“I don’t know what’s worse – the stress of the holidays, or the stress of everyone around me complaining about the stress of the holidays?”
My friend sat down across from me for an early morning coffee at a coffee shop, her hair a mess and coat buttons mismatched.
“It’s 6 am and someone already complained?” I asked.
“This morning, it was the radio.”
I had heard that, too. The radio station had shared the fact that Christmas music played early causes a stress-response in most people, followed by people calling in to complain about it further.
For my friend, the night before it had been her Mom complaining about Christmas dinner; at lunchtime – her colleagues about having to see annoying family. The morning prior – she took a look at her kids’ wish-lists and got overwhelmed all on her own.
I like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t complain much, but if I’m honest? Hmm …
My daughter recently asked me what my favorite part of Christmas was. And you know what I said? That my favorite part was the day after when I could have a day of doing nothing.
I was maybe not saying it straight out, but I was wishing for it all to be over. This is a passive complaint, isn’t it?!
But how about you? How do you feel about Christmas? Are you in love with the process of Christmas? Or are you looking for that one moment when the table is cleared, presents opened, and you are laying on the sofa in food coma watching Hallmark movies?
Why do we get stressed?
Christmas is CHRISTMAS because of the tradition of it all, jam-packed with customs and rituals that have been dictated to us through our society and family, with our own special flavorings on the top. Without tradition, Christmas would be but another day.
The power of tradition is in its rituality which’s main purpose is to be predictable and comforting. And they are all man-made.
A great example of the manmade-ness of Christmas comes from my college professor of social history.
He shared a story of a family whose tradition at every Christmas was for the entire family to gather around the pan with the ham on it. Before the ham was placed in the oven, the oldest woman in the house was to cut off a corner of the ham – for good luck, great fortune, and even greater health. The entire family did it – aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, cousins, nephews, and all that lot. When they started looking into where that ritual came from, the outcome was astonishing.
It had started about a century earlier with a great-great-great-grandmother, who used to cut off the corner of the ham because otherwise, it didn’t fit on the pan. Why not the grandpa? He was at work. Why the family all around? Because they lived in such tight quarters that there was no other place to be than around the kitchen table. Tight quarters and tighter pan were all it took for a ritual to be born.
Everything we do in life, no matter how big or small, has the power of becoming a custom or ritual, which then becomes a part of our tradition. And it doesn’t have to have anything to do with holidays.
My mother-in-law was visiting years ago. (How’s that for a loaded sentence!) She was showing me how to make her famous raspberry cake. (My husband loved it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have even bothered.) As we started to make the pie-crust together – and it was a simple plain pie-crust – we got tangled in drama and hurt feelings.
I didn’t have the bowl she needed, I didn’t have a proper knife to cut the butter, and to top it off, I didn’t have the most important piece of equipment for baking – (you’d think it’d be the oven, but no), the flour-shifter!
You see, the knife you use, the drink you choose, the steps you take, the words you say, the feelings you feel – they all have the supremacy to soak into the fabric that is your life, and become a part of the tradition.
Stress included. Yes, you read that right – stress can be a part of a tradition. You may not like it like my grandpa didn’t like Brussel sprouts with his Christmas ham, but it’s still a part of it.
Where does the stress come from?
The pie my mother-in-law and I made without the shifter turned out just like the one I made with the shifter a few months later. Thus, the stress was not about the pie, but it came from having to adjust to something that you customarily wouldn’t use, that you are not comfortable with.
The stress during the holidays comes from the same place – we have to do something that is not quite a fit. We feel the friction of it, and it depletes our energy.
The tradition no longer fits
The good news is that since traditions are man-made, they can be re-made. By you.
The traditions that you inherited from your culture and family are more like a blueprint to get you started. They are not the law, but guidelines. Don’t sprinkle it with stress, but with what makes you happy. Any change is worth it if the reward is your peace of mind.
Here’s a quick fix
Wouldn’t you agree, that the most stressful part of any day, holidays included, is complaining about it – about what you have or don’t have, what others do or don’t do, and so on?
Dr. Wayne Dyer says in his book The Erroneous Zones that “complaining is abuse against another person’s life energy.”
Here’s what I would like to add. Complaining and whining is abuse against one’s own life energy.
Thus, for this holiday, ‘man-make’ your ritual of complaining into NOT complaining, and watch how your days turn from stress to bliss!