I hate to be a scrooge, but I’ve come to dread Christmastime. The cold weather, the darkness, the abundance of sweets that I can’t resist, plus all the money I feel pressured to spend on gifts is exhausting. It’s overwhelming to run around to different stores trying to pick out the right present (which they’re probably going to return anyway) and then see my credit card statement skyrocket later. How can I figure out a way to have the Christmas spirit, especially while sticking to a budget?
Of all holidays, Christmas is the most challenging to have a grin-and-bear-it approach because it lasts about as long as that traditional holiday fruit cake you got stuck with last year.
Once upon a time, the music, advertisements, decor and merriment launched just after Thanksgiving, but now it seeps into the airways and our collective consciousness much earlier. We live in a consumerist culture, and what was once a religious holiday is now more of a materialistic throw down.
Just as Jesus was upstaged by an old, bearded white man, you can trump your stress with a little creativity, self-indulgence and humor. I present for you my 12 tips for surviving Christmas:
1. Money and gifts are your biggest anxiety. Consider taking a seasonal job to make a little extra cash. You could start working part-time as one of Santa’s elves like comedian and author David Sedaris. Or at least get a laugh from reading his book “Holidays on Ice.”
2. Insist on drawing names with your friend group, extended family or both. This cuts down the gift list sizably, and then you can focus on giving them something they really want.
3. Start keeping an eye out for gifts people might appreciate much earlier in the year. Putting it off to the last minute certainly won’t help yourbah humbug attitude.
4. Even better: Avoid stores, crowds and running around town altogether by shopping from the comfort of your home computer. Let Amazon do your dirty work.
5. If you’re crafty, focus on homemade gifts. Get creative and tastefully repurpose things in your house. If you’re not crafty, now could be the time to start; consider it meditative and a way to engage different parts of your brain.
6. If you’ve got to spend money, then consider the gift of experiences. Buy tickets for an athletic or cultural event you can enjoy with others. Memories last a lifetime.
7. Mentally brainstorm what, if anything, youdo you like about Christmas. Perhaps there are a couple traditions you can get on board with. Find a favorite holiday movie to re-watch or an old family decoration to highlight in your home. Maybe you think mistletoe is a hoot or your childhood stocking is adorable? Hang it as your morsel of holiday cheer. Then give yourself permission to leave it at that.
8. With all that money you’ll save from tip no. 5, plan a warm weather trip shortly after Christmas to reward yourself for surviving.
9. Regarding sweets: Now is not the time to diet. It is also not the time to cope with emotional eating. Stay active, hydrated and enjoy soup season — preferably the kind with veggies and fiber.
10. Check in with yourself about the gratitude and abundance that exists in your life, recognizing there are others who have even less money or tolerance for Christmas than you.
11. Appreciate that you’re not writing me because you dread seeing your relatives. You didn’t mention anything about struggling with family dynamics or the nightmare of traveling back to your hometown, so consider yourself lucky.
12. When all else fails, light a candle, spike your eggnog and take a long bath, in the Danish spirit of hygge.
Dr. Rachel Allyn is a licensed psychologist in private practice. Learn more about her unique style of therapy at DrRachelAllyn.com. Send questions to [email protected].