Age has taught me a lot, and the wisdom I’ve gained helps me cope with stress. I’m more accepting of other people’s shortcomings, and perhaps I’m even more tolerant of my own (and believe me, I have them). I’m also better at seeing what truly matters.

Seasonal Stress

When I was younger, I let the holidays stress me out. One year, I wrote this poem when my teenaged sons and husband were little help as I tried to pull together the perfect Christmas for them:

Holiday Stressmess

‘Tis the night before Christmas,

I’m dead on my feet

With stockings to stuff

and a mess to make neat.

I’ve trimmed and I’ve baked

And I’ve done all the shopping,

I’ve written the cards

And I’ve hung the last stocking.

It may not be “hung

by the chimney with care”

But who gives at this point

If it’s here or it’s there?

If Santa can’t find it

That’s just too darned bad

I’ve not had much help

And it makes me so mad!

Santa Clause has his elves

Helping out all year long,

A team of supporters

A hundred-plus strong.

I do it alone—

The American way

With nary a reindeer,

An elf, or a sleigh.

I guess I enjoy it—

I hate to complain,

But I’d like some assistance

To ease on the strain.

Why can’t someone offer

to wrap a few gifts,

Address Christmas cards,

Or help bake up some spritz?

I’m totally stressed

As the “UNDONE” list mounts

Though I try to remember—

“The thought is what counts.”

So what if the dishes

Are piled in the sink?

Who cares if the laundry

Is starting to stink?

The house is a mess

and my hair’s gone kaplooey.

I need a massage

And a soothing Jacuzzi.

It’s time to say, “STOP!”

IGNORE ALL THE MESS!

I deserve to sit back.

It’s time for a rest—

I’ll relax by the tree

With a holiday nog

Turn the Christmas tunes on

Maybe light a yule log.

As I sit here in jeans

And my frayed flannel shirt

I’ll accept that I’m not

Any Martha Stewart

Her house would be tidy

Decor at its peak

With Christmas scents wafting—

While my place just reeks.

I’ll accept who I am

And let go of the stress.

I’ll welcome tomorrow

Embracing my mess—

A busy house filled with

The people I love,

The traditions I cherish,

And that gift from above.

Swap for Serenity

Those last two stanzas were a huge “Aha!” for me. They reminded me to keep in mind the real reasons for celebrating.

I start with the attitude that I’m decorating and baking because I enjoy doing these things, not because other people need them. That attitude transforms it from work to a sweet pleasure.

As I bake and decorate, I play my favorite Christmas tunes: Barbara Streisand, Mario Lanza, and Mannheim Steamroller.

The difference now is that rather than spending time rummaging through piles of albums, then cassette tapes, and eventually CD’s, I tell Alexa what I want to hear. Times have certainly changed, haven’t they?

Stretch It Out

Since I’m retired, I can stretch out my baking tasks, tackling one item a day, and only my favorites. I have friends who enjoy getting together with others for a cookie bake-a-thon, a fun approach to holiday baking.

Ask for Help

I’ve also learned to ask for help. My husband, Jerry, has a few Christmas cookie specialties, and he enjoys choosing, cutting, and decorating the tree with me. It’s precious time together as Christmas tunes fill the house.

Replace Gifts with Donations

Another stress-reducer I’ve discovered is dumping the worry of choosing the perfect gift for everyone on my list. The adults in my family have agreed to make donations to our favorite charities rather than exchanging gifts.

The thousands I used to spend are now gift certificates to Kiva, an online micro-loan charity that lends to people in developing countries. Those women and men need the support far more than we need more robes and slippers.

I still choose small items for family – stocking-stuffers to brighten the day. Of course, the grandchildren get actual gifts. They’re not quite ready to give up the joy of ripping open another package or three.

Lighten Up on Cards

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve backed off on Christmas cards, only sending them to older relatives who don’t have email.

I either send out an email message or wait to send out Valentines at a quieter time of year when I have the leisure to write long messages. Of course, if you enjoy sending Christmas cards, keep it up. Make the holiday about what makes you happy.

Remember What It’s All About

The thing that most helps me find solace during the holidays is remembering that it’s a season of love. Love for yourself, love for your family, and love for your friends. That was the message brought to us from Bethlehem, wasn’t it?

So – let go of that stress. Relax and enjoy the holidays. You can do it.

What goes on your list of holiday chores? Can you lighten the load somehow? Would that help you manage the stress better? In what ways might you relax amid all the Christmas activities? Please share your respite ideas with our community!

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