It’s not the presents or the trees or the colored lights I remember. It’s being given a handful of pennies and a Bingo card on Christmas Eve, and then playing the game for a few hours with my siblings and cousins after eating a massive fish dinner -- the traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes -- and toasting everyone at the table with the two tablespoons of Asti Spumanti that my dad poured into the fancy glasses we kids were allowed to use at holidays and special events.
I’m sure my parents spent days shopping and cleaning up the house before our relatives arrived, that my sisters and I probably got to wear something frilly and fancy, and that we found a few of the toys we wanted under the tree along with our new flannel pajamas (my mother’s usual gift).
But what stands out these many years later are the Bingo, stuffed clams and pink sparkling wine. And that’s what I focus on whenever I start to feel stressed out over the year-end holidays and worry about hunting up gifts and ferreting out the dust bunnies.
If you get stressed out or depressed around the holidays, you’re not alone.
“For many, the first signs of holiday stress emerge around Halloween, when stores start stocking shelves with Christmas decorations and candies,” according to the Cleveland Clinic. “People begin to feel the clock ticking and that there is not enough time to fit in everything. We often have higher expectations for this time of year than for any other, which places even more pressure on us and increases the likelihood we may end up disappointed.”
The Mayo Clinic adds that the holiday blues may be brought on by “overdrinking, overeating and fatigue. The demands of the season are many: shopping, cooking, and travel house guests, family reunions, parties, office parties, and extra financial burden.”
How to cope? I feel like I’ve read just about everything on the topic, and I’ve condensed it down to these seven suggestions in hopes of saving you some time.
- Remember that “perfection” is not realistic. Your house doesn’t need to be perfectly clean and elaborately decorated. Who says you need to make a fancy meal all by yourself? Ask others to bring a favorite dish or host a holiday potluck. You can also cook some food ahead of time and freeze it, or buy something prepackaged that you can just heat up and serve.
- Don’t give up on healthy habits -- or sleep. Keep walking, going to the gym, doing yoga, avoiding fattening foods and all the other things you try to do year-round to stay in good shape. Get in a good night’s sleep. The holiday season doesn’t need to be a time to let yourself go, even though that may sound appealing. Do you really want to deal with the aftermath of overdrinking, overeating and fatigue?
- When it comes to gift giving, set a budget and stick to it.
- Remember that you can’t change other people. While you can control and be responsible for how you behave, you don’t have any control over how your friends and family act. So don’t worry about it. Just take a deep cleansing breath.
- Delegate. If you’ve got too much to do, ask others to help you out. Better yet, whittle down the to-do list. The holidays aren’t a race to the finish line. They should be, you know, fun.
- Do something fun for yourself -- or just spend time alone. It’s okay to take time out for yourself and do something fun just for the sake of doing something fun, whether it’s going for a long walk, heading to the movies, or reading a book. You have permission to enjoy life.
- Volunteer. I know, you have enough to do. But there are lots of people and organizations out there who can use your help. Volunteering might also remind you of some of the things you’re grateful for in your own life.
While we don’t drink pink sparkling wine at my house, my family has its own traditions -- like seeing who can find the pickle-shaped glass ornament hidden in the Christmas tree, watching It’s A Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve and eating Santa Lucia bread on Christmas morning after we open the few presents we limit our gift-giving to each year. Those are the memories I want us to make together. And while I do straighten up and vacuum, the dust bunnies are free to roam. I’ve got more important things to do, like play Bingo with pennies. -- Connie Guglielmo
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