strongest people I know.

When Christmas rolls around this weekend, and I’m languishing at the home of my husband’s aunt, I’ll stop and think of all that could go wrong, and what’s really important to me, and I may opt to skip the movie and stick around with the in-laws for a little while longer.

One Response to “5 Rules for a Stress-Free Christmas”
  1. Agree, it’s good to keep perspective of what’s really important

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