Seemingly, Halloween kicks off the beginning of a season filled with too much food, too much drink, too much spending, and too much of the “ideal holiday season” dancing in our heads. The holidays have become a blitz of overeating, socializing, shopping, and decorating—spinning many of us into a frenzy of uncontrolled spending, social commitments, and family obligations as we race to the finish line on New Year’s Day. Knowing the holidays are behind us, we express a sigh of relief; most of us feel drained as we anticipate the clean up and how to pay for it all.
A few days ago my brother and his wife came for an overnight visit, and I observed my cats Pyper and Jasper as they interacted with our guests. My cats had the right idea for socializing. When our company arrived, Pyper and Jasper greeted them with wide eyes and lots of curiosity about tote bags and suitcases, much in the same way that we anticipate Christmas gifts. My cats confiscated keys, earrings, and make-up brushes. Obviously, they were not impressed with money; instead they relished a good game of hide-and-seek or fetch with their new “treasures.” As their excitement wore off, the two felines settled into a more subdued mood—watching, listening, and then retreating to a vacant room for peace and quiet.
For most of us, the holiday season brings to mind images of friends and families enjoying conversation and cheer around an elaborately decorated dinner table overflowing with food and drinks. Advertisers embrace this season by presenting pictures of cars, diamonds, and other expensive gifts.
The reality of the holidays is usually different than those commercial images. Many of us struggle to meet the challenges of a season that should fill us with Joy, but instead can overwhelm us with unrealistic expectations. Here are a few ideas that you might find helpful in dealing with holiday stressors:
• Reality: If you have locked horns with someone over politics, employment, religion, or any topic of controversy, it’s unrealistic to think holiday cheer will bury a bone of contention. Be gentle, be honest, and steer clear of topics that historically have caused stress.
• Gifts: For years within my family, I have advocated an elimination of gift giving during the holidays. To me, time filled with good food, stimulating conversation, and laughter is far more important and rewarding. Trinkets, toys, and expensive gifts will soon be set aside, but memories of laughter and listening to one another will warm our hearts for years to come.
• Sleep: During the holidays many of us eat and drink too much while trying to make the most of every minute of our days by cleaning, decorating, shopping, and attending parties. All of these things increase the chaos of holiday stress. Take time to recharge your bodies and your mind; nothing does that better than a good night’s rest.
The holiday gifts I remember most are enjoying a slice of Aunt Vicky’s apple stack cake and heading out to a turkey shoot with my grandfather. We might be able to learn something from Pyper and Jasper—nothing will take the place of time spent playing fetch or a good game of hide-and-seek. Our pets accept us regardless of political affiliation, waist size, or the cost of a gift. To them, the greatest gift is our presence, affection, and time.
Howard Baker, RN BSN
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